Cholesterol is one of most reviled and misunderstood nutritional substances of the past 20 years. It has been blamed by the media and the public, and even many health professionals, for heart disease. The backlash against cholesterol has driven people away from foods like eggs, butter, and meat. But as we learn more, many doctors are suggesting we re-examine cholesterol and its role in human health.
These doctors are saying cholesterol does not cause heart disease, and actually plays a positive role in the body. It helps in production of cell membranes, hormones, vitamin D, and it plays a role in fat digestion and neurological function. They are also making the case that statin drugs are being over-prescribed on a massive scale.
Only 25 percent of your body’s cholesterol comes through what you eat. Your liver manufactures 75 percent. There are two types of cholesterol: the “good” HDL and the “bad” LDL.
Your total cholesterol count also includes trigylcerides, a dangerous fat linked to both heart disease and diabetes, and Lipoprotein(a) or Lp(a), another recognized risk factor.
One way to assess your cholesterol status is to divide your HDL level by your total cholesterol. A ratio above 24 percent is ideal. Divide your HDL level by your triglycerides; a ratio below 2 is ideal.
Some doctors are also taking issue with the current American Heart Association recommendation for levels of total cholesterol less than 200 mg/dl, and the level of LDL cholesterol to less than 100, or less than 70 for high risk patients. They point out that statin drugs are necessary to reach these levels, and that 8 of the 9 doctors on the panel that produced the recommendations have financial ties to companies that manufacture statin drugs.
More current research implicates inflammation as a chief culprit in cardiovascular disease. High levels of inflammation can contribute to high levels of cholesterol, as the body produces cholesterol to help heal and repair itself.
Because of its positive role, there are also dangers in having cholesterol levels that are too low.
Statins work by suppressing a liver enzyme needed to manufacture cholesterol. As always, when you tinker around with intricate body systems, there are dangers. Some of the dangerous side effects of statin drugs as demonstrated through research studies, include:
1. Depletion of the body’s supply of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), vitally important in heart health and muscle function.
2. Activation of the atrogin-1 gene, which is implicated in muscle atrophy. When muscles break down, kidney damage may ensue.
3. Increase in the risk of polyneuropathy, nerve damage in the hands and feet.
4. A link to cognitive impairment and memory loss.
5. An elevated risk of cancer.
6. Suppression of the immune system.
7. An increase the risk of depression.
Many studies also raise doubts about how effective statins are in their stated purpose of lowering HDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
Health experts argue there are better ways to accomplish goals that support cardiovascular health by lowering HDL cholesterol, lp(a) levels, triglycerides and inflammation. Here are some suggestions:
1. Eat high-quality animal proteins, such as eggs and grass-fed meats, which offer omega 3 fats. Supplement with 500 mg. daily of krill oil.
2. Eliminate grains and sugars from your diet (implicated in elevated triglycerides). If your HDL/cholesterol ratio is skewed, eliminate fruit from your diet until it is brought into alignment.
3. Eat lots of raw vegetables.
4. Eat healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, olives, avocado, raw nuts, and raw seeds.
5. Get regular exercise.
6. Don’t smoke or drink to excess.
7. Deal with your emotional issues. Stay happy and free of stress.
These health experts want you to remember that your health, and your future, are in your own hands.