Say the word 'cholesterol' and most people start to worry. Over the years this life-essential fatty substance has received so much bad press that few of us are sure about how much of it we need, and what the sources of cholesterol are.
And how is it linked to heart disease, if at all?
Dr Peter Hill, a specialist in metabolic syndrome, explains that cholesterol is an essential component of every cell in our bodies, that 25% of the total amount in our body is actually found in the brain, and that it is an essential component of every cell in our bodies.
in food has very little impact on blood cholesterol levels. If you eat food
rich in cholesterol, your liver simply makes less," he explains.
"Eat less cholesterol and
your body will make more and keep on doing so until the system is in balance"
Hill asks: Can cholesterol-rich food be connected to heart disease?
"There is very little supporting research", he says.
“What the research does show instead is that, with few exceptions, people with
low cholesterol levels are more likely to die at an earlier age than those with
relatively high cholesterol levels.”
says there are a number of scientists and medical researchers around the world,
such as US cardiologist and nutritionist Dr Stephen Sinatra, French cardiologist and researcher Dr Michel de Lorgeril and British interventional cardiologist Dr Aseem
Malhotra, who believe that we can connect the dots linking what we eat with
death from heart disease, but – and here’s the kicker – they believe that the
guilty party is not cholesterol in our diets, but rather oxidative stress and
inflammation resulting from diets that are too high in sugar, refined carbohydrates
and easily oxidised omega-6-rich polyunsaturated oils, mainly from processed
foods and seed
while cholesterol per se is not dangerous to your health, what you do to it may
Read: Tim Noakes is called a 'cholesterol denialist'
Danger is in the small cholesterol particles
Cholesterol consists of different sized particles – from large buoyant
ones at one end of the scale to small dense ones at the other end.
that it’s the small dense particles that are harmful and not the large buoyant
And here is a little known but very important bit of information: a high
sugar and refined carbohydrate diet is associated with the production of the
dangerous small dense particles.
Saturated (animal) fats are associated with
the production of the large buoyant and generally harmless particles.
lifestyle choices appear to play a key role in turning an essential biological
substance into an unnatural born killer,” says Hill.
Read: The margarine shock
What to do?
reverse the pattern, Hill says cholesterol patients should not look at
medication (cholesterol lowering drugs known as statins) to fix the problem but
rather at a diet where sugar and other refined carbohydrates are cut out and
only moderate protein and sufficient healthy fats are consumed.
Dr. Roger Blumenthal, director of the Ciccarone Preventive Cardiology Center at Johns Hopkins, concurs: “Statin therapy should not be
approached like diet and exercise as a broadly based solution for
preventing coronary heart disease. These are lifelong medications with
potential side effects.”
He also points out that as many as 5%
of people on statins develop serious side effects such as severe muscle
pain. One in 255 will develop diabetes.
“If you are going
to consume carbohydrates, make sure they’re low glycaemic load complex carbs
especially those that contain high amounts of fibre,” says Hill.
Do the test: What is the GI of my food?
we came across a building on fire,” says Hill, “we could reasonably expect to
find firemen fighting the fire.
Very few of us would think of blaming the
firemen for the fire. And yet this is what we do when we say, ‘cholesterol is
the cause of heart attacks’.
Perhaps it’s time we recognised cholesterol for
what it is: an essential biological substance that does not end life, but
Mediterranean diet linked to better heart health
Heart health: low-carb diet best
Watch those carbs!