Wednesday, May 08, 2013 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer... (NaturalNews)
The collective psyche of American society is long overdue for a major paradigm shift in its understanding of fats, inflammation, cholesterol, and the true cause of most chronic illnesses. Even many physicians, who should know better, still argue that cholesterol is evil and that sticking to a low-fat diet is good for health. But the fact of the matter is that avoiding fats is toxic to your health, and consuming the many food additives that commonly replace them - these include synthetic trans fats, refined sugars, and processed grains - are a primary cause of disease-causing inflammation.
It all makes sense if you just stop and consider the native role cholesterol plays in protecting arteries against lesions and other damage. Rather than being the cause of plaque buildup in the circulatory system, cholesterol is actually the healing agent the body sends to sites that have been damaged by inflammation. In other words, if you have too much cholesterol buildup in your arteries, your real problem is too much inflammation rather than too much cholesterol, and a whole different mitigatory approach is required to address the problem.
"It's the inflammation in the vessels that starts the lesion," says Dr. Beverly Teter, a lipid biochemist from the University of Maryland who has been researching fats and their affect on the human body for many years, as quoted by CBN.com. "The body then sends the cholesterol like a scab to cover over it to protect the blood system and the vessel wall from further damage."
This runs completely contrary to the prevailing medical dogma, which still maintains that saturated fat and cholesterol are silent killers that can lead to heart disease, diabetes and other forms of chronic illness. As a result, millions of Americans have been duped into avoiding these necessary nutrients to their own demise, while they instead gorge on unhealthy vegetable oils, trans fats, sugars, grains, and phony low-fat junk foods.
"When choosing which fats to eat, pick the ones that are high in omega-3 fats and also choose natural saturated fats," advises Lorie Johnson from CBN.com. "On the other hand, stay away from the fats that lead to inflammation, such as trans fats and omega-6 fats," she adds, noting that most of the oils used in processed food are unhealthy vegetable oils posing as "nutritious."
Americans have been terrorized into the belief that cholesterol will kill them. Recent studies indicate that a lack of cholesterol is what is destructive to one's health.
Cholesterol Does not Cause Heart Disease
According to Dr. Diana Schwarzbein, a leading endocrinologist and author of The Schwarzbein Principle, “Eating cholesterol and fat do not cause heart disease and accelerated death. In fact, you must eat them to avoid heart disease.” Schwarzbein is a strong advocate that “…high total cholesterol numbers are not the cause of heart attacks. A high-insulin lifestyle is the cause of heart attacks.”
This sentiment is also expressed by a growing number of scientists and nutrition experts, including Gary Taubes in Good Calories, Bad Calories, and Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions. Since the majority of heart-attack victims have normal to low cholesterol numbers, it appears now that many early studies linking cholesterol to heart disease were greatly flawed, or greatly misinterpreted.
Lack of Cholesterol Causes Cancer and accelerated Aging
For a long time, Schwarzbein was one of the lone voices in the cholesterol brouhaha who advocated that a lack of cholesterol was dietary disaster. This is a fundamental fact since the lack of cholesterol causes cell membrane structures to alter, thus disrupting cell growth. Cancer can arise because of ensuing abnormal cell division. Thus, every cell in the human body requires cholesterol and fat to help safeguard one’s health
According to Taubes, the link between low cholesterol and cancer was appearing as early as 1980. Indeed, according to the Framingham Study, “…men whose total cholesterol levels were below 190mg/dl were more than three times as likely to get colon cancer as those men with cholesterol greater than 220; they were almost twice as likely to contract any kind of cancer than those with cholesterol over 280 mg/dl.”
Cholesterol is essential for brain function, helps form cell membranes both on the inside and outside, contributes to a healthy immune system and makes hormones. When these systems are depleted or starved for cholesterol, there is an increase in the potential for diseases of all types, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, depression, agitation, hormonal imbalance, poor thyroid function and a host of other debilitating conditions.
Cholesterol and Fat Are not the Enemy
According to Schwarzbein, “Fat and cholesterol are so important to life that your body has backup systems for their production.” In fact, the body can make cholesterol from carbohydrates.
Fallon states that “High serum cholesterol levels often indicate that the body needs cholesterol to protect itself from high levels of altered, free radical-containing fats.” Consumption of hydrogenated and vegetable oils and a diet too high in sugar and white flour are the main dietary mistakes made. Fallon goes on to say that “…cholesterol is needed in a poorly nourished body to protect the individual from a tendency to heart disease and cancer.”
An increasing mound of evidence strongly indicates that it is the excessive consumption of carbohydrates that is the leading cause of debilitating disease, heart attack and metabolic aging.
Never before have so many diverse theories emerged regarding the dietary causes of modern diseases. Consumers have been busily chasing one theory after another, looking for the panacea to perfect health. In the long run, the message may be very simple: eat a well rounded diet avoiding excess consumption of any one food group, especially shunning the emphasis on low-fat, high-carb eating. Cholesterol and natural oils and fats are not the culprits they have been made out to be.
Why has there never been a record of cholesterol having blocked a vein in the body! What is it about arteries that makes cholesterol attach itself to their walls, while leaving the veins alone? It is really the sticky nature of cholesterol that is behind the blockage of healthy blood vessel walls?
The answers to these questions may surprise you. The body actually uses the lipoprotein cholesterol as a kind of bandage to cover abrasions and tears in damaged arterial walls just as it does it for any other wound. Cholesterol is nothing less than a life-saver. However, for the past thirty-eight years, this lipoprotein has been stigmatized to be the number one cause of deaths in the rich nations - heart disease.
This is how the theory goes: For reasons not really known, a form of cholesterol that has earned the name "bad" somehow increases in the bloodstream of millions of people today; it sticks to the walls of arteries, and eventually, it will starve the heart muscle of oxygen and nutrients. Accordingly, the masses are urged to reduce or ban cholesterol-containing fats from their diet so that they can live without the fear of arterial occlusion and dying from a heart attack.
