Page last updated at 14:00 GMT, Tuesday, 9 September 2008 15:00 UK

Hidden heart harm of fatty foods


Ahmed Al Haj having a triple heart bypass

Ahmed Al Haj is only 48 and looks healthy on the outside, yet this Bangladeshi waiter has ended up on the operating table for a triple heart bypass.

As a Muslim, Ahmed does not smoke or drink, but his diet has been rich in ghee, the clarified butter in which many south Asian dishes are drenched.

Instead of a healthy pink muscle, his heart looks like a pulsating lump of lard after a lifetime of eating too much saturated fat.

The layer of fat encasing Mr Haj's heart was so thick the surgeons doing his triple bypass could not see his coronary arteries.

Surgeon Shyam Kolvekar from The Heart Hospital at University College London, who performed Mr Haj's triple bypass, said cases like this were increasingly common and highlighted the dangers of eating too much saturated fat.

"There are plenty of healthy looking people walking around who do not know they have heart disease.

"This patient looked healthy on the outside, but when we opened him up his heart was covered with fat. It looked like a piece of lard pumping.

"When there is that much fat it makes the bypass harder to do."

Mr Haj, from London, recovered well from his operation and was discharged home after five days.

Mr Kolvekar said when he became a consultant cardiac surgeon eight years ago the bulk of bypass operations he did were on older people.

Now he is seeing people in their 40s and 50s needing triple bypasses.

He said: "People need to think about what they are eating. It is not just calorie intake that is important. Fat is also a worry."

The footage, taken at The Heart Hospital a few weeks ago, has been released with Mr Haj's permission to highlight the hidden danger done by fried snacks, pastries and buttery foods.

The images will be used in a live debate about the dangers of saturated fat on - a website sponsored by Unilever - on Wednesday 10 September at 1830.

Supermarkets 'push fatty foods'
31 Aug 08 |  Health

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