I talk to so many well-informed, health-conscious people who are concerned about eating a healthy diet, but the one thing that comes up over and over again is this 'cholesterol-phobia' towards cholesterol and saturated fats.
And if you pay attention to mainstream media, you are probably convinced that high cholesterol and saturated fat intake will lead directly to heart disease.
Well guess what ? That's not necessarily true.
There have been several research studies showing that cholesterol IS NOT the villain in heart disease, but the media and mainstream medicine have yet to adopt this fact.
And so, it is little known–but very valuable–information. Why the big Secret??
While statin drugs (cholesterol lowering medications) are one of the top selling medications in the US, and as the drug companies continually seek to lower the cholesterol level guidelines for administration of these drugs, there is no absolutely no motivation to stop this moneymaking practice.
The drug companies want you to be convinced that you MUST lower your cholesterol in order to live a long and healthy life and avoid heart disease.
Physicians have been taught for the past four decades that cholesterol is dangerous and that it must be lowered at all costs. The "cholesterol is harmful" hypothesis, although never proven, has come to be accepted as an unquestionable fact by physicians and patients alike.
Sad to say, any information that points towards cholesterol being beneficial, tends to fall upon deaf ears.
Well here is a startling fact– Did you know that approximately 75% of the people who suffer heart attacks have cholesterol levels within the 'normal' range?
Just how did this whole "cholesterol will kill you" hypothesis come about?
Back in 1799, an English physician found a waxy substance in the coronary arteries while doing an autopsy. Another English physician, Joseph Hodgson, looking at the same waxy stuff, came up with a theory for it. Hodgson suggested that inflammation was actually the reason the waxy substance was in the arteries. Hodgson's theory, though, ended up mostly ignored.
When another physician, Dr. Ansel Keys observed that death rate from heart attacks were much lower in areas where the food supply was low during World War II, it was assumed it was because people were eating less fat. But the researchers overlooked the fact that these people were also eating less sugar and starchy foods. And so, the connection was established with dietary fats and heart disease.
Dr. Keys proposed a diet high in vegetable oils and low in animal fat, and dieticians, physicians, and medical researchers all jumped on the "cholesterol is harmful" bandwagon too.
But, despite its popularity, the "cholesterol is harmful" theory remains unproven. Conclusive proof that cholesterol itself is harmful does not exist.
In fact, just the opposite is true. People with high cholesterol have been scientifically shown to actually live the longest. Really??
Consider the findings of Dr. Harlan Krumholz of the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Yale University, who reported in 1994 that elderly people with low cholesterol died twice as often from a heart attack as did elderly people with high cholesterol.
In fact, most studies of elderly people have shown that high cholesterol is not a risk factor for coronary heart disease.
In fact, studies have repeatedly found that senior citizens with high cholesterol levels tend to live longer than their peers with low cholesterol values. As a group, elderly people with higher levels of cholesterol outlive those with low levels of cholesterol.
Researchers at Texas A&M University also discovered that low cholesterol levels affect muscles, including the heart muscle, and reduce gains in strength while exercising. These findings were recently published in the Journal of Gerontology.
At the conclusion of the study, the researchers found that there was a direct association between dietary cholesterol intake and strength.
Cholesterol actually plays an important role in muscle repair and rebuilding. So considering that the heart, too is an important muscle, why would we want to make our muscles weaker?
There are over twenty studies that show cholesterol is actually beneficial to the health.
In fact, the studies concluded two main facts:
-There is little benefit in lowering cholesterol levels below 260 mg/dL in elderly people.
-Efforts to lower cholesterol increase the risk of developing cancer and shorten life span.
Ok, so what causes heart attacks then?
In 1976, one of the most promising theories about the cause of atherosclerosis and heart disesase, was proposed by Russell Ross, a professor of pathology, and John Glomset, a professor of biochemistry and medicine at the Medical School, University of Washington in Seattle.
These scientists suggested that atherosclerosis is the consequence of an inflammatory process which results from a localized injury to the lining inside the arteries. This injury results in inflammation and the plaques that accumulate from cholesterol in the blood vessels are simply healing lesions. Injury from inflammation may result from high blood sugar levels and other inflammatory substances in the blood like an excess of omega 6 fats, and trans fats.
Think of it this way: if you fell, injured yourself and skinned your knee, then a scab resulted from the body's attempt to heal the injury, would you blame the scab for being the problem?
No–the skinned knee is the result of an injury, right? The scab is not at fault, it is simply the body trying to heal the injury, which ulitimately resulted from a fall.
Same thing with the cholesterol theory. We are blaming the wrong thing.
Cholesterol is a repair substance. Higher levels of cholesterol do not clog arteries. Injury and inflammation cause the arteries to clog up.
So regardless of your overall cholesterol numbers, it is the ratio of HDL and overall cholesterol that matters.
HDL is the component in cholesterol that actually cleans up the plaque in arteries, so obviously striving to keep that number high is key.
How to raise HDL?
Following the diet in The Fat Burning Kitchen Program will get your cholesterol ratios in the healthy range very quickly.
Increase your intake of omega 3 rich foods such as grass fed meats, wild caught fatty fish, organic free range chickens and eggs, grass fed dairy, nuts and olive oil. Reduce your intake of all grains and starchy foods.
Reducing starchy grains in the diet lowers the triglyceride levels–one of the key factors in heart disease. Avoid all sugars (don't forget high fructose corn syrup is in almost everything) and keep blood sugar at a stable level. High blood sugar levels increase inflammation in the blood vessels.
Constant high blood sugar levels not only increase the risk for diabetes, and in turn heart disease, but also lead to metabolic syndrome with weight gain, insulin resistance and damage to the blood vessels.
Avoid omega 6 fats found in vegetable oils such as sunflower oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil and more, increase inflammation in the body. Most any processed food contains one of these types of oils–or even worse trans fats! (Trans fats are any type of 'hydrogenated' oil which are extremely damaging to our bodies.)
Increase your intake of B vitamins. B vitamins are known to lower levels of homocysteine, a key inflammatory component in heart disease.
And of course, STOP smoking, smoking raises LDL cholesterol levels, raises inflammation in the blood vessels and increases chances of having arterial plaque buildup in the arteries.