The tremendous concern of being attacked by this "vicious" lipoprotein has finally led to innovative technologies that can even extract cholesterol from cheese, eggs, and sausages, thus making these "deadly" foods "consumer-safe." Products that claim to be low in cholesterol, such as margarine and light-foods, have become a popular choice of "healthy eating."
Cholesterol is Not the Culprit After All
But as INTERHEART and other studies have shown, cholesterol isn't a serious risk factor for heart disease at all. An earlier study sponsored by the German Ministry of Research and Technology showed that no exact link exists between food cholesterol and blood cholesterol. Even more surprising, in Japan, the cholesterol levels have risen during recent years, yet the number of heart attacks has dropped. The largest health study ever conducted on the risks of heart disease took place in China. Like so many similar studies, the Chinese study found no connection between heart disease and the consumption of animal fats.
In an 8-year long heart study, researchers observed 10,000 people with high cholesterol levels. Half of them received a best-selling statin drug. The other half were simply told to eat a normal diet and get enough exercise. The results stunned the researchers. Although the statin drug did indeed lower serum cholesterol, this had no impact whatsoever on death rate, non-fatal heart attacks and fatal arterial disease. In other words, the statin-users had zero advantage over those who received no treatment at all. However, they had just spent eight years taking a costly drug with hideous side effects - risking liver failure, muscle wasting, even sudden death. Lowering cholesterol either through drugs or low fat diets does not lower the risk of developing heart disease.
All the major European long-term cholesterol studies have confirmed that a low-fat diet did not reduce cholesterol levels by more than 4 percent, in most cases merely 1-2 percent. Since measurement mistakes are usually higher than 4 percent and cholesterol levels naturally increase by 20 percent in autumn and drop again during the wintertime, the anti-cholesterol campaigns since the late 1980s have been very misleading, to say the least. A more recent study from Denmark involving 20,000 men and women, in fact, demonstrated that most heart disease patients have normal cholesterol levels. The bottom line is that cholesterol hasn't been proved a risk factor for anything.
The current medical understanding of the cholesterol issue is more than incomplete. The argument that animal tests on rabbits have confirmed that fatty foods cause hardening of the arteries sounds convincing, but only when the following facts are omitted:
* Rabbits respond 3,000 times more sensitively to cholesterol than humans do.
* Rabbits, which are non-carnivorous animals by nature, are force-fed excessive quantities of egg yolk and brain for the sake of proving that cholesterol-containing foods are harmful.
* The DNA and enzyme systems of rabbits are not designed for consumption of fatty foods, and if given a choice, these animals would never eat eggs or brains.
It is obvious that the arteries of these animals have only an extremely limited ability to respond to the damage caused by such unsuitable diets. For over three and half decades, Western civilization assumed that animal fats were the main cause of dietary heart disease. This misinformation is highlighted by the fact that heart attacks began to rise when consumption of animal fats actually decreased. This was verified by British research, which revealed that those areas in the U.K. Where people consumed more margarine and less butter had the highest numbers of heart attacks. Further studies revealed that heart attack patients had consumed the least amounts of animal fats.
In this context, it is important to differentiate between processed and unprocessed fats. It has been discovered that people who died from a heart attack were found to have many more of the harmful fatty acids derived from the partially hydrogenated vegetable oils in their fat tissue than those who survived. These so-called "faulty" fats (trans-fatty acids) envelop and congest the membranes of cells, including those that make up the heart and coronary arteries. This practically starves the cells of oxygen, nutrients, and water, and eventually kills them.
In another more comprehensive study, 85,000 nurses working in American hospitals observed a higher risk for heart disease in patients who consumed margarine, crisps, potato chips, biscuits, cookies, cakes, and white bread, all of which contain trans fats.
Eating margarine can increase heart disease in women by 53 percent over eating the same amount of butter, according to a recent Harvard Medical Study. While actually increasing LDL cholesterol, margarine lowers the beneficial HDL cholesterol. It also increases the risk of cancers up to five times. Margarine suppresses both the immune response and insulin response. This highly processed and artificial product is practically resistant to destruction, being one molecule away from plastic. Flies, bacteria, fungi, etc. won't go near it because it has no nutritional value and cannot be broken down by them. It can last for years, not just outside the body, but inside as well.
It is very apparent that eating damaged, rancid fats or trans-fats can destroy any healthy organism and should be avoided by anyone. In 2007 New York City banned the use of trans fats in its restaurants; however, the trans fats are merely being replaced with new artificial fats that have the same or worse effects.
Healthy Today - Sick Tomorrow
Unfortunately, high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia) has become the dominating health concern of the 21st century. It is actually an invented disease that doesn't show up as one. Even the healthiest people may have elevated serum cholesterol and yet their health remains perfect. But they are instantly turned into patients when a routine blood test reveals that they have a "cholesterol problem."
Since feeling good is actually a symptom of high cholesterol, the cholesterol issue has confused millions of people. To be declared sick when you actually feel great is a hard nut to swallow. So it may take a lot of effort on behalf of a practicing physician to convince his patients that they are sick and need to take one or more expensive drugs for the rest of their lives. These healthy individuals may become depressed when they are being told they will need to take potentially harmful drugs to lower their cholesterol levels on a long-term, daily basis. When they also learn that they will require regular checkups and blood tests, their worry-free, good life is now over.
These doctors cannot be blamed for the blunder of converting healthy people into patients. Behind them stands the full force of the U.S. government, the media, the medical establishment, agencies, and of course, the pharmaceutical companies. All of them have collaborated to create relentless pressure in disseminating the cholesterol myth and convincing the population that high cholesterol is its number one enemy. We are told that we need to combat it by all means possible to keep us safe from the dreadful consequences of hypercholesterolemia.
The definition of a "healthy" level of cholesterol has been repeatedly adjusted during the past 30 years, which certainly does not give me much confidence in a system of medicine that professes to be founded on sound scientific principles. In the early days of measuring cholesterol levels, a person at risk was any middle-aged man whose cholesterol was over 240 and possessed other risk factors, such as smoking or being overweight.
