“An 1833 Guide for the Prevention of Heart Disease” by Ray G. Cowley (1969)

From Word of Wisdom Literature by Jane Birch. See also: Discovering the Word of Wisdom Pioneers: A Heart Attack Proof Diet

Ray G. Cowley, M.D “An 1833 Guide for the Prevention of Heart Disease,” Improvement Era (August 1969), pp. 60-63.

Cowley Article

The blood of man, which delivers oxygen and nutrition to billions of body cells, requires an unfailing propulsion source to drive it through the many miles of blood channels of its never-ceasing circulatory route. This driving force, the human heart, is a complex dual circuit pump with unidirectional valves that is responsive on an instant’s notice to every body need.

In addition to this rapidly responsive capability, durability of an unbelievable degree is required for the span of a lifetime. Yet the healthy heart has these qualities in surplus amounts. The pump action is provided by muscles that contract forcefully and rhythmically under the influence of self-generated electrical impulses. Provide these heart muscles with sufficient oxygen and proper nutrients via a good blood supply, and, in the absence of chance disease or injury they will outlast average life span today.

The blood flow to heart muscles is through coronary arteries originating directly from the large aorta. These are the first arteries supplied by freshly oxygenated and nutritionally renewed blood. If the heart’s blood supply is diminished slightly, it cannot respond maximally to stress. If it is diminished more, severe disability and painful angina pectoris or failure may ensue.

If it is cut off completely, the heart muscles in the deprived area will die, and if the whole person survives, they are replaced by functionless scar tissue.

An abrupt closure of a coronary artery produces death in approximately thirty percent of those so afflicted before they can reach a hospital. Thirty to forty percent of those reaching a hospital alive will subsequently succumb, with an overall mortality rate of approximately fifty percent. This abrupt cessation of blood supply to a portion of the heart muscle is called a heart attack (coronary occlusion or myocardial infarction). Almost all cases of this nature are caused by hardening (atherosclerosis) of the coronary arteries, which results in a clot or atherosclerotic plaque plugging the vessel. This condition is such a frequent occurrence that it is the leading cause of death in the United States, with half a million Americans dying annually from its onslaught.

Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, occurs in many areas of the body, but it is in the vital areas of the body that in many cases the disastrous effects of this disease are first manifest (heart-coronary occlusion and brain-stroke). Atherosclerosis is an abnormal deposition of fatty substances in the normally smooth, strong inner wall of arteries, with fats (lipids), lipoproteins, and cholesterol being the chief chemicals present. The very high death rate for those with this disease continues unchecked despite maximum research efforts much money expended to improve the treatment results. This process can be prevented, however, and the emphasis should logically be in this direction.

The process of atherosclerosis was once thought to be an inevitable and irreversible result of aging, but it is neither of these, and the facts regarding this have only recently been established.

This type of heart disease is primarily seen in males, with increasing numbers of cases being seen in younger age groups (30’s, 40’s, and 50’s) during the past two decades. Although females are apparently protected from heart attacks before menopause by special hormones, afterward they become as vulnerable as the male, with an even higher mortality rate.

The story of the search for, the cause of this medical problem is a fascinating one, and many answers are now known. Highlighting the facts is this report from The Mayo Clinic Proceeding: “I would like now to dispose of two ideas that have, fairly wide acceptance among physicians.  One is that atherosclerosis is an invariable accompaniment of the aging vascular system. The other is that the disease is irreversible. Neither is true. Observations in man as well as experimental animals over many years have shown that atherosclerosis can in fact be reversed. The mechanisms by which such reversal can be effected have been largely of a dietary nature. Our views on atherosclerosis based on a painstaking, sometimes halting, and often confusing marshalling of data leave no room for doubt that this disease need not be a necessary part of the aging vascular system. Atherosclerosis is preventable and reversible.” (Vol. 40, November 1965, p. 815.)

Why is this epidemic of heart disease occurring in the United States and not at all or to a lesser degree in other countries of the world? The United States has become a dangerous country to live in from this standpoint. A recent worldwide survey of mortality statistics revealed that the U.S. mortality rate was exceeded by only one other country. The entire reason for this high mortality rate was coronary heart disease. One might assume that discovery of control measures for so widespread a disease would be simple, but the uninspired mind of man most often learns truth through the pathway of trial and error, and this is a tedious, costly, and difficult process.

