For decades, health experts have told us to watch our cholesterol levels, lower our intake of saturated fats, and consume low-fat diets.
An estimated 102 million Americans have cholesterol levels higher than 200. More than 20 million Americans are on statin drugs to lower cholesterol.
In theory, if we were following recommendations from doctors, dietitians, fitness experts, and dutifully taking our medications, we should be see a reduction in disease.
But the fact is…
So, it’s important to ask…
- Does eating high cholesterol foods correlate to rising cholesterol levels?
- Do high cholesterol levels necessarily mean you are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease or heart attack?
- Is the use of statin drugs safe and useful in reducing the levels of cholesterol in the body, thus lowering our disease risk?
A recent government study shows that raising levels of HDL “good” cholesterol using a drug did not diminish the chance of heart disease.
From the NY Times:
“Patients taking the medicine along with Zocor had higher levels of H.D.L. and lower levels of triglycerides, a fat in the blood. Despite these seeming improvements, the patients fared no better and may have done slightly worse than those taking Zocor alone. That is why the entire theory behind trying to increase H.D.L. levels in patients with heart disease may need rethinking.
In 2010 the British Medical Journal published a study revealing that the use of statin drugs was connected to liver, muscle, eye, and kidney problems. The results showed increased risk of moderate or serious liver dysfunction, acute renal failure, moderate or serious myopathy and cataracts.
Dietary cholesterol levels are not related to serum cholesterol levels
According to Nora Gedgaudas, of Primal Body – Primal Mind:
“No study to date has adequately shown any significant link between dietary and serum cholesterol levels…or any significant causative link between cholesterol and actual heart disease. Other than in uncommon cases of genetically based ‘familial hypercholesterolemia’ (where natural mechanisms which regulate cholesterol production fail and the body cannot stop overproduction-even here the proof of the problematic nature of cholesterol is dubious, at best), cholesterol is perhaps only potentially deleterious in and of itself in oxidized forms, occurring as a result of food processing methods (such as in “reduced fat” milks, powdered milk/eggs) and high heat cooking/frying. Inflammatory processes can also be oxidizing of cholesterol in the body. Other than this, ALL cholesterol in the body is the same. ‘HDL’ and ‘LDL’ only reflect transport mechanisms for healthy cholesterol and are meaningless measures of coronary heart disease risk (Enig, Ravnskov).
It is also important to realize that ‘HDL’ and ‘LDL’ are NOT actual cholesterol at all, but merely the protein transport mechanism for cholesterol. Again, All cholesterol is exactly the same. LDL takes cholesterol away from the liver to the extremities and other organs for various purposes and HDL merely returns the same cholesterol to the liver where it may be recycled.”
Gedgaudas believes it is more important to find out why your cholesterol levels are up. When we have stress, infections, clogged arteries, high carbohydrate diets which cause insulin resistance and diabetes, weight issues, free radical activity, and low thyroid function, these can cause the liver to produce more cholesterol in order to deal with excess inflammation. If cholesterol levels are rising, it’s always a sign of some underlying problem, but it doesn’t mean cholesterol is causing the problem.
Doctors are missing the problem
Prescriptions for high cholesterol go hand-in-hand with recommendations for low-fat diets. This type of diet is not only tasteless and unsatisfying, it is also grossly deficient in the most nutrient-dense and health supporting foods on the planet: foods with healthy fats and cholesterol.
In the last five years, doctors have started recommending that obese children take statin drugs. Of course, there is little to no thought given to the staples of the Standard American children’s diet: highly processed, increasingly lower and lower in fat ast time goes on, high-carb, sugary foods with little to no nutritional content.
It’s a wonder doctors don’t draw the obvious conclusion that these foods might possibly be the culprit to children’s health and obesity issues. But they don’t. What’s more, they fail to give good, sound nutritional advice. The result is that some children end up on drugs because apparently providing real, healthy foods that support growth and development is not what they believe will solve the problem.
Truths about cholesterol:
- Cholesterol is vital to health. Without it, we have hormonal, brain, heart, endocrine, and nervous system issues and damage. Lack of adequate cholesterol in the body leads to blood sugar imbalance, mineral deficiencies, chronic inflammation, infertility, allergies, and asthma.
- Cholesterol is beneficial to the gastrointestinal environment and lining because it improves cell-membrane integrity and can also help reduce excessive permeability of substances through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream.
- Every cell in our bodies is made of cholesterol. Without it they would become leaky and porous, causing a flood of cholesterol taken from other parts of the body to repair damage.
- Cholesterol is the precursor to Vitamin D, which is now known to be a hormone rather than a vitamin, and is responsible for helping to digest fats, mineral metabolism, protecting bones, strengthening the immune system
- Cholesterol is a powerful anti-oxidant which protects the body from free-radical damage and aging
- The theory of cholesterol being unhealthy was originally created by food processing industries to villanize animal fats and products, which are direct competitors to vegetable oils, and also from the pharmaceutical industry to develop a market to sell cholesterol-lowering drugs. Lipitor and other Statin drugs are enormous profit-bringers for pharmaceutical companies.