After the adjustment of parameters during the Cholesterol Consensus Conference in 1984, the population was hit by a shock wave. Now, anyone (male or female) with overall cholesterol readings of 200 mg percent (200mg per 100 ml) could receive the dreaded diagnosis and a prescription for pills. The claim that 200 blood serum cholesterol is normal and everything above is dangerous was scientifically unfounded, though. At least, this was the consensus of all the major cholesterol studies. In fact, a report in a 1995 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association showed no evidence linking high cholesterol levels in women with heart conditions later in life.
Although it is considered completely normal for a 55-year-old woman to have a cholesterol level of 260 mg percent, most women that age are not told about this. Also healthy employees are found to have an average of 250 mg percent with high fluctuations in both directions.
The lack of evidence linking elevated cholesterol with increased risk of heart disease, however, didn't stop the brainwashing of the masses. In the U.S. 84 percent of all men and 93 percent of all women aged 50-59 with high cholesterol levels were suddenly told they needed treatment for heart disease. The totally unproved but aggressively promoted cholesterol theories turned most of us into patients for a disease that we probably will never develop. Fortunately, not everyone has followed the advice to have their cholesterol levels checked but, unfortunately, millions of people have fallen into the trap of misinformation.
To make matters worse, the official, acceptable cholesterol level has now been moved down to 180. If you have already had one heart attack, your cardiologist will tell you to take cholesterol-lowering statins even if your cholesterol is very low. From the viewpoint of conventional medicine, having a heart attack implies that your cholesterol must be too high. Hence you are being sentenced to a lifetime of statins and a boring low-fat diet. But even if you have not experienced any heart trouble yet, you are already being considered for possible treatment.
Since so many children now show signs of elevated cholesterol, we have a whole new generation of candidates for medical treatment. So yes, current edicts stipulate cholesterol testing and treatment for young adults and even children! The statin drugs that doctors use to push cholesterol levels down are LIPITOR (atorvastatin), Zocor (simvastatin), Mevacor (lovastatin), and Pravachol (pravastatin). If you decide to follow your doctor's advice and take one of these drugs, make certain to read the list of side effects so that you know the risks you are taking.
If you want to obtain objective and untainted information on cholesterol, agencies like the National Institutes of Health and the American College of Cardiology are certainly not the places from which to obtain it. Until recently, they wanted you to keep your overall cholesterol level below 150. Then, in 2001, they finally admitted that measuring overall cholesterol levels makes no sense at all, so they began recommending an LDL level below 100. Now their aim is to keep LDL lower than 70. Every time they lower the target, the number of "patients" requiring treatment jumps dramatically, much to the benefit of the drug producers. Being officially backed by these agencies, doctors feel motivated, if not obliged, to prescribe these expensive drugs to their new patients.
The extensive promotional campaigns by the pharmaceutical giants have already brainwashed the masses to believe they need these drugs to be safe from sudden heart attack. Even if a doctor knows the truth about the cholesterol deception, these anxious patients will demand a prescription from him. This is not just affecting their health, but everyone's economic future. The massive sales of these best-selling drugs of all time drive up health care costs to levels that undermine economic growth and make basic health care unaffordable to an ever-increasing number of people. The masses have been so brainwashed with misinformation that this lurking financial crisis doesn't seem to be their immediate concern.
In 2004, there were already 36 million statin candidates in the U.S., with 16 million using LIPITOR alone. When the official LDL target level drops to 70, another 5 million people will be eligible for their use. At the consumer markup price of $272.37 and an actual cost of $5.80 for a month supply of LIPITOR, you can understand the incentive that the pharmaceutical industry has to push their products and make them a mass commodity.
Check out the book for more information about statins, cholesterol and heart disease, or any of the related topics listed below
* The Secret Cause Of Heart Disease - And Why It's So Easily Reversed
* The Beginning Stages Of Heart Disease
* Major Contributing Factors
* Meat Consumption And Heart Disease
* Yes, Your Body Can Store Protein!
* Protein Storage - A Time Bomb
* The Revealing Role Of Homocysteine
* C-Reactive Protein Reveals The Truth
* How And Why Heart Attacks Really Occur
* Heart Attacks Can Occur In A Number Of Ways:
1) New Studies Question Value Of Opening Arteries
2) Risk Indications Of A Heart Attack
3) What Statins May Do To You!
4) But Doesn't Aspirin Protect Against Heart Disease?
5) Dangers Of Low Cholesterol
6) Cholesterol - Your Life And Blood
7) When Cholesterol Signals SOS
8) Balancing Cholesterol Levels Naturally
9) Overcoming Heart Disease - Two Encouraging Stories
10) Non-Dietary Causes Of Heart Disease.
11) A Lacking Social Support System
12) Greatest Risk Factors: Job Satisfaction And Happiness Rating
13) Your Need To Love
14) What A Loving Spouse Can Do
15) The Healing Power Of "Loving Touch"
A growing body of data does not substantiate that the lower your cholesterol numbers the better your health. In fact, having low cholesterol levels may cause disease.
Health conscious people may be feeling increasingly confused over the litany of contradictory claims made by the medical profession, pharmaceutical companies and a host of independent scientists. Lately, it seems there is a growing chorus of researchers espousing that low cholesterol levels may, indeed, actually be detrimental to one’s health.
Low Cholesterol Causes Heart Disease
Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, author of The Great Cholesterol Con (not to be confused with Colpo's book of the same title) is just one of many medical professionals speaking out about the scientifically unverifiable link between cholesterol and heart disease. Dr. Malcolm is a vocal member of a growing number of professionals who believe that “A falling cholesterol level is associated with a greater risk of heart disease.” He cites statistics showing that when cholesterol levels in Japan rose, “…life expectancy increased, and death from all forms of cardiovascular disease fell dramatically.”
Kendrick has plenty of company in his beliefs. Science writer Gary Taubes also spends time debunking the cholesterol/cardiac connection in Good Calories, Bad Calories, as does Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions. These and other writers find fault with the misinterpreted evidence previously gleaned from a myriad of studies.