The gathering of scientific data began in a very preliminary manner in 1908 when a Russian scientist, Ignatovski, noted a much higher incidence of coronary atherosclerosis among the wealthy class in Russia than was found in the peasant population. He studied this situation thoroughly and reported that the high incidence of heart disease among the rich was related to a high dietary intake of meat and butterfat. He was wise before the times would allow and was silenced by disbelieving colleagues who could not accept his finding that the “best foods” in the diet were responsible for such a devastating disease process. This original and correct thought was subdued by the forces of ignorance, and for three decades little work was done along this line until the pressing urgency of the burgeoning number of cases in the USA demanded attention.

An American medical missionary working in China in the 1930’s and 40’s was struck by the lack of this disease there as compared to the United States and again sought the answer. His conclusion was that dietary differences played the primary role, with too much saturated fat in the American diet possibly being the major-cause. (Saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature and originate primarily in animals and fowls. The lean meat is surrounded and penetrated by this fat, and complete separation of lean and fat in the kitchen is literally impossible.)

The World Health Organization (WHO) then conducted a multi-country survey of this problem spanning 10 years of time. The survey included such countries as Italy and Japan, where the incidence of this disease is twentyfold less than in the United States. (When inhabitants of these two countries, and others, migrate to the U.S. and adopt their new country’s eating habits, their heart attack rate rises within ten years.) The conclusion derived from this study was that there is a “probable” relationship between a high saturated fat intake and a high incidence of coronary atherosclerosis. (Journal of Chronic Diseases, Vol. 4, October -1956, p. 364.) The results of this study were widely accepted and the “probable” relationship became “definite” in the minds of many.

An enlightening sequel to the WHO study appeared two years later and demonstrates the difficulty of correctly interpreting masses of data. Two statisticians from the Rockefeller Research Institute could not accept the conclusions published by WHO, and they received permission to reanalyze their data. The results of this reevaluation were published in the New York State Medical Journal, Volume 59 (1958), page 2343. Whereas WHO studied 27 countries, they included only six in their final analysis. Furthermore, they utilized figures for saturated fat available rather than estimating the amount ingested (which may vary widely, depending on cooking habits). Correction for these two factors showed that death rates from coronary occlusion were more closely related to increased intake of animal protein in the diet than to saturated fat content. (Animal protein refers to the lean portion of animal meat products.)

There are now large numbers of investigations completed and published that attest to this revised conclusion. It is essential to consider too much meat as a whole, not just the fat portion, as the most important cause of coronary atherosclerosis in the U.S. Other factors do enter into the picture, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heredity, and smoking, but diet is by far the most important one. There is now widespread medical agreement that proper dietary control would very significantly and rapidly reduce this serious problem.

In the journal Nutritional Reviews (Vol. 18, November 1960) is a study of coronary heart disease in African Bantu natives compared to Englishmen living in the same area. The English males have 26 times as much coronary disease as the Bantus, and their diet is incriminated as the cause. The English ingest large amounts of meat of animal origin and the Bantus eat very little meat, subsisting on grain, vegetables, and fruit for the most part.

From Finland comes further data in the Acta Medica Scandinavica (Vol. 139 [1961], page 364). In World War II, the population of Finland was on strict food rationing. During this time, the previously significant incidence of coronary heart disease dropped almost to zero. When the rationing stopped and meat and butterfat again became plentiful, the incidence of coronary occlusions increased 584 percent in six years.

A most revealing (and alarming) study emerged from the Korean War. Special studies of the coronary arteries to determine the degree of atherosclerosis present were carried out in 500 American males and 500 males killed in action. The average age of both groups was 22. Virtually none of the Koreans had coronary artery abnormalities, whereas 90 percent of the American males had atherosclerosis of their coronary arteries. In half of these Americans the atherosclerosis was severe enough to be considered medically significant. (Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 152 [1953], p. 1090.) Personal communication in 1966 with a Korean health authority disclosed that only one case of coronary occlusion had been encountered in 15 years at the largest medical center in Seoul, Korea. Contrast this to the very large numbers of patients with this disease constantly present in every general hospital in the United States. Again, the obvious reason for this wide difference is the Korean diet of vegetables, fruits, and seafoods, whereas meat and butterfat are scarce in Korea. (Butterfat has been mentioned several times, and there is now sufficient evidence to conclude that this animal origin food product is one of the dietary factors producing coronary atherosclerosis.)

