Cholesterol. Is It Really Bad For Our Health?On May 31, 2011 Wellness/Disease Prevention No Comments
Cholesterol constantly gets a bad press, but the truth is cholesterol performs necessary functions in our body as well as creating some cardiovascular risks. A cholesterol level that is too low is a risk marker of cancer, intestinal problems, stroke and depression. So balance really is the key.
Toxins and cholesterol
One of the little known facts about cholesterol is that it protects us from the effects of toxicity. As we know, our environment is far more toxic than it used to be, and as toxicity is passed on from mother to child via the placenta, we are starting life full of toxins. Each day we eat, breath and absorb more toxins. So the binding of cholesterol to toxins in order to protect the body, is vitally important to our health. So while diet can increase cholesterol levels, so to can a heavy load of toxins such as heavy metals (mercury, lead etc), petrochemicals, drugs or pesticides. In particular heavy metals such as mercury increase total cholesterol and LDL Solvents (such as alcohol) raise LDL and triglycerides.
Is high cholesterol unhealthy?
Dyslipidaemia or abnormal blood lipids (fat), such as cholesterol or triglycerides increases your risk of atheroschlerosis, heart disease, stroke, hypertension and other cardiovascular disorders. A total cholesterol reading by itself is not particularly useful. There are 2 main types of cholesterol that you need to be aware of. HDL cholesterol refers to high density lipoprotein. This is the good cholesterol, so remember that we want HDL to be high. HDL carries cholesterol away from the heart and back to the liver where it is excreted as bile. It also helps remove excess cholesterol from inside the blood vessels.
Low density lipoprotein or LDL is supposedly the bad stuff which we need to keep low.LDL transports cholesterol & triglycerides towards the cells and tissues which readily take them up. LDL cholesterol can adhere to the walls of the blood vessels that feed the heart and brain. Increased LDL cholesterol supposedly therefore leads to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Why “bad” cholesterol is not really bad.
So why I am saying that LDL cholesterol is supposedly bad? New research tells us that it is only when LDL cholesterol becomes oxidized that it causes problems for the heart. A raised LDL cholesterol on its own has not been found to cause any problems (Dr Anthony Colpo). Oxidation is like a rusting effect. It occurs as a result of inadequate antioxidants such as Vitamin C, E and selenium. If you diet is high in nutrient poor foods such as breads, cakes, biscuits, pasta or processed foods, you are at increased risk of insufficient antioxidants and therefore heart disease.
So before you go into a spin about the effects of cholesterol on heart disease, remember that inflammation and lack of antioxidants is likely to be a greater risk factor of cardiovascular disease than raised cholesterol. Cholesterol repairs membranes that are damaged by inflammation. By reducing inflammation you can therefore reduce the stimulus for the synthesis of cholesterol by the liver. Any treatment that is designed to protect you from heart disease must decrease inflammation. Fish oil can effectively reduce inflammation & triglycerides and slowly bring cholesterol to a satisfactory level.
If you are still concerned about reducing cholesterol, a high fibre diet is essential as fibre prevents cholesterol absorption and promotes elimination. At least one serving of green leafy vegetables will assist with adequate fibre intake. Eat other foods that are rich in antioxidants such as berries to prevent oxidation of your LDL cholesterol. It is worth remembering that despite the hype around saturated fats, grains can contribute to dyslipidemia as they contain palmatic and stearic acid.
The secret as with all good health is to ensure you have a balanced diet of 30% protein (eggs, milk, dairy, fish, and soy), and 40% carbohydrates and 30% good fats from foods such as avocado, nuts, sesame, coconut or olive oil. Keep processed foods to a minimum and enjoy lots of fresh, whole produce.