Low Cholesterol Causes Disease
Not satisfied with dissecting studies trying to relate cholesterol levels with heart disease, Kendrick also postulates that “…very low cholesterol levels are a sign of serious underlying illness, which is why people in the West with low cholesterol levels have such a terrible life expectancy.” Since every cell in the human body requires cholesterol, this idea may merit some consideration. As Dr. Diana Schwarzbein, endocrinologist and author of The Schwarzbein Principle, states, “If all you ever do is try to bring your (cholesterol) numbers down as low as possible, you will generate chronic health problems and disease.”
Low Cholesterol Is Not Desirable for longterm Health
In fact, in a follow up to a ten year study conducted in Finland, Kendrick states that Professor Michael Oliver “…found that those people who continued to follow the carefully controlled cholesterol-lowering diet were twice as likely to die of heart disease as those who didn’t.”
Diet Is Key to Health
Schwarzbein, Fallon and others believe that a diet lower in carbohydrates is a key to maintaining one's health and longevity. Schwarzbein succinctly states, “Ignore your cholesterol numbers and focus on your total lifestyle and you will likely live a long and healthy life.”
Updated April, 2006
A study published in the December 3, 2003 edition of the Journal lf the American College of Cardiology reports a relationship between lower cholesterol levels and increased mortality in patients with heart failure.
The study was conducted in the Royal Brompton Chronic Heart Failure Clinic in London, by investigators who were intrigued by earlier reports suggesting a surprising association between lower cholesterol levels and higher death rates in heart failure patients. So they measured cholesterol levels in over 400 patients with varying degrees of heart failure at the Royal Brompton, and followed their outcomes. They found that in these patients, the lower the cholesterol levels, the higher the risk of dying.
Based on data from this and other studies, it can be estimated that heart failure patients whose total cholesterol is below 190 or 200 mg/dL may have a 2 to 3-fold increased risk of dying, compared to similar patients whose cholesterol levels are higher.
When combined with scattered reports from other small observational studies, there is increasingly solid evidence that low cholesterol can be bad in some medical conditions. Patients with severe trauma, multiple organ failure, kidney disease and severe infections have been reported to have worse outcomes when cholesterol levels are low.
The authors of the report cited above speculate that in patients with medical conditions that create high metabolic demand - heart failure and the other medical conditions just mentioned would qualify - cholesterol requirements may simply be higher than in patients without such a metabolic demand. (Cholesterol is required in many key metabolic processes within cells.) If this theory is correct, then reducing cholesterol in patients who have these sorts of conditions may cause more harm than good. However, it cannot be determined accurately from observational studies, such as this one, whether the low cholesterol levels themselves actually cause increased risk, or whether they are merely a marker of a worse prognosis.
In any case, it is especially interesting to note, in this light, that several studies have now indicated that the use of statin drugs improve the outcome of patients with heart failure, and furthermore, the most significant improvement appears to occur in patients who had low cholesterol levels to start with (and therefore were the "sickest"). The accumulated evidence, while not definitive, has convinced many heart failure experts that statins indeed are helpful. If this is the case, then the statins must be acting through some mechanism aside from their cholesterol-lowering properties.
As it turns out, statins have several possible mechanisms by which they could improve heart failure. Statins slow atherosclerisis; they reduce inflammation; they improve vascular function and reduce vascular "stiffness;" they reduce oxidative stress; they tend to normalize the balance of the autonomic nervous system; and they help prevent abnormal blood clotting. So the observation that statins help in heart failure, despite the observation that low cholesterol has a bad prognosis in heart failure, still makes sense.
Two randomized trials are now underway to more definitively answer the question of whether statin therapy improves the outcome of patients with heart failure - the CORONA and the GISSI- HF trials. In the meantime, if doctors feel that the weight of evidence currently supports the use of statins in these patients, many patients with heart failure currently have a legitimate indication for using statins. Such indications would include the presence of known coronary artery disease, diabetes, or LDL cholesterol levels greater than 100.
Department of Neurogenetics, Max Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine, 37075 Goettingen, Germany.
Cholesterol in the mammalian brain is a risk factor for certain neurodegenerative diseases, raising the question of its normal function. In the mature brain, the highest cholesterol content is found in myelin. We therefore created mice that lack the ability to synthesize cholesterol in myelin-forming oligodendrocytes. Mutant oligodendrocytes survived, but CNS myelination was severely perturbed, and mutant mice showed ataxia and tremor. CNS myelination continued at a reduced rate for many months, and during this period, the cholesterol-deficient oligodendrocytes actively enriched cholesterol and assembled myelin with >70% of the cholesterol content of wild-type myelin. This shows that cholesterol is an indispensable component of myelin membranes and that cholesterol availability in oligodendrocytes is a rate-limiting factor for brain maturation.
PMID: 15793579 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
By Dr. Mercola
Cholesterol could easily be described as the smoking gun of the last two decades.
It"s been responsible for demonizing entire categories of foods (like eggs and saturated fats) and blamed for just about every case of heart disease in the last 20 years.
Yet when I first opened my medical practice in the mid 80s, cholesterol, and the fear that yours was too high was rarely talked about.
Somewhere along the way however, cholesterol became a household word -- something that you must keep as low as possible, or suffer the consequences.
You are probably aware that there are many myths that portray fat and cholesterol as one of the worst foods you can consume. Please understand that these myths are actually harming your health.
Not only is cholesterol most likely not going to destroy your health (as you have been led to believe), but it is also not the cause of heart disease.
And for those of you taking cholesterol-lowering drugs, the information that follows could not have been given to you fast enough. But before I delve into this life-changing information, let"s get some basics down first.
That"s right, you do need cholesterol.
This soft, waxy substance is found not only in your bloodstream, but also in every cell in your body, where it helps to produce cell membranes, hormones, vitamin D and bile acids that help you to digest fat. Cholesterol also helps in the formation of your memories and is vital for neurological function.
