Reading the newspaper and following tweets, I found last weeks news extremely exciting and have come to believe that I was meant to write this looong, overdue blog post about chocolesterol. It began with me attending a lecture offering CME (continued medical education) points, listening to one of the signees of THE letter sent to the Cape Times earlier this month (September 14, 2012): Bottom line: according to the writer, every diabetic should be on a by now low cost statin (cholesterol lowering drugs) – regardless, while the aim of the therapy should be to decrease the ‘bad LDL cholesterol’ below a ridiculously minute number. Not a single word was lost on ‘lifestyle changes’ like nutrition, exercise, sleep or smoking cessation.
Three days later, the Cape Times headline was: “Noakes goes too far – doctors” with statements like: “Having survived ‘Aids denialism’, we do not need to be exposed to ‘cholesterol denialism’.”. Allow me to explain why nobody should ban cholesterol and ignore its quintessence. What’s good about it and when it can be bad for you? Who is at risk and what should you test for?
To many of you, statins might have been suggested by your physician already. But have the risks involved been explained to you? No possible alternatives that lower your cholesterol? Look out for a separate post relating to statins specifically. Cholesterol first.
Lowering the amount of cholesterol in an otherwise healthy body is like trying to make a cheesecake taste good with low fat cream cheddar cheese.
Cholesterol is the precursor to all steroid hormones, which account for numerous physiological functions your body needs to maintain a normal, healthy state. Cholesterol keeps your cell membranes flexible. If ever you tried surfing or scuba diving – remember your struggle with the wetsuit? Nothing happens without stretch. Sufficient cholesterol makes your inner membranes feel like the newest cutting-edge-dolphin-skin-like-stay-warm-forever-nano-technology-wetsuit! Whereas pop-a-pill-swallow-a-fortune-lowered-cholesterol-levels make you feel like you want to get out of your twentyfive-year-old-salt-crusted-sun-bleached-cracked-30-40-30-millimeter-drysuit after a chilled 2.5 hour sunrise surf session at the secret arctic ice break. Good thing is, you probably won’t remember. Because cholesterol is crucial for your marbles running smoothly, maintaining normal memory function even at the old age of 35 requires some. 25% of cholesterol is not in your brain for nothing.
Talking about marbles – cholesterol will guarantee an in-built Underberg-like supply of bile acids necessary for normal, smooth and regular digestive function.
Of course you can spend a fortune on supplements, but chances are, they are just being flushed down the pipe because your body can’t absorb them without bile salts being present (forget about the gut-microbiota influence). Fat soluble vitamins E, D, K and A, which we can not live without, are essential! Proper nutrition and a lekker working digestive system supplies plenty of that. On top of it, the integrity of your gut lining depends on cholesterol. Vegans sometimes develop a leaky gut or other intestinal disorders because they are lacking vitamins E, D, K, and A.
Everybody knows vitamin D is made from sunlight?
Keep in mind that the happy-hormone serotonin receptor in your brain is dependent on cholesterol, and low cholesterol levels have been linked to aggressive and violent behaviour, depression and suicidal tendencies. Guess what the precursor of Vit D is? Sun exposure always makes me happy – because it can, BUT only with cholesterol.
Cholesterol is similar to a Prestik-like band aid used to repair wounds and irritations on the arteries. Recent studies show that vitamin D is a potent antioxidant, helping to detox the body and protect arteries too.
Other steroid hormones are found throughout the body and you decide for yourself if you would like to limit their building blocks or suppress their level to a big-pharma-suggested-and-truthfully-tested minimum:
Pregnenolone is also a precursor to all other steroid hormones.
Glucocorticoids are necessary for blood sugar regulation, being extremely important for your power houses, the mitochondria.
Mineralcorticoids are the key to balancing your minerals, maintaining a perfect and very sensitive homeostasis. This in turn adjust blood pressure quickly and counteracts a loss of minerals e.g. through sweating.
All your sex hormones are made from cholesterol. If you are male, testosterone (an androgen) is your driving force and regulates your libido and muscle mass, amongst other things. Ladies fight with estrogens and progesterone on a monthly basis.
But surely my doctor is right to warn me about cholesterol
Now that we have established the importance of cholesterol and that it can’t be entirely bad, there surely is a risk involved regarding high cholesterol. To be more precise: cholesterol is one of several risk factors for the development of CVD (cardio vascular diseases). Arteriosclerosis is an inflammatory disorder combined with oxidative stress. Risk factors for heart disease are the ones that contribute to inflammation as well as oxidative stress:
- nutrient deficiencies
- poor blood sugar control (extreme highs and lows)
- high homocysteine levels
- depletion of NO (nitric oxide)
- psychological stress
- high iron levels
- microbial infection (sometimes under the radar!)
- a diet high in trans fatty acids (slap-chip-fat)
- excessive refined carbohydrates (i.e. millie, mazah and macaroons)
- too much omega-6 fatty acids and too little omega-3s. Don’t you know the ratio?
- little or no exercise
Any kind of inflammation or free-roaming radicals will inhibit NO synthesis, which is vital to protect against heart disease on several levels. Cholesterol never travels freely through your body. Being a fat, cholesterol is not soluble in water-based environments such as the blood and needs a carrier. Together with other fatty acids and proteins, Lipoproteins are formed. Standard lab tests only distinguish between HDL (high density lipoprotein) and LDL (low density lipoprotein). Good, since both are necessary. LDL is only harmful if cholesterol particles become oxidised. But you can not oxidise cholesterol since only polyunsaturated fats within the lipoprotein particles oxidise. This oxidised fraction of LDL particles triggers inflammation and the clogging of arteries.
