|Types of Cholesterol: High-density Lipoprotein (HDL); Low-density Lipoprotein (LDL)|
What is it?
Our bodies cannot function without cholesterol. This
waxy lipid (FAT) is used
to manufacture estrogen and testosterone,
VITAMIN D, bile, skin oils, nerve- and brain-cell sheaths (indeed, the
body's richest concentration of cholesterol is in the brain). Our livers
make all the cholesterol we need — some 1,000 milligrams a day. And our
diets add another 400 to 500 milligrams. Under optimum conditions,
cholesterol constantly shuttles back and forth between the liver and body
cells, where it's needed aboard lipoproteins (these, too, are synthesized
in the liver). The reason for the recent cholesterol bashing is that it
can build up as plaque in the arteries, clog them and, ultimately, cause
heart attacks and strokes.
So what's this about "good" cholesterol and "bad"? Actually it's less the cholesterol itself that's good or bad than the lipoproteins on which it hitches rides through the bloodstream. High-density lipoprotein (HDL), the "good," removes cholesterol from the cells and zooms it back to the liver, where it's either reprocessed or excreted. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the "bad," is sloppier, more sluggish. On its round-trips from liver to cells, it drops cholesterol along the way, which sticks to artery walls, hardens and, over time, accumulates to the point of blockage.
Scientists now know that foods high in saturated fats do more to raise the levels of "bad" cholesterol in the blood than such cholesterol-laden foods as eggs, liver and steak. They know, too, that obesity, cigarette smoking, steroid use and sedentary lifestyles also elevate "bad" cholesterol levels.
Avoiding saturated animal fats (butter, cheese, meat) and a trio of tropical oils (coconut, palm and palm kernel), increasing exercise and DIETARY FIBER, upping your VITAMIN C intake (to about 5 times the RDA if you're a man, and to 3 1/2 times if you're a woman), losing weight and swearing off cigarettes all will increase blood levels of "good" cholesterol, or HDL, and, at the same time, lower the "bad." So will avoiding hard margarines; the trans fatty acids formed when vegetable oils are hydrogenated to give margarines the consistency of butter dramatically raise levels of "bad" cholesterol in the blood (soft and squeeze margarines less so). And it seems the trimmer you are, the faster your blood cholesterol will drop once you begin eating healthy (or so scientists participating in a U.S./Dutch study report).
The best fats to use for cooking are oils high in MONOUNSATURATED FATTY ACIDS, because these raise "good" cholesterol levels, which in turn flush out the "bad." Highest marks go to olive oil, with canola and peanut oil not far behind. Until recently, highly polyunsaturated oils were just what the doctor ordered. Now that they're suspected of being carcinogenic, the monounsaturates — and olive oil especially — are the oils of choice.
Many physicians and dietitians still caution patients to limit their cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams a day, the amount generally recommended for good heart health. But research done by some very notable people in medicine say otherwise. And here's a mental crutch to help you keep tabs on dietary cholesterol: No food of plant origin contains cholesterol. Ever.
What about too little blood cholesterol? Is that dangerous? Researchers now believe that people with cholesterol levels below 160 are at greater risk of liver cancer, nonmalignant lung disease, brain hemorrhage, even alcoholism and suicide although they can't say why. Nor can they explain why some people have basement blood cholesterol levels although they suspect it has more to do with heredity than diet.
The latest salvo in the cholesterol controversy comes from a new Yale University College of Medicine study, which suggests that men and women over the age of seventy needn't fret about their cholesterol levels (unless they already have cardiovascular disease). This five-year study of 997 men and women with an average age of seventy-nine showed that those with high blood cholesterol levels suffered no more heart attacks than those with normal — or even low — levels. Further, the death rate among the high-cholesterol group — from heart trouble or any other disease — was no greater than for those with "healthier" cholesterol levels. Earlier cholesterol studies had focused upon middle-agers, mostly men. And here blood cholesterol levels do still count.
The consensus among the Yale researchers is that golden-agers with high cholesterol counts may somehow be immune to cholesterol damage. That the bullet's missed them. They also suggest that the side effects of powerful cholesterol-lowering drugs may be more damaging to the seventy-and-up group than high blood cholesterol itself.
This new Yale study, needless to add, is getting plenty of flak, and many medical researchers believe that further tests are necessary before its results can be taken as gospel.
Standard Process Supplements That Can Help in Cholesterol Problems