Your liver makes about 75 percent of your body"s cholesterol,[i] and according to conventional medicine, there are two types:
- High-density lipoprotein, or HDL: This is the "good" cholesterol that helps to keep cholesterol away from your arteries and remove any excess from arterial plaque, which may help to prevent heart disease.
- Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL: This "bad" cholesterol circulates in your blood and, according to conventional thinking, may build up in your arteries, forming plaque that makes your arteries narrow and less flexible (a condition called atherosclerosis). If a clot forms in one of these narrowed arteries leading to your heart or brain, a heart attack or stroke may result.
Also making up your total cholesterol count are:
- Triglycerides: Elevated levels of this dangerous fat have been linked to heart disease and diabetes. Triglyceride levels are known to rise from eating too many grains and sugars, being physically inactive, smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol excessively and being overweight or obese.
- Lipoprotein (a), or Lp(a): Lp(a) is a substance that is made up of an LDL "bad cholesterol" part plus a protein (apoprotein a). Elevated Lp(a) levels are a very strong risk factor for heart disease. This has been well established, yet very few physicians check for it in their patients.
Health officials in the United States urge everyone over the age of 20 to have their cholesterol tested once every five years. Part of this test is your total cholesterol, or the sum of your blood"s cholesterol content, including HDL, LDLs, and VLDLs..
The American Heart Association recommends that your total cholesterol is less than 200 mg/dL, but what they do not tell you is that total cholesterol level is just about worthless in determining your risk for heart disease, unless it is above 330.
In addition, the AHA updated their guidelines in 2004, lowering the recommended level of LDL cholesterol from 130 to LDL to less than 100, or even less than 70 for patients at very high risk.
In order to achieve these outrageous and dangerously low targets, you typically need to take multiple cholesterol-lowering drugs. So the guidelines instantly increased the market for these dangerous drugs. Now, with testing children"s cholesterol levels, they"re increasing their market even more.
I have seen a number of people with total cholesterol levels over 250 who actually were at low heart disease risk due to their HDL levels. Conversely, I have seen even more who had cholesterol levels under 200 that were at a very high risk of heart disease based on the following additional tests:
- HDL/Cholesterol ratio
- Triglyceride/HDL ratios
HDL percentage is a very potent heart disease risk factor. Just divide your HDL level by your cholesterol. That percentage should ideally be above 24 percent.
You can also do the same thing with your triglycerides and HDL ratio. That percentage should be below 2.
Keep in mind, however, that these are still simply guidelines, and there"s a lot more that goes into your risk of heart disease than any one of these numbers. In fact, it was only after word got out that total cholesterol is a poor predictor of heart disease that HDL and LDL cholesterol were brought into the picture.
They give you a closer idea of what"s going on, but they still do not show you everything.
Now that we"ve defined good and bad cholesterol, it has to be said that there is actually only one type of cholesterol. Ron Rosedale, MD, who is widely considered to be one of the leading anti-aging doctor in the United States, does an excellent job of explaining this concept:[ii]
"Notice please that LDL and HDL are lipoproteins -- fats combined with proteins. There is only one cholesterol. There is no such thing as "good" or "bad" cholesterol.
Cholesterol is just cholesterol.
It combines with other fats and proteins to be carried through the bloodstream, since fat and our watery blood do not mix very well.
Fatty substances therefore must be shuttled to and from our tissues and cells using proteins. LDL and HDL are forms of proteins and are far from being just cholesterol.
In fact we now know there are many types of these fat and protein particles. LDL particles come in many sizes and large LDL particles are not a problem. Only the so-called small dense LDL particles can potentially be a problem, because they can squeeze through the lining of the arteries and if they oxidize, otherwise known as turning rancid, they can cause damage and inflammation.
Thus, you might say that there is "good LDL" and "bad LDL."
Also, some HDL particles are better than others. Knowing just your total cholesterol tells you very little. Even knowing your LDL and HDL levels will not tell you very much."
Before we continue, I really would like you to get your mind around this concept.
In the United States, the idea that cholesterol is evil is very much engrained in most people"s minds. But this is a very harmful myth that needs to be put to rest right now.
"First and foremost," Dr. Rosedale points out, "cholesterol is a vital component of every cell membrane on Earth. In other words, there is no life on Earth that can live without cholesterol.
That will automatically tell you that, in and of itself, it cannot be evil. In fact, it is one of our best friends.
We would not be here without it. No wonder lowering cholesterol too much increases one"s risk of dying. Cholesterol is also a precursor to all of the steroid hormones. You cannot make estrogen, testosterone, cortisone, and a host of other vital hormones without cholesterol."
You probably are aware of the incredible influence of vitamin D on your health. If you aren"t, or need a refresher, you can visit my vitamin D page.
What most people do not realize is that the best way to obtain your vitamin D is from safe exposure to sun on your skin. The UVB rays in sunlight interact with the cholesterol on your skin and convert it to vitamin D.
If your cholesterol level is too low you will not be able to use the sun to generate sufficient levels of vitamin D.
Additionally, it provides some intuitive feedback that if cholesterol were so dangerous, why would your body use it as precursor for vitamin D and virtually all of the steroid hormones in your body?
Other "evidence" that cholesterol is good for you?
Consider the role of "good" HDL cholesterol. Essentially, HDL takes cholesterol from your body"s tissues and arteries, and brings it back to your liver, where most of your cholesterol is produced. If the purpose of this was to eliminate cholesterol from your body, it would make sense that the cholesterol would be shuttled back to your kidneys or intestines so your body could remove it.
Instead, it goes back to your liver. Why?
Because your liver is going to reuse it.
"It is taking it back to your liver so that your liver can recycle it; put it back into other particles to be taken to tissues and cells that need it," Dr. Rosedale explains. "Your body is trying to make and conserve the cholesterol for the precise reason that it is so important, indeed vital, for health."
Inflammation has become a bit of a buzzword in the medical field because it has been linked to so many different diseases. And one of those diseases is heart disease … the same heart disease that cholesterol is often blamed for.
What am I getting at?