High levels of cholesterol are caused by chronic infections, inflammation and stress, simultaneously increasing the risk for heart disease. Hence you will seldomly find elevated cholesterol in patients with heart disease.
But do NOT assume that cholesterol causes arteriosclerosis – the underlying condition does! The ‘oxidative response to inflammation’ hypothesis is well-supported by current research. Everything we know about heart diseases fits this hypothesis and is widely accepted by the research community. Problem being, it has not reached our physicians, dietitians, the media and the general public yet.
Conflict of Interest
Without believing in conspiracy theories, I do however know how money dictates messages and opinions in our media. Articles about health are paid for by whoever is buying the ad space. Most of the opinion makers are incentivised and hampered. Have you ever wonder who buys the sweets on the counter of your physicians rooms? Workshops and additional education is happening in pompous venues with a never ending supply of fine finger foods to feed the pot bellies of the benefitiaries present. Studies are being funded in expectancy of creative interpretations of the results – statistically validated with a double-blind magnifying glass. Outcomes not supporting the desired result are simply excluded and never appear in the abstracts of studies (always read the full text if you want to judge!). Even universities depend on support from the industry to build new laboratories. Legal advisors of our jurisdiction usually are on the payroll of relevant companies. Be weary of treatment advice from an advisor who is likely to be at risk himself. I personally wouldn’t trust an overweight dietitian either.
Scientific opinion is in favour of reducing cholesterol in the diet as a key preventive measure of cardiovascular disease, says the dean of UCT’s Faculty of Health Sciences, Marian Jacobs.
Do’s and dont’s for your hearts health
- Tackle your stress. Manage it by learning to say no and employing a relaxation technique which resonates with you.
- Get out and play for 30min every day.
- Maintain your ideal body weight. Neither to heavy nor Biafra-style.
- Don’t smoke and avoid other toxins in your environment.
- Limit intake of high glycaemic index foods (sugar, starches, grains, pasta, cereals).
- Eat meat, fat and offal from grass-fed organically reared animals.
- Cook with butter, lard, coconut and palm oil. Use olive oil for salads and warm dishes.
- Avoid processed foods. Be careful if they contain polyunsaturated vegetable oils (canola, safflower, soy) and trans fats.
- Read the labels.
- Free range organic eggs are particularly beneficial and full of nutrients. Especially the yolks which are best eaten raw.
- Snack on raw dairy products. They are rich in probiotics, nutrients, enzymes and much desired fats. If you can’t tolerate pasteurised dairy, you might get away with raw milk or goats milk products instead.
- Consume cultured foods regularly (yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, pickels). Through fermentation they contain a wonderful mix of probiotic cultures to maintain a robust gut flora.
- Add a capsule of salmon or cod liver oil to every plate. This will boost your levels of vitamins A, D and K. Butter is a good source too.
- Increase consumption of omega-3 fatty acids and do limit the intake of omega-6s as they become pro-inflammatory.
We do talks and Q+A sessions for you, your friends, family members and loved ones that have been diagnosed with “high cholesterol” or fear that they will be. If you are wondering whether they should be concerned, what diet and lifestyle changes they should make, whether they should take the statin they are supposed to be taking, and what the natural alternatives to statins are, you should attend. We compiled a short list of things you should test for (more specific than a shot gun cholesterol test) your risk to suffer CVD:
Suggested tests to assess CHD (coronary heart disease) risk
Note: not all the tests should be performed. Only if a thorough assessment reveals a potential risk depending on age, health status and other factors (i.e. family history of CHD, smoking, exercise, etc.) a more detailed inquiry might be suggested. Speak to your physician about it.
Individualised nutritional plans paleo style
We write individual nutritional plans according to your individual metabolic status and health assessment. We are glad to have wonderful drugs such as anti retro virals, antibiotics, vaccinations and selected cases even statins. But they should always be our last resort for a number of reasons. If you still need convincing, you can always call and get a pep talk from us… start reading, listening and learning now!
Tim Noakes on carbohydrates * Noakes goes too far – doctors * Heart disease theory an error – Noakes * Is Tim Noakes the Malema of Medicine * Fat flies over Noakes diet
The comments are full of affirmative testimonials (if they havn’t been discontinued, which recently happened on Health24!) of people who tried a low carb, Atkins, Dunkan, Zone or paleo kind of approach to increase their well-being without suffering starvation. If you don’t trust the establishment, rather enroll in a personal scientific experiment with n=1 (n is the no. of participants in a clinical study). Follow the guidelines mentioned above for 30 days consequently and see for yourself. If you have done so already please comment and become part of a peaceful and fascinating health revolution.
Egg yolks? But they’re full of cholesterol!
To finally bust the myth about eggs, yolks and cheesy egg-white omelets, I suggest you listen to mastermind Chris Masterjohn’s Cholesterol 1o1. Chris is very involved in gathering supporting research for the Weston A Price Foundation. He is one of the wittiest cholesterol skeptics in the blogosphere. In this podcast he explains why we should not be concerned about egg yolks and heart disease. No reading required!
Find more information:
You are also welcome to attend one of the Cholesterol Q+A sessions we are currently hosting. Please check our FB page for details, drop us a mail or give us a shout to find out when and where. I am always happy to present to your group, class, company, department, band, tribe, club, union or whatever your cluster may be know as. Other topics include:
- ThinkFood – Real Food by Choice and Weight-loss by Chance.
- ThinkFoodAI – Autoimmune Diseases and Leaky Gut. Benefits of an AI Protocol
Weston A. Price Foundation
The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics
The Cholesterol Myths
High Cholesterol And Heart Disease — Myth or Truth?