cholesterol levels

Cholesterol – one number to indicate health – maybe not…..

There is one number apparently more than others which appears to be treated as most important when measuring our level of health – our cholesterol number. I often hear comments like “I am healthy because I have no or low cholesterol”. I find it is often used as an excuse to avoid changing unhealthy habits. People making these comments are often quite overweight or have other health problems but think they are healthy because of their cholesterol number!

I am healthy – the Doctor told me I don’t have cholesterol!

I recently saw a BBC documentary where a woman who was morbidly obese (over 150kg) said “I’m OK, my health has not been affected by my weight – my cholesterol is normal”.  Therefore, according to her, she didn’t need to do anything! This rang alarm bells for me – how many people believe it?

Cholesterol is essential in the body, it makes hormones, insulates neurons, is part of the structure of every cell in the body, produces bile to digest fats, helps metabolise important fat soluble vitamins such as Vitamin D. (Read my previous posts about cholesterol for more information).

There are two main types of cholesterol that can cause you problems, oxidised cholesterol and certain types of LDLs.

Your weight, waist size, diet, blood sugar levels and levels of inflammation all play a big factor in whether or not you have these types of damaging cholesterol. What also matters is how you feel, are you energised, happy or tired, grumpy and “not quite right”? Don’t let a number stop you from listening to your body!

Diets high in carbohydrates (confectionary, refined foods and grains eg. sweets, crackers, bread, pasta) lead to inflammation. It is important to eat a diet with adequate protein, fat and lots of colourful vegetables for good health. Don’t avoid fat and don’t avoid eggs!

For more information or personalised advice on a healthy diet contact us on (02) 47 222 111 at the Informed Health Nutritional Wellbeing Centre or www.informedhealth.com.au.

Cholesterol, what you need to know – Part 3

Recommendations for Diet and Lifestyle:

The most important thing you can do to prevent atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease is to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle, with the goal of reducing your weight, reducing your triglycerides, reducing inflammation and balancing blood sugar levels. It is very important to lose any excess body fat, especially visceral (abdominal) fat around the organs, it contributes to raised blood triglycerides and oxidised cholesterol.

Suggestions include:

  • Increase the amount and variety vegetables you have each day, especially leafy greens. Eat vegetables of all colours to ensure you are eating plenty of antioxidants. Antioxidants are essential to stop the LDL and HDL cholesterol from oxidising.
  • Avoid fruit juice completely. Eat small amounts of in season fruit, no more than one serving per day. Ideally only a couple of times a week.
  • Remove highly processed carbohydrates (sugar, flour) and all of the products made from them, bread, pasta, cakes, muffins, crackers, biscuits, crisps, chocolate, confectionary etc from your diet completely. If you do have grains at all, it is best to avoid gluten containing grains (wheat, rye, barley and oats). Have a small amount of rice or quinoa. In the western world our overconsumption of grains as a whole is causing a huge amount of inflammation and disease and is a big contributer to diabetes and heart disease.
  • Choose grass fed/finished beef. Avoid grain fed meat, grain is fed to cows to fatten them up, it create fatty plaques (essentially to create heart disease – the same effect that eating grains has for us)! These fatty plaques make the meat soft and tasty but also very unhealthy to eat.
  • Limit poor quality deli meats that include lots of questionable ingredients, including sausages and salami, and choose meats like free range turkey, chicken, or meat carved off a whole roast such as ham off the bone or roast lamb, roast pork where you know exactly what you are eating.
  • Have fresh fish at least twice a week, eat the skin and the fat under it – these are good fats.
    Use real butter (unsalted block butter). You can also use coconut oil. avocado and cold pressed extra virgin olive oil. Avoid margarine or other soft butter mixes. The best oils for cooking are coconut oil or butter.