Well, first consider the role of inflammation in your body. In many respects, it"s a good thing as it"s your body"s natural response to invaders it perceives as threats. If you get a cut for instance, the process of inflammation is what allows you to heal.
Specifically during inflammation:
- Your blood vessels constrict to keep you from bleeding to death
- Your blood becomes thicker so it can clot
- Your immune system sends cells and chemicals to fight viruses, bacteria and other "bad guys" that could infect the area
- Cells multiply to repair the damage
Ultimately, the cut is healed and a protective scar may form over the area.
If your arteries are damaged, a very similar process occurs inside of your body, except that a "scar" in your artery is known as plaque.
This plaque, along with the thickening of your blood and constricting of your blood vessels that normally occur during the inflammatory process, can indeed increase your risk of high blood pressure and heart attacks.
Notice that cholesterol has yet to even enter the picture.
Cholesterol comes in because, in order to replace your damaged cells, it is necessary.
Remember that no cell can form without it.
So if you have damaged cells that need to be replaced, your liver will be notified to make more cholesterol and release it into your bloodstream. This is a deliberate process that takes place in order for your body to produce new, healthy cells.
It"s also possible, and quite common, for damage to occur in your body on a regular basis. In this case, you will be in a dangerous state of chronic inflammation.
The test usually used to determine if you have chronic inflammation is a C-reactive protein (CRP) blood test. CRP level is used as a marker of inflammation in your arteries.
- A CRP level under 1 milligrams per liter of blood means you have a low risk for cardiovascular disease
- 1 to 3 milligrams means your risk is intermediate
- More than 3 milligrams is high risk
Even conventional medicine is warming up to the idea that chronic inflammation can trigger heart attacks. But they stop short of seeing the big picture.
In the eyes of conventional medicine, when they see increased cholesterol circulating in your bloodstream, they conclude that it -- not the underlying damage to your arteries -- is the cause of heart attacks.
Which brings me to my next point.
Sally Fallon, the president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, and Mary Enig, Ph.D, an expert in lipid biochemistry, have gone so far as to call high cholesterol "an invented disease, a "problem" that emerged when health professionals learned how to measure cholesterol levels in the blood."[iii]
And this explanation is spot on.
If you have increased levels of cholesterol, it is at least in part because of increased inflammation in your body. The cholesterol is there to do a job: help your body to heal and repair.
Conventional medicine misses the boat entirely when they dangerously recommend that lowering cholesterol with drugs is the way to reduce your risk of heart attacks, because what is actually needed is to address whatever is causing your body damage -- and leading to increased inflammation and then increased cholesterol.
As Dr. Rosedale so rightly points out:2
"If excessive damage is occurring such that it is necessary to distribute extra cholesterol through the bloodstream, it would not seem very wise to merely lower the cholesterol and forget about why it is there in the first place.
It would seem much smarter to reduce the extra need for the cholesterol -- the excessive damage that is occurring, the reason for the chronic inflammation."
I"ll discuss how to do this later in the report, but first let"s take a look at the dangers of low cholesterol -- and how it came to be that cholesterol levels needed to be so low in the first place.
All kinds of nasty things can happen to your body. Remember, every single one of your cells needs cholesterol to thrive -- including those in your brain. Perhaps this is why low cholesterol wreaks havoc on your psyche.
One large study conducted by Dutch researchers found that men with chronically low cholesterol levels showed a consistently higher risk of having depressive symptoms.[iv]
This may be because cholesterol affects the metabolism of serotonin, a substance involved in the regulation of your mood. On a similar note, Canadian researchers found that those in the lowest quarter of total cholesterol concentration had more than six times the risk of committing suicide as did those in the highest quarter.[v]
Dozens of studies also support a connection between low or lowered cholesterol levels and violent behavior, through this same pathway: lowered cholesterol levels may lead to lowered brain serotonin activity, which may, in turn, lead to increased violence and aggression.[vi]
And one meta-analysis of over 41,000 patient records found that people who take statin drugs to lower their cholesterol as much as possible may have a higher risk of cancer,[vii] while other studies have linked low cholesterol to Parkinson"s disease.
What cholesterol level is too low? Brace yourself.
Probably any level much under 150 -- an optimum would be more like 200.
Now I know what you are thinking: "But my doctor tells me my cholesterol needs to be under 200 to be healthy." Well let me enlighten you about how these cholesterol recommendations came to be. And I warn you, it is not a pretty story.
This is a significant issue. I have seen large numbers of people who have their cholesterol lowered below 150, and there is little question in my mind that it is causing far more harm than any benefit they are receiving by lowering their cholesterol this low.
In 2004, the U.S. government"s National Cholesterol Education Program panel advised those at risk for heart disease to attempt to reduce their LDL cholesterol to specific, very low, levels.
Before 2004, a 130-milligram LDL cholesterol level was considered healthy. The updated guidelines, however, recommended levels of less than 100, or even less than 70 for patients at very high risk.
Keep in mind that these extremely low targets often require multiple cholesterol-lowering drugs to achieve.
Fortunately, in 2006 a review in the Annals of Internal Medicine[viii] found that there is insufficient evidence to support the target numbers outlined by the panel. The authors of the review were unable to find research providing evidence that achieving a specific LDL target level was important in and of itself, and found that the studies attempting to do so suffered from major flaws.
Several of the scientists who helped develop the guidelines even admitted that the scientific evidence supporting the less-than-70 recommendation was not very strong.
So how did these excessively low cholesterol guidelines come about?
Eight of the nine doctors on the panel that developed the new cholesterol guidelines had been making money from the drug companies that manufacture statin cholesterol-lowering drugs.[ix]
The same drugs that the new guidelines suddenly created a huge new market for in the United States.
Coincidence? I think not.
Now, despite the finding that there is absolutely NO evidence to show that lowering your LDL cholesterol to 100 or below is good for you, what do you think the American Heart Association STILL recommends?
Lowering your LDL cholesterol levels to less than 100.[x]
And to make matters worse, the standard recommendation to get to that level almost always includes one or more cholesterol-lowering drugs.
