Dr. Elizabeth Klodas, MD, FACC, is a cardiologist based in Minneapolis, MN and is the co-founder of Step One Foods.
Q: Dr. Klodas, tell us why you founded Step One Foods (steponefoods.com) and what it has to do with statin intolerance.
Dr. Klodas: I founded Step One Foods in large part because of the problem of statin intolerance. For years, I saw patients who were on lots of medications, including statins, who had perfect numbers, but who looked and felt lousy. When I began to ask them about what they ate, I was shocked at what they told me. It became clear very quickly why they needed so many drugs, and why they felt so poorly.
To address this problem, I first tried educating my patients on nutrition. Most of my patients were excited to know that they could do something to improve their own health. The problem was, the vast majority could not make the recommended changes – because most nutrition advice centers around cooking or incorporating unfamiliar ingredients into the diet. There are very, very few people who can make successful and sustained major changes to what they eat.
So statins were a way around poor diet, but the question remained: what to do about those who are statin intolerant? If dieting didn’t work, and statins can cause issues, there really was no good solution.
I felt there had to be a better nutrition answer, one that met my patients where they were by providing them with an easier path to dramatically improving their overall health. Step One Foods is the culmination of that effort.
Q: So what is Step One Foods?
Dr. Klodas: Step One Foods is the mission-based company I co-founded with Barb Birr that aims to make it easy for people to dramatically improve their health through food. Our first product line is our Step One Foods Program for Heart Health.
We produce six food products each of which have scientifically optimized levels of four key nutrients that are the essential building blocks for heart health – phytosterols, omega 3s, antioxidants, and fiber. All of our foods are made entirely from real ingredients found in nature – like walnuts, almonds, flax meal, chia and real fruit. Things we know we should be eating in abundance, but don’t.
The program is simple: eat two servings per day, replacing two meals or snacks that you normally eat. You can mix and match the products as you like because they are interchangeable in terms of key nutrient content. Try it for 30 days to start to see what the results are. We recommend that patients consult with their doctors to determine how to best assess whether this is an effective program for them.
Q: So what is the science behind the ingredients?
Dr. Klodas: More than 300 clinical studies confirm the benefits to heart health of all of our key nutrients: phytosterols, omega 3s, antioxidants, and fiber. All of our products contain the same scientifically-validated levels of these nutrients.
Q: What are the products and do they taste like cardboard?
Dr. Klodas: (laughs) Much better than cardboard! We knew that if we were to meet our patients where they were, our products had to taste great. So we started with great taste as a key requirement. If it doesn’t taste good, customers won’t eat it no matter how healthy.
The products we make are chocolate and cranberry nut bars, oatmeal, pancake mix, smoothie mix, and a sprinkle. Our customers have their favorites, but we knew all had to meet a very high standard on taste.
Q: So tell us more about statins. Aren’t they the simple solution?
Dr. Klodas: I support use of statins for patients who need them. Statins can be a very good solution for addressing cholesterol issues, and they have shown potential for other benefits beyond lowering LDL. However, the issue we don’t hear nearly enough about is that heart disease, while impacted by genetic predisposition, is primarily a foodborne illness, and therefore requires a food-based solution.
Q: So, statins are a treatment, but food is the solution?
Dr. Klodas: Yes, you’ve got it!
Q: Tell us more about your feelings about some of the new approaches to addressing statin intolerance.
Dr. Klodas: There are new approaches to helping patients who are statin intolerant that show promise, but the problem is enormous. The reported incidence varies, but even if you take the most conservative number I’ve seen, and that’s 5%, we’re talking over 3 million Americans and 50 million people worldwide who are or will be affected.
There are very few, if any, simple and sustainable solutions to the problem other than Step One Foods.
Q: What about supplements?
Dr. Klodas: Lots of people take them, but recent studies are casting doubt on the health benefits of supplements, so relying on them exclusively is probably not the answer. On the other hand, the literature is brimming with studies validating the health benefits of specific foods and dietary patterns. It’s probably because nutrients have to be delivered in context. The vitamin C content of a bowl of blueberries has a different effect if delivered in the blueberry form as opposed to in a pill form with a donut on the side.
There’s an ocean of difference between supplements and real food. That’s why I knew I had to make real food to address the issue.