Do you have high cholesterol and have you been told to ditch your eggs, shrimp and lobster?? What if this wasn’t actually the cause of your cholesterol issues? You may be surprised to learn that gluten, sugar, and carbs are often the sneaky culprits – and also, they are highly addictive!
It has been a popular belief for years that eating fat and cholesterol makes you fat and also raises levels of “bad” cholesterol. Now studies point to sugar as the real culprit for heart disease, fat around the midsection, and bad cholesterol. So what does this mean? Eating cholesterol laden foods is not the root of the problem; sugar and refined carbohydrates are often more to blame. Hello, Paleo revolution. Goodbye, sugar and refined white carbohydrates.
Surprisingly cholesterol is super important for your health! Cholesterol is one of the principal building blocks in our body, and it is an ingredient in every cell. It converts sunlight into vitamin D and makes the synapses connecting our brain cells. It makes bile which we need to break down fat and absorb the nutrients. We need cholesterol to live and to heal. It makes pregnenolone and DHEA which are the precursors to almost all of our sex and stress hormones. It is so important that the liver manufactures it all day. So by starving your body of cholesterol, you could be undermining most of your bodily functions.
Why has Cholestrol been considered bad all these years? Here is the basic lowdown: because cholesterol is a waxy substