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What is Cholesterol?

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Did you know -  

  • Cholesterol is only a minor player in heart disease?
  • Cholesterol levels are a poor predictor of heart attacks?
  • Roughly 50% of all heart attacks happen to people with normal cholesterol?
  • Half the people with elevated cholesterol have healthy hearts?
  • Lowering cholesterol has an extremely limited benefit?

The case against cholesterol as ‘the’ underlying cause of heart disease or even as an important marker has been crumbling steadily for decades.

What is Cholesterol?

Consider the Lyon Diet-Heart Study:

In the 1990s, French researchers decided to test the effect of different diets on heart disease. They took two groups of men who had every imaginable risk factor. All of them had survived a heart attack. They had high cholesterol, they smoked, they didn’t exercise and they had high levels of stress.

Of these men, half were advised to eat the American Heart Association ‘prudent diet’ (low saturated fat and cholesterol), while the other half were advised to eat a Mediterranean diet high in fish, omega-3 fats, vegetables and monounsaturated fat like olive oil.

The study was stopped midway because the reduction in heart attacks in the Mediterranean group was so pronounced at 70% that the researchers decided it was unethical to continue!

Surprisingly, cholesterol levels in men who ate the Mediterranean diet did not change at all, and were just as high when the study was stopped as they were when the study began.

They simply stopped dying. Cholesterol had nothing to do with it.

So if cholesterol isn’t the cause of heart disease, what is?

The real causes of heart disease are inflammation and oxidative damage. Starting with small injuries to the vascular wall caused by anything from high blood pressure to toxins, oxidized (damaged) LDL-cholesterol particles enter the wall tissue.

As a result, the immune system sends inflammatory cytokines which create even more inflammation, which creates more oxidative damage in a vicious cycle that eventually results in atherosclerotic plaque formation and an increased risk for heart disease.

In other words, if there was no inflammation, there would be no plaques formed and no heart disease.

The other two major promoters of heart disease are stress and sugar. Stress releases hormones which harm artery walls and increase blood pressure.  Sugar, by far an even worse dietary danger than fat, is inflammatory on its own, but also contributes to insulin resistance and fat gain. More fat equals more inflammation.

In fact, fat cells are literally tiny hormone factories, spitting out inflammatory cytokines and increasing overall inflammation and arterial damage.

Given all of this information, here is a simple seven-point program you can follow to reduce your heart disease risk:

1.      Eat an anti-inflammatory diet.

2.      Reduce grains, starches, sugar and omega-6 fats from your diet as much as possible.

3.      Manage your stress through meditation, yoga or other lifestyle changes.

4.      Exercise regularly, for a minimum of 30 minutes daily 5 days a week.

5.      Drink alcohol only in moderation.

6.      Don’t smoke.

7.      Supplement your diet with high quality, proven antioxidants, vitamin C, coenzyme Q10 and omega-3 fats.

 

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