If you are concerned about your cholesterol levels, taking a drug should be your absolute last resort. And when I say last resort, I"m saying the odds are very high, greater than 100 to 1, that you don"t need drugs to lower your cholesterol.
To put it another way, among the more than 20,000 patients who have come to my clinic, only four or five of them truly needed these drugs, as they had genetic challenges of familial hypercholesterolemia that required it..
Contrast this to what is going on in the general population. According to data from Medco Health Solutions Inc., more than half of insured Americans are taking drugs for chronic health conditions. And cholesterol-lowering medications are the second most common variety among this group, with nearly 15 percent of chronic medication users taking them (high blood pressure medications -- another vastly over-prescribed category -- were first).[xi]
Disturbingly, as written in BusinessWeek early in 2008, "Some researchers have even suggested -- half-jokingly -- that the medications should be put in the water supply."[xii]
Count yourself lucky that you probably do NOT need to take cholesterol-lowering medications, because these are some nasty little pills.
Statin drugs work by inhibiting an enzyme in your liver that"s needed to manufacture cholesterol. What is so concerning about this is that when you go tinkering around with the delicate workings of the human body, you risk throwing everything off kilter.
Case in point, "statin drugs inhibit not just the production of cholesterol, but a whole family of intermediary substances, many if not all of which have important biochemical functions in their own right," say Enig and Fallon.3
For starters, statin drugs deplete your body of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which is beneficial to heart health and muscle function. Because doctors rarely inform people of this risk and advise them to take a CoQ10 supplement, this depletion leads to fatigue, muscle weakness, soreness, and eventually heart failure.
Muscle pain and weakness, a condition called rhabdomyolysis, is actually the most common side effect of statin drugs, which is thought to occur because statins activate the atrogin-1 gene, which plays a key role in muscle atrophy.[xiii]
By the way, muscle pain and weakness may be an indication that your body tissues are actually breaking down -- a condition that can cause kidney damage.
Statin drugs have also been linked to:
- An increased risk of polyneuropathy (nerve damage that causes pain in the hands and feet and trouble walking)
- Cognitive impairment, including memory loss[xiv]
- A potential increased risk of cancer[xv]
- Decreased function of the immune system[xvi]
- Liver problems, including a potential increase in liver enzymes (so people taking statins must be regularly monitored for normal liver function)
And recently a possible association was found between statins and an increased risk of Lou Gehrig"s disease.[xvii]
Other cholesterol-lowering drugs besides statins also have side effects, most notably muscle pain and weakness.
If, for whatever reason, you or someone you know or love does not believe the information in this report and chooses to stay on statin drugs, then please make sure they at least take one to two Ubiquinols per day.
This will help prevent all the side effects mentioned above.
Ubiquinol is the reduced version of Coenzyme Q-10 and is far more effective if you are over 35-40 years old. It is the form of the supplement that actually works, and if you take CoQ-10 and your body can"t reduce it to uniquinol you are just fooling yourself and wasting your money.
You can visit our ubiquinol information page for more details.
With all of these risks, the drugs had better be effective, right? Well, even this is questionable. At least, it depends on how you look at it.
Most cholesterol lowering drugs can effectively lower your cholesterol numbers, but are they actually making you any healthier, and do they help prevent heart disease?
Have you ever heard of the statistic known as NNT, or number needed to treat?
I didn"t think so. In fact, most doctors haven"t either. And herein lies the problem.
NNT answers the question: How many people have to take a particular drug to avoid one incidence of a medical issue (such as a heart attack)?
For example, if a drug had an NNT of 50 for heart attacks, then 50 people have to take the drug in order to prevent one heart attack.
Easy enough, right?
Well, drug companies would rather that you not focus on NNT, because when you do, you get an entirely different picture of their "miracle" drugs. Take, for instance, Pfizer"s Lipitor, which is the most prescribed cholesterol medication in the world and has been prescribed to more than 26 million Americans.[xviii]
According to Lipitor"s own Web site, Lipitor is clinically proven to lower bad cholesterol 39-60 percent, depending on the dose. Sounds fairly effective, right?
Well, BusinessWeek actually did an excellent story on this very topic earlier this year,[xix] and they found the REAL numbers right on Pfizer"s own newspaper ad for Lipitor.
Upon first glance, the ad boasts that Lipitor reduces heart attacks by 36 percent. But there is an asterisk. And when you follow the asterisk, you find the following in much smaller type:
"That means in a large clinical study, 3% of patients taking a sugar pill or placebo had a heart attack compared to 2% of patients taking Lipitor."
What this means is that for every 100 people who took the drug over 3.3 years, three people on placebos, and two people on Lipitor, had heart attacks. That means that taking Lipitor resulted in just one fewer heart attack per 100 people.
The NNT, in this case, is 100. One hundred people have to take Lipitor for more than three years to prevent one heart attack. And the other 99 people, well, they"ve just dished out hundreds of dollars and increased their risk of a multitude of side effects for nothing.
So you can see how the true effectiveness of cholesterol drugs like Lipitor is hidden behind a smokescreen.
Or in some cases, not hidden at all.
Early in 2008, it came out that Zetia, which works by inhibiting absorption of cholesterol from your intestines, and Vytorin, which is a combination of Zetia and Zocor (a statin drug), do not work.
This was discovered AFTER the drugs acquired close to 20 percent of the U.S. market for cholesterol-lowering drugs. And also after close to 1 million prescriptions for the drugs were being written each week in the United States, bringing in close to $4 billion in 2007.[xx]
It was only after the results of a trial by the drugs" makers, Merck and Schering-Plough, were released that this was found out. Never mind that the trial was completed in April 2006, and results were not released until January 2008.
And it"s no wonder the drug companies wanted to hide these results.
While Zetia does lower cholesterol by 15 percent to 20 percent, trials did not show that it reduces heart attacks or strokes, or that it reduces plaques in arteries that can lead to heart problems.
