Sometimes we’re so preoccupied with a door that has closed, we miss seeing a door that has opened. This is what happened when the medical community focused all its attention on high blood cholesterol as a potential cause of heart attack. We forgot that by far the most powerful ways of lowering heart disease are exercising regularly, reducing sugar, trans-fat and alcohol consumption and not smoking.
IF EVERYONE followed the five lifestyle guidelines listed below then the article, The
Cholesterol Controversy Part 2, would not need to have been written! It will appear in the October 2017 issue of GHGTM.
• stopped smoking
• was physically active for 30 minutes or more a day
• consumed less alcohol: no more than 10 (for women) and 14 (for men) standard alcoholic drinks per week, see Fructose:
The New Booze, Nov. 2016 GHGTM magazine
• ate less than six teaspoons of sugar each day, see Sugar: The New Fat, Oct. 2016 GHGTM magazine
• avoided trans-fats and consumed a diet rich in fibre.
When you follow the five lifestyle guidelines listed above, your body will effectively self-regulate your blood cholesterol. The exception is people with a rare genetic disorder known as familial hyper-cholesterol anaemia( hyphenated for ease of reading ), so, please continue to adhere to your doctor’s advice.
The average person makes about one gram of cholesterol every day, most of it in the liver. The amount you make on a daily basis, changes in relation to your dietary intake. If you eat more cholesterol you will make less cholesterol and vice versa.
The total amount of cholesterol in your body is around 35 grams, mainly found in your cell membranes. Cholesterol is also a component of bile, which is stored in the gall bladder. When bile is released into the small intestine, it helps to digest dietary fats and absorb the fat-soluble Vitamins A, D, E and K. Bile also neutralises stomach acid before the acid enters your duodenum and it kills any pathogenic bacteria that might be lurking in your food.
CHOLESTEROL IS ALSO EFFICIENTLY RECYCLED BY THE BODY.
The liver excretes it via bile, into the digestive tract and about 50% of the excreted cholesterol is reabsorbed back into the blood by the small intestine.
DIETARY CHOLESTEROL COMES FROM ANIMAL FOODS.
These are meat, prawns, poultry, egg yolks, cheese, butter and breast milk. Contrary to what I was taught in medical school, eating these foods will NOT elevate small dense atherogenic LDL cholesterol levels. If you allow your body to guide you and if you eat a wide variety of whole foods, your body will balance how much cholesterol it makes, recycles and excretes. We need cholesterol from birth and
breast milk contains 14mg of cholesterol per 100g, much the same as in cow’s milk. If you are not lactose intolerant and if you enjoy dairy products, there is nothing unhealthy about enjoying full fat dairy products.
PLANTS DO NOT MAKE CHOLESTEROL.
Some plant foods such as avocados, peanuts and linseeds actually reduce our absorption of cholesterol because they contain phytosterols that compete with cholesterol and reduce its uptake in the intestine. The key, as always, is listening to your body to determine your nutritional needs at any given time. One diet does not fit all. Pause before eating or planning your meals and ask yourself what it is you need. Everyone’s balance is different. By learning to tune in to your body, you will start to recognise what is nutritionally right for you at any given time.
THE MOST REWARDING THING WE CAN DO, IS TO START TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR OUR OWN HEALTH.
The reason that cholesterol gets so much attention is because there are drugs that can lower blood cholesterol. No one profits from you going for a walk except you, so walking will get less press than statins (the most frequently prescribed cholesterol-lowering medications).
The issue with statins is that although they may be helpful in some people with a high risk of heart disease (this is becoming increasingly debatable), they can have unpleasant side effects such as myalgia (muscle pain), fatigue, digestive problems, mental fuzziness, confusion, memory loss, elevated blood glucose levels and occasionally liver damage. For some people, the muscle soreness and weakness are so severe that they stop exercising and become socially withdrawn - this is far worse than having high cholesterol. Statins have also been associated with reduction in mental functioning in people with dementia.
I am not advocating that you abandon your cholesterol-lowering medication if that’s what you’ve been prescribed. I’m merely suggesting that you speak to your doctor if you have concerns about side effects that are reducing your quality of life. Ask your doctor if the risks outweigh any potential benefits.
Cholesterol is not something we need to fear. Good health is determined by more than blood test results. Good health is about making daily choices that lead to improved energy, vitality and enthusiasm for life. The most rewarding and powerful thing we can do is to start taking responsibility for our own health.
In the next issue of GHGTM, the article, The Cholesterol Controversy Part 2, provides a simple overview of blood cholesterol levels and describes the changes in the medical communities’ opinion on cholesterol.
Dr Helena Popovic is a medical doctor, a leading authority on how to improve brain function, international speaker and best-selling author. Helena runs weight management retreats based on living not dieting, and is the author of the award-winning book ‘NeuroSlimming – let your brain change your body’. For more information, refer to Helena’s website.