Cholesterol Facts and Solutions
By Dr. L. Lee Coyne, the Healthy Professor
One of the most feared phrases following the annual medical examination is “your cholesterol is elevated”. This is usually followed by a discussion of impending heart attacks and the requirement to eliminate saturated fat and cholesterol from your diet. Elevated blood cholesterol levels have been linked to many forms of heart disease. While there is convincing argument that this is not the highest level of concern, it is advisable to keep your LDL cholesterol down.
Facts worth knowing:
- Cholesterol is not a deadly poison, but a substance vital to the cells of all mammals. There is good and bad cholesterol, but mental stress, physical activity and change of body weight may influence the level of blood cholesterol. A “high” cholesterol is known as a “risk factor” and not necessarily a “cause factor”. It is not dangerous by itself, but may be a symptom of other health conditions, or it may be totally innocent. Both LDL and HDL cholesterols perform useful functions and a zero cholesterol level would mean you are dead.
- A high blood cholesterol is said to promote atherosclerosis (clogging of arteries) and thus also coronary heart disease. But many studies have shown that people whose blood cholesterol is low become just as atherosclerotic as people whose cholesterol is high. It is estimated that 50% of heart attacks occur in people with “normal” cholesterol.
- Your body produces three to four times more cholesterol than you eat. The production of cholesterol increases when you eat little cholesterol and decreases when you eat much. Dr. Keys (“Monsieur Cholesterol” as he was dubbed by his University of Minnesota colleagues for publishing the first correlations between blood cholesterol and heart disease) was quoted in “Eating Light Magazine” as follows " ... there's no connection whatsoever between cholesterol in food and cholesterol in blood. None. And we've known that all along."
- There is little evidence that too much animal fat and cholesterol in the diet promotes atherosclerosis or heart attacks particularly when they also eat adequate levels of “essential fatty acids”. More than twenty studies have shown that people who have had a heart attack haven't eaten more fat of any kind than other people, and degree of atherosclerosis at autopsy was unrelated to diet.
All of this does not mean you now have a license to be a slob and eat anything you want. Remember that elevated cholesterol (particularly LDL) is still a risk factor and a symptom of broader health problems. Healthy lifestyle choices will lower LDL, raise HDL and improve many other body functions that indicate the state of “Wellness”.
Many substances will help with the fight to lower cholesterol. But, of course the first line of defense is a reasonable diet. All cholesterol lowering drugs have a warning that liver function must be monitored.
My Program has seen some excellent success stories among clients who observe the following practices.
- Aerobic Exercise - or “conversational exercise” has repeatedly shown improvements in HDL and the ratio of HDL to LDL. This is the “fat burning” intensity of exercise. Show less concern for intensity and more concern for “Just get the miles covered”. A recommended heart rate of 180 minus your age provides guidelines for optimum fat burning intensity.
- Soy Protein – a recent analysis of 38 research studies showed that a daily intake of 47g of soy protein lowered LDL 13% and total cholesterol 9%. Scientists at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, attribute the cholesterol reductions to compounds called isoflavones found in Soy. They recommend soy supplements with 30 to 60 mg of isoflavones per day. Many other institutions support this recommendation.
- Essential Fatty Acids – sometimes referred to as “fat emulsifiers” are necessary for the metabolism of other fats, particularly saturated fats. Sources include cold pressed high quality oils and supplements like lecithin, flaxseed oil, borage seed oil (known as GLA), evening primrose oils (also a source of GLA) and cold water fish oil like salmon, anchovies and herring (also known as EPA). Considerable research has shown that lecithin, flaxseed oil and EPA can lower cholesterol.
- Fibre - about 15g soluble fibre daily lowers LDL cholesterol 5 to 10% by binding cholesterol-containing bile acids in the intestine and excreting them. This action requires the liver to make more bile from circulating cholesterol. But getting that much soluble fibre every day through diet alone isn’t always practical. Soluble fibre supplements, taken with meals, make it a modern solution to a modern problem.
- B Vitamins – especially Niacin or Niacinamide or B3, Vitamin B6 and pantothenic acid have been shown to reduce cholesterol by 20%, triglycerides by 40% and to raise HDL by 30%.
- Antioxidants – protect the body from oxidized cholesterol and helps to reduce LDL. The primary identified antioxidants include vitamins A, C and E, selenium, grape seed extract and coenzyme Q10. Numerous studies have supported their role in LDL reduction and in preventing the ravages of free radical damage caused by the toxic “Trans Fatty Acids” resulting from the oxidation of altered fats.
Lee Coyne, Ph.D. is a nutritional consultant, lecturer and author of Fat Won't Make You Fat and the Lean Seekers coaching program. He may be reached at 1-800-668-4042 or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright Lee Coyne, Ph.D., reprinted with permission.