Cholesterol has always been painted as the bad guy in heart disease, but the real troublemaker may be something else.
IN the history of mankind, wars have been waged throughout the centuries. Behind every conflict, there is always an initiator that provokes revolt or annihilation, and sets the stage for battle.
There will also be the collaborators who fan the fires of discord, and the rebels who fight for the cause.
Certainly, there has never been a battle without collateral damage.
In the chronicles of war within the body, cholesterol is the unwitting rebel.
In its attempt to patch up the wounds of arterial damage, it itself is drawn into a web of deceit, which – with the help of other collaborators – sets ablaze the fires of inflammation within artery walls.
As this waxy agent becomes involved in the complex formation of atherosclerosis (the forerunner of heart disease), the good work cholesterol does in maintaining cell membrane integrity, keeping hormones in balance, and sustaining cellular functions goes unnoticed.
Instead of being the good guy, cholesterol has gained notoriety as the bad guy of heart disease.
In order to keep our body functioning, the network of waterways known as the arteries need to be kept open and clear to deliver nutrients, oxygen, hormones and other essential substances to the organs.
If blood supply is cut off, organs will perish – and so will the body’s owner.
One such organ is the heart, but what happens here can occur elsewhere as well.
In my previous article ( Cholesterol: Friend or Foe?, StarTwo, Oct 6), I discussed the role of cholesterol in the development of heart disease.
I noted that it is not just the overall cholesterol levels that are important, but more crucially, the levels of LDL-cholesterol.
We now know that as LDL-cholesterol becomes oxidised, it literally “sticks” under the inner lining of arterial walls, forming a fatty sludge that sets off inflammation.
Specialised white blood cells, like an efficient army, try to clean up the mess.
But in the process, they cause much collateral damage, with the scars of battle showing up as fibrosis and hardening of the artery walls, thus, paving the way for high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
The real culprit
To reduce the casualties of war, the real instigators of unrest should be unmasked and neutralised. In this case, it is the troublemaker called homocysteine.
Hidden instigator: Meat is a rich source of homocysteine, as are eggs and dairy products.