Go back to part 1

Go back to part 2

Go to part 4 for more diet and lifestyle tips

For more information or personalised advice on a healthy diet contact Informed Health on (02) 47 222 111 or www.informedhealth.com.au

 

References and further reading:

Dreon DM, Fernstrom HA, et al. Low-density lipoprotein subclass patterns and lipoprotein response to a reduced fat diet in men. FASEB Journal, 1994. Available at URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8299884

Dreon DM, Fernstrom HA, et al. Change in dietary saturated fat intake is correlated with change in mass of large low-density-lipoprotein particles in men, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1998. Available at URL: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/67/5/828.short

Eddey Stephen. Cardiovascular Disease: The best treatment options, 2011. Health Schools Australia, Gold Coast, QLD, Australia.

Mensink RP, Katan MB. Effect of dietary fatty acids on serum lipids ad lipoproteins. A meta analysis of 27 trials. Arteriosclerosis and Thrombosis, 1992. Available at URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1386252

Mensink RP, Zock PL, et al. Effects of dietary fatty acids and carbohydrates on the ratio of serum total to HDL cholesterol and on serum lipids and apolipoproteins: a meta-analysis of 60 controlled trials, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2003. Available at URL: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/77/5/1146.short

Mente, de Koning et al. A systematic review of the evidence supporting a causal link between dietary factors and coronary heart disease.  Archives of Internal Medicine, 2009. Available at URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19364995

Ravnskov U. The questionable role of saturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids in cardiovascular disease, Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 1998. Available at URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9635993

Siri-Tarino PW, Sun Q et al. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010.  Available at URL: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2010/01/13/ajcn.2009.27725.abstract
Siri-Tarino PW, Sun Q et al. Saturated fat, carbohydrate, and cardiovascular disease. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010. Available at URL: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/91/3/502.short

Other references and studies are available here: http://www.dietdoctor.com/science

http://www.sott.net/articles/show/242516-Heart-Surgeon-Speaks-Out-On-What-Really-Causes-Heart-Disease

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/saturated-fat-healthy/#axzz24cabyjEN

Big Fat Lies (a brief video history of the failed fat/lipid hypothesis approx. 2 ½ minutes): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8WA5wcaHp4

Cholesterol, what you need to know – Part 2

I previously discussed saturated fat under a separate post but think it is important to repeat here:

Saturated fat – finally the truth!

There are three main kinds of saturated fats. Short chain (eg butter) – which is healthy, butter actually breaks down to butyric acid in the body and this is colon protective. (The soluble fibre in an apple also breaks down in to butyric acid, which is also why apples are colon protective). Medium chain (eg coconut oil) – this is also healthy. It is long chain saturated fats that are damaging to the body. The main foods that cause heart disease are refined sugars including grains. These foods, especially if combined with a low fat diet will be stored as long chain saturated fatty acids in the body, this is what will clog up your arteries and cause atherosclerosis.

Coconuts

Highly refined carbohydrates (sugar, flour and all of the products made from them) over stimulate the immune system and cause inflammation.

Dr Dwight Lundell, a heart surgeon and author of The Cure for Heart Disease and The Great Cholesterol Lie explains how this happens:

“Imagine spilling syrup on your keyboard and you have a visual of what occurs inside the cell. When we consume refined carbohydrates such as sugar, blood sugar rises rapidly. In response, your pancreas secretes insulin whose primary purpose is to drive sugar into each cell where it is stored for energy. If the cell is full and does not need glucose, it is rejected to avoid extra sugar gumming up the works. When your full cells reject the extra glucose, blood sugar rises producing more insulin and the glucose converts to stored fat.”

This is usually visceral fat which is the dangerous fat that covers your abdominal organs and leads to a fatty liver.

What does all this have to do with inflammation?

Dr Lundell explains “blood sugar is controlled in a very narrow range. Extra sugar molecules attach to a variety of proteins that in turn injure the blood vessel wall. This repeated injury to the blood vessel wall sets off inflammation. When you spike your blood sugar level several times a day, every day, it is exactly like taking sandpaper to the inside of your delicate blood vessels.

