Before I get to Heart Disease next week, I am first going to clear the names of some innocent victims who’ve been behind bars for over 40 years for a crime they did not commit. Granted I know it’s a bit dramatic, but it keeps this post from being another bland cholesterol post and it gets my point across (plus it’s true). I get looks telling people to eat fat, and then I get more raised eyebrows telling them that cholesterol is good for them. Aren’t you worried about your cholesterol levels eating all those eggs? There were times I ate only eggs last summer, a dozen a day, you think I would eat that many if I was? I’ve never had it tested and I probably never will, that would mean that I’d have to go to a hospital or doctor and that’s not happening. Plus it’s not going to tell me a whole lot. Wait, isn’t this going against what we’re taught? Bingo, this will be a reoccurring theme this week. I am going to contradict the conventional wisdom that we have been fed, that is poisoning and fattening us up (kind of like how we raise our cattle in this country, fattening them up on grains before we send to slaughter, chew on that for a moment). Today we are going to clear cholesterol, which has been on trial for decades accused of causing heart disease, and while we’re at it why not clear up some of the foods who have been accused of being an accessory to the crime (therefore freeing up some of my favorite nutritional/yummy foods like eggs and butter). This is no felony charge; cholesterol is blamed for promoting heart disease. For those who don’t know heart disease is the number one cause of death in this country. A whopping 4 in 10 (that’s nearly half) of the deaths each year come from it (8 million). If death alone is not enough, we spend out ½ trillion dollars in treating heart disease. That’s a hell of a lot of money to pay out for something that could be prevented through lifestyle, unfortunately though we been promoting the wrong lifestyle for decades now!
We test to get a number that tells us basically nothing and then we prescribe expensive drugs to ‘fix’ the number
Let’s jump in first with testing which gives us a total number of our ‘good’ cholesterol and ‘bad’ cholesterol. To begin, HDL and LDL are proteins. They transport cholesterol. It is true that high HDL is a good thing. LDL, however, has just been labeled as ‘bad’ when really not all LDL is created equally. Large/Buoyant LDL is not a problem. The real trouble maker is small dense LDL (the smaller and more compact the worse it is). This type of LDL can cause problems and increase risk of heart disease. But if you look at your standard cholesterol test you will not find a separation between the LDL. You’re told that it is high and given a statin to lower it. What if your cholesterol is large and not small/dense? Awe catching on now (we’ll look at statins tomorrow)? Ok so next question is what causes small dense LDL? Look no further than your trusty Food Guide Pyramid. The traditional American diet that outlaws animal fats, saturated fat, and cholesterol; yet promotes ridiculous amounts of carbohydrates and toxins. Still think foods with cholesterol raise cholesterol. Even Ancel Key said:
‘There’s no connection whatsoever between the cholesterol in food and cholesterol in the blood. And we’ve known that all along.’
Wow that’s a pretty big whoops! So we’ve outcast a whole group of nutritious foods because they told us they would increase our cholesterol levels. What have we been missing by cutting it out of our diets (besides pure taste bud bliss)? Cholesterol is an essential nutrient that is present in cell membranes of ALL tissues of ALL mammals. Hmm..sounds pretty important doesn’t it? That’s because it is!
- Component of cell membranes
- Precursor to steroid hormones (review past post to realize this importance)
- Precursor to vitamin D (this is huge, click the link to learn more)
- Important for brain connections (this is great for memory and learning. Remember the post we did where they’ve done studies with coconut oils on Alzheimer’s patients?)
- Choline is rich in cholesterol foods: synthesis acetycholine (brain), membrane signaling, fat transport, component of phospolipids. Not enough? Deficiency is linked to fatigue, insomnia, poor kidney function, memory problems and nerve/muscle imbalances.
- Makes cells stiff and stable. Polyunsaturated fats on the other hand, when high in the diet replace saturated fat to makes cells flabby, so that cholesterol has to be sent to the arteries to restore structural integrity
- Makes bile salts, which are important for digestion and fat assimilation.
- Needed for serotonin (‘feel good’ sense) function in the brain.
- Cholesterol is a key component of human breast milk. It is essential during growth for proper brain and nervous system development. Like I say if something is an essential to breast milk which is life-giving and important enough for growing babies, then it’s probably a good thing.
- Maintains intestinal walls, which is why vegetarians with low-cholesterol intake are susceptible to leaky gut syndrome and other intestinal disorders
Holy cow no wonder we’re so unhealthy, we’ve been denying ourselves such a powerful nutrient! We’ve been chasing after some number that isn’t going to do crap for our health, following a pyramid that sucks. By replacing fats with carbs we have decreased our HDL and promoted our chances of increasing small dense LDL. What we need to do is eat less carbs, exercise and lose weight! What’s so desirable about low cholesterol anyways? You know what it is associated with? An increase in total mortality, aggressive/violent behavior and an increased risk of suicide. Here I’ll give away the secret to my heart disease post of what is to blame. Hint: you already know we covered it last week. What is really causing heart disease? Inflammation (click link to last week’s post) and oxidative stress are the ones that should really be locked up.
Bottom-line: cholesterol testing is only beneficial when we know if the LDL is small/dense or large/buoyant. Eating foods with cholesterol has no effect on cholesterol levels so feel free to enjoy some eggs and butter! Whatever the food pyramid says, do the opposite and you’ll probably be better off. Cholesterol is now cleared of its 40 year sentence!