Truths about statin drugs:
- Taking them only masks the problem going on in your body (for a little while) and doesn’t get to the cause of the problem, which is usually chronic inflammation due to poor dietary habits which cause nutritional deficiencies
- They deplete your body of vital nutrients, such as C0Q10, which is essential to heart health. Cardiologist Dr. Peter Langsjoen conducted a study involving 20 patients with completely normal heart function. Six months later, after being on 20 mg daily of Lipitor (a low dose), two-thirds of the patients were found to have abnormalities in the filling phase of the heart. Langsjoen’s conclusion was that this occurred due to the depletion of CoQ10. A lack of C0Q10 causes muscle pain and weakness, due to the prevention of energy being produced in the mitrochondria in the cell.
- These medications can also cause other types of muscle weakness and pain. In Denmark, researchers who studied 500,000 residents (approximately 9 percent of the population) discovered that those taking prescription medications to lower cholesterol were more likely to develop polyneuropathy, characterized as weakness and pain or tingling in the hands or feet and difficulty walking.
- They cause a marked decrease of cholesterol-production in the brain. According to Dr. Barry Sears, this leads to a loss of memory due to diminished production of new synaptic connections and loss of memory.
- They are costly in more ways than one: for your wallet and for your health. Eating healthy foods that naturally maintain normal cholesterol levels in the body costs less.
- They causes other side-effects, one of them being liver damage. Liver damage is dangerous and can lead to other health issues that are very unpleasant, expensive, and time-consuming to treat
Would the real enemies please stand up?
- Industrial fats – industrially-produced, polyunsaturated fats: canola, soybean, cottonseed, corn, peanut, safflower, and sunflower oils, shortening, butter substitutes and spreads, and other fake butter products. Some of these oils come from living things, but they are processed and chemically-altered which transforms them into trans-fats (even though the label may specifically read “no trans fats”), deodorized, and subjected to high- heat temperatures, rendering them nutritionally bankrupt and rancid.
- Sugar - which causes metabolic syndrome and blood sugar imbalance, leading to insulin resistance and diabetes, and heart attacks. In 2009, the United States was ranked 4th in sugar consumption levels in the world.
- Lack of nutrient-dense foods – modern diets are largely represented by nutritionally-deficient and heavily processed convenience foods which do not support the health of the human body. They cause build up in our arteries, liver damage, diabetes, premature aging, and cardiovascular disease.
- Stress - periods of stress deplete nutrients in the body causing inflammation, which triggers disease.
Watch this informative video by Dr. Mark Hyman about cholesterol:
How to keep inflammation and cholesterol levels normal in your body
Real, traditional fats from healthy animals and birds on pasture actually make us healthier because they are easy to digest and are some of the most nutrient-dense foods available. Looking back over the historical past, the human diet has always contained large amounts of fat and cholesterol.
Dr. Weston A. Price, author of Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, analyzed foods consumed by traditional, primitive peoples all over the world. In these populations, health was robust and disease nearly non-existent. He discovered that their diets allowed for at least four times the calcium and other minerals, and at least 10 times the fat-soluble vitamins and amino acids as the modern diet which were obtained from animal foods such as eggs, fish, shellfish, animal fats like butter, lard, and tallow, and organ meats. All these foods were high in cholesterol and fat.
If you want to maintain good health:
- Eat real, grass-fed butter
- Eat olive and coconut oil
- Eat grass-fed meats, poultry and pasture-raised eggs from reputable, local sources that raise their products sustainable
- Take cod liver oil
- Eat organic fruits and vegetables
- If you do eat grains, eat them sparingly and prepare them properly through soaking, sprouting, or fermenting. Eat grains with healthy fats such as milk, cream, butter, cheese, and other healthy foods containing fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, lard, tallow, bone marrow, and grass-fed meats and poultry.
- Avoid sugar – that means any refined carbohydrates – crackers, breads, rice cakes, cereals, pretzels, chips, bagels, pasta, desserts, sugary beverages (including juice and power “electrolyte” drinks).
- Avoid processed foods and drinks, and especially those with artificial sweeteners or high-fructose corn syrup
- Avoid unhealthy vegetable oils such as canola, soy, cottonseed, or safflower. These oils are too high in Omega 6s (which cause inflammation, cancer, and heart disease), are highly-processed at high temperatures making them rancid, and many of these oils are also likely to be genetically-modified as well, which has its own set of health risks.
- Lower stress levels with moderate and enjoyable exercise and relaxation strategies. Stress can severely deplete nutrients in the body, leading to heart disease.
For more information:
Cholesterol and Health – Chris Masterjohn
The Benefits of High Cholesterol – Weston A. Price Foundation
The Oiling of America – Sally Fallon and Dr. Mary G. Enig, PhD
I have high cholesterol, and I don’t care – The Healthy Skeptic
Medication Sense – Dr. Jay S. Cohen
Fat and Cholesterol are Good for You by Uffe Ravnskov, MD, PhD
The Cholesterol Delusion by Ernest N. Curtis, M.D.
This post is part of Sarah The Healthy Home Economist’s Monday Mania.