To make matters worse, the excess weight you are carrying from eating these foods creates overloaded fat cells that pour out large quantities of pro-inflammatory chemicals that add to the injury caused by having high blood sugar.

Simply stated, without inflammation being present in the body, there is no way that cholesterol would accumulate in the wall of the blood vessel and cause heart disease and strokes.  Without inflammation, cholesterol would move freely throughout the body as nature intended.  It is inflammation that causes cholesterol to become trapped.”

The other issue is excess consumption of omega-6 vegetable oils such as soybean, corn and sunflower that are found in many processed foods. Omega 6 are also important for the functioning of the body but most people over consume omega 6 and under consume omega 3 fats which puts everything out of balance in the body and contributes to inflammation.

Other causes of inflammation can be food allergies/intolerances, parasites, bacteria, stress, viruses, exposure to chemicals including what you put on your skin.

Go back to part 1

Go to part 3

For more information or personalised advice on a healthy diet contact Informed Health on (02) 47 222 111 or www.informedhealth.com.au

 

References and further reading:

Dreon DM, Fernstrom HA, et al. Low-density lipoprotein subclass patterns and lipoprotein response to a reduced fat diet in men. FASEB Journal, 1994. Available at URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8299884

Dreon DM, Fernstrom HA, et al. Change in dietary saturated fat intake is correlated with change in mass of large low-density-lipoprotein particles in men, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1998. Available at URL: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/67/5/828.short

Eddey Stephen. Cardiovascular Disease: The best treatment options, 2011. Health Schools Australia, Gold Coast, QLD, Australia.

Mensink RP, Katan MB. Effect of dietary fatty acids on serum lipids ad lipoproteins. A meta analysis of 27 trials. Arteriosclerosis and Thrombosis, 1992. Available at URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1386252

Mensink RP, Zock PL, et al. Effects of dietary fatty acids and carbohydrates on the ratio of serum total to HDL cholesterol and on serum lipids and apolipoproteins: a meta-analysis of 60 controlled trials, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2003. Available at URL: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/77/5/1146.short

Mente, de Koning et al. A systematic review of the evidence supporting a causal link between dietary factors and coronary heart disease.  Archives of Internal Medicine, 2009. Available at URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19364995

Ravnskov U. The questionable role of saturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids in cardiovascular disease, Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 1998. Available at URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9635993

Siri-Tarino PW, Sun Q et al. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010.  Available at URL: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2010/01/13/ajcn.2009.27725.abstract
Siri-Tarino PW, Sun Q et al. Saturated fat, carbohydrate, and cardiovascular disease. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010. Available at URL: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/91/3/502.short

Other references and studies are available here: http://www.dietdoctor.com/science

http://www.sott.net/articles/show/242516-Heart-Surgeon-Speaks-Out-On-What-Really-Causes-Heart-Disease

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/saturated-fat-healthy/#axzz24cabyjEN

Big Fat Lies (a brief video history of the failed fat/lipid hypothesis approx. 2 ½ minutes): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8WA5wcaHp4

Cholesterol, what you need to know – Part 1

Cholesterol is a type of fat that is part of all animal cells. It is essential for many of the body’s metabolic processes. The body is very good at making its own cholesterol – it makes approximately 80% of your cholesterol.

Cholesterol is produced by the liver and also made by most cells in the body. It is carried around in the blood by little ‘couriers’ called lipoproteins. We need blood cholesterol because the body uses it to:

  • Build the structure of cell membranes.
  • Make hormones like oestrogen, testosterone and adrenal hormones.
  • Help your metabolism work efficiently; eg cholesterol is essential for your body to produce vitamin D.
  • Produce bile acids, which help the body digest fat and absorb important nutrients.
  • Low levels of cholesterol are associated with depression, suicide and, in older women, lung cancer.