A study dealing with the effect of deliberate dietary alterations in humans needs to be mentioned. At the annual meeting of the American College of Physicians in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1962, a panel of prominent heart specialists presented the results of the following study:

Several hundred patients already diagnosed as having sufficient atherosclerosis to produce signs of symptoms of disease were divided into two equal groups. Those in one group continued their usual American diet, and the other group was placed on a diet containing no animal origin meat and only small amounts of fowl origin meat. Seafoods, grains, vegetables, and fruit were the primary foods. Those two groups were carefully observed for ten years. The group on the low meat diet showed a much lower rate of progression of their atherosclerosis, a much reduced death rate, and some participants even recovered in part or completely from the symptoms of their disease. The other group showed the expected progressive downhill course of the average American with this disease who continues to eat average American diet. The panel concluded that if the epidemic of coronary atherosclerosis in the USA is to be curtailed, the American populace must begin at a young age to eat the low meat type of diet that was tested for ten years.

A recent list of 489 articles on the disease atherosclerosis, many showing the relationship of diet to the formation of atherosclerosis, is available to anyone interested in further pursuit of this subject. (Laboratory Investigation, Vol. 18, May 1968, pp. 629-39.) This mass of research data shows a strong relationship between a high incidence of atherosclerosis and dietary changes incident to improved economic status, such as the greater consumption of animal protein, saturated fat, refined carbohydrates, and the decreased use of cereal grains. (See pages 623 to 628 of this same journal, “Diet and Atherosclerosis.”) Although this relationship is now supported by almost incontrovertible proof, the medical profession has been slow to accept findings that decimate a long-standing and traditional medical dictum that a steady and large dietary intake of animal or fowl origin meat is essential to good health.

In times or places where available foods are limited in variety, quantity, or quality, such as in rice-based cultures or famine conditions, meat of animal or fowl origin may become an important source, and indeed, a necessary protein source, if available. For affluent contemporary cultures, however, the prudent diet with protein sources of fish, seafoods, whole grains (especially wheat), and non-fat milk solids is adequate in protein content, less costly, and does not carry with it the specter of early and severe atherosclerosis.

Although we cannot know with certainty all the reasons that our Father in heaven has given us clear-cut and specific instructions to eat little or no meat of animal or fowl origin, one fact is certain. Daily consumption of animal and fowl-origin meat and fat may be an important cause of coronary heart disease.

“Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;

“And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine. “All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of the heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;

“And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.” (D&C 89:12–15. Italics added.*)

The Word of Wisdom is a remarkable revelation brought forth in 1833 as a health guide. It has remained completely unchanged in 136 years, with medical research repeatedly attesting to its validity. Contrast this to man-produced medical information of that same time period, of which the vast majority has been replaced or necessarily changed as research has revealed fallacies therein. The items of medical literature from that time that remain intact today are of value only as museum pieces.

Had Joseph Smith sought help in 1833 from the best medical authorities in the world, used their ideas in the preparation of such a document, and then declared it to be of divine origin, he would have been branded a fraud prior to the turn of the century. The only conceivable explanation for Section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants is that it came from a highly advanced and infallible source of intelligence beyond this earth. The contents of this section should be carefully studied, and personal eating and living habits should be formulated on the basis of advice given therein, for this is of a certainty a divinely inspired guide to good health and long life, with transcendent rewards for compliance that should induce the most skeptical to put it to an honest test.

* Verses 13 and 15 leave no room for rationalization regarding the amount of meat that we in our warm houses, warm cars, and land of plenty should eat. (See also Sidney B. Sperry, Doctrine and Covenants Compendium [Bookcraft, I960] pp. 455-56.)


Ray G. Cowley_ 1965


Dr. Ray G. Cowley, a member of the Denver (Colorado) 18th Ward, is executive secretary of the Western States Mission presidency, chief of the pulmonary disease service at Fitzsimmons General Hospital in Denver, and a respected medical lecturer and author of numerous scientific papers on medical topics.

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