The trial by the drugs" makers, which studied whether Zetia could reduce the growth of plaques, found that plaques grew nearly twice as fast in patients taking Zetia along with Zocor (Vytorin) than in those taking Zocor alone.[xxi]
Of course, the answer is not to turn back to typical statin drugs to lower your cholesterol, as many of the so-called experts would have you believe.
You see, statins are thought to have a beneficial effect on inflammation in your body, thereby lowering your risk of heart attack and stroke.
But you can lower inflammation in your body naturally, without risking any of the numerous side effects of statin drugs. This should also explain why my guidelines for lowering cholesterol are identical to those to lower inflammation.
For more in-depth information about cholesterol-lowering drugs, please see my recently updated statin drug index page.
There is a major misconception that you must avoid foods like eggs and saturated fat to protect your heart. While it"s true that fats from animal sources contain cholesterol, I"ve explained earlier in this article why this should not scare you -- but I"ll explain even further here.
This misguided principle is based on the "lipid hypothesis" -- developed in the 1950s by nutrition pioneer Ancel Keys -- that linked dietary fat to coronary heart disease.
The nutrition community of that time completely accepted the hypothesis, and encouraged the public to cut out butter, red meat, animal fats, eggs, dairy and other "artery clogging" fats from their diets -- a radical change at that time.
What you may not know is that when Keys published his analysis that claimed to prove the link between dietary fats and coronary heart disease, he selectively analyzed information from only six countries to prove his correlation, rather than comparing all the data available at the time -- from 22 countries.
As a result of this "cherry-picked" data, government health organizations began bombarding the public with advice that has contributed to the diabetes and obesity epidemics going on today: eat a low-fat diet.
Not surprisingly, numerous studies have actually shown that Keys" theory was wrong and saturated fats are healthy, including these studies from Fallon and Enig"s classic article The Skinny on Fats:[xxii]
- A survey of South Carolina adults found no correlation of blood cholesterol levels with "bad" dietary habits, such as use of red meat, animal fats, fried foods, butter, eggs, whole milk, bacon, sausage and cheese.[xxiii]
- A Medical Research Council survey showed that men eating butter ran half the risk of developing heart disease as those using margarine.[xxiv]
Of course, as Americans cut out nutritious animal fats from their diets, they were left hungry. So they began eating more processed grains, more vegetable oils, and more high-fructose corn syrup, all of which are nutritional disasters.
It is this latter type of diet that will eventually lead to increased inflammation, and therefore cholesterol, in your body. So don"t let anyone scare you away from saturated fat anymore.
Chronic inflammation is actually caused by a laundry list of items such as:
- Oxidized cholesterol (cholesterol that has gone rancid, such as that from overcooked, scrambled eggs)
- Eating lots of sugar and grains
- Eating foods cooked at high temperatures
- Eating trans fats
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Emotional stress
So to sum it all up, in order to lower your inflammation and cholesterol levels naturally, you must address the items on this list.
- Make sure you"re getting plenty of high-quality, animal-based omega3-fats. I prefer those from krill oil. New research suggests that as little as 500 mg may lower your total cholesterol and triglycerides and will likely increase your HDL cholesterol.
- Reduce, with the plan of eliminating, grains and sugars in your daily diet. It is especially important to eliminate dangerous sugars such as fructose. If your HDL/Cholesterol ratio is abnormal and needs to be improved it would also serve you well to virtually eliminate fruits from your diet, as that it also a source of fructose. Once your cholesterol improves you can gradually reintroduce it to levels that don"t raise your cholesterol.
- Eat the right foods for your nutritional type. You can learn your nutritional type by taking our FREE test.
- Eat a good portion of your food raw.
- Eat healthy, preferably raw, fats that correspond to your nutritional type. This includes:
- Olive oil
- Coconut and coconut oil
- Organic raw dairy products (including butter, cream, sour cream, cheese, etc.)
- Raw nuts
- Eggs (lightly cooked with yolks intact or raw)
- Organic, grass-fed meats
- Get the right amount of exercise, especially Peak Fitness type of exercise. When you exercise you increase your circulation and the blood flow throughout your body. The components of your immune system are also better circulated, which means your immune system has a better chance of fighting an illness before it has the opportunity to spread.
- Avoid smoking and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.
- Address your emotional challenges. I particularly love the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) for stress management.
So there you have it; the reasons why high cholesterol is a worry that many of you simply do not need to have, along with a simple plan to optimize yours.
If someone you love is currently taking cholesterol-lowering drugs, I urge you to share this information with them as well, and take advantage of the thousands of free pages of information on www.Mercola.com.
For the majority of you reading this right now, there"s no reason to risk your health with cholesterol-lowering drugs. With the plan I"ve just outlined, you"ll achieve the cholesterol levels you were meant to have, along with the very welcome "side effects" of increased energy, mood and mental clarity.
Too good to be true?
For the vast majority of people, making a few lifestyle changes causes healthy cholesterol levels to naturally occur.
As always, your health really is in your hands. Now it"s up to you to take control -- and shape it into something great.
[ii] Mercola.com, Cholesterol is NOT the Cause of Heart Disease, Ron Rosedale May 28, 2005
[iii] Fallon, S. and Mary Enig. "Dangers of Statin Drugs: What You Haven"t Been Told About Popular Cholesterol-Lowering Medicines," The Weston A. Price Foundation
[x] American Heart Association, "What Your Cholesterol Level Means," accessed May 22, 2008
[xi] MSNBC.com More than half of Americans on chronic meds May 14, 2008(accessed June 9, 2008)
[xvii] Edwards, I. Ralph; Star, Kristina; Kiuru, Anne, "Statins, Neuromuscular Degenerative Disease and an Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis-Like Syndrome," Drug Safety, Volume 30, Number 6, 2007 , pp. 515-525(11)
[xx] New York Times, "Cardiologists Question Delay of Data on 2 Drugs," November 21, 2007 (accessed June 10, 2008)
[xxiii] Lackland, D T, et al, J Nutr, Nov 1990, 120:11S:1433-1436
[xxiv] Nutr Week, Mar 22, 1991, 21:12:2-3