The big Cholesterol Myth

Cholesterol for many years now has been reduced to a single figure – a number that is said to indicate health or disease, high cholesterol is said to be bad, low cholesterol is said to be good. Eventually this was broken down into two forms of cholesterol that you needed to know about, two numbers to indicate health – HDL (called the “good cholesterol”) and LDL (called the “bad cholesterol”).

It has become clear with consistent research from 2001 onwards that your cholesterol number is irrelevant; it is not an accurate way to determine one’s health including risk of cardiovascular disease. LDL’s and HDL’s can both be good and bad, depending on whether they have been oxidised and depending on whether important inflammatory markers are high in the blood (eg C-reactive protein (CRP), triglycerides, ESR and Lp(a). If you are overweight, especially if carrying visceral fat (the abdominal fat that covers your organs), you can be sure that you have oxidised cholesterol regardless of if you have a “good number”. Visceral fat releases toxins into the body causing inflammation and disease.

Triglycerides are other ‘storage’ fats that are transported in blood lipoproteins, if these are present in high concentrations in the blood you are at high risk of cardiovascular disease.

Did you know that you make adrenal hormones such as cortisol when you are stressed? These hormones are made from cholesterol so stress causes your liver to make more cholesterol!

The body uses cholesterol to repair damage to the arteries caused by inflammation; these fatty deposits that develop in the arteries are your body’s short term solution to seal up the damage (kind of like a bandaid in your arteries). If the reasons for the inflammation are not addressed this will eventually cause the vessels to narrow and they can eventually become blocked. This can lead to heart attack or stroke.

Sources of cholesterol

There are two sources of cholesterol in the body. Some is present in foods (eg dairy products and meats), but most is made by the liver. Foods from plants do not contain cholesterol. You may be surprised to learn that eating foods that contain fat is not what causes heart disease. That’s right, eating cholesterol does not cause heart disease! For a long time saturated fat has taken the blame for a more complex issue.

The story continues in part 2

For more information or personalised advice on a healthy diet contact Informed Health on (02) 47 222 111 or www.informedhealth.com.au

 

References and further reading:

Dreon DM, Fernstrom HA, et al. Low-density lipoprotein subclass patterns and lipoprotein response to a reduced fat diet in men. FASEB Journal, 1994. Available at URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8299884

Dreon DM, Fernstrom HA, et al. Change in dietary saturated fat intake is correlated with change in mass of large low-density-lipoprotein particles in men, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1998. Available at URL: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/67/5/828.short

Eddey Stephen. Cardiovascular Disease: The best treatment options, 2011. Health Schools Australia, Gold Coast, QLD, Australia.

Mensink RP, Katan MB. Effect of dietary fatty acids on serum lipids ad lipoproteins. A meta analysis of 27 trials. Arteriosclerosis and Thrombosis, 1992. Available at URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1386252

Mensink RP, Zock PL, et al. Effects of dietary fatty acids and carbohydrates on the ratio of serum total to HDL cholesterol and on serum lipids and apolipoproteins: a meta-analysis of 60 controlled trials, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2003. Available at URL: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/77/5/1146.short

Mente, de Koning et al. A systematic review of the evidence supporting a causal link between dietary factors and coronary heart disease.  Archives of Internal Medicine, 2009. Available at URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19364995

Ravnskov U. The questionable role of saturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids in cardiovascular disease, Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 1998. Available at URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9635993

Siri-Tarino PW, Sun Q et al. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010.  Available at URL: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2010/01/13/ajcn.2009.27725.abstract
Siri-Tarino PW, Sun Q et al. Saturated fat, carbohydrate, and cardiovascular disease. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010. Available at URL: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/91/3/502.short

Other references and studies are available here: http://www.dietdoctor.com/science

http://www.sott.net/articles/show/242516-Heart-Surgeon-Speaks-Out-On-What-Really-Causes-Heart-Disease

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/saturated-fat-healthy/#axzz24cabyjEN

Big Fat Lies (a brief video history of the failed fat/lipid hypothesis approx. 2 ½ minutes): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8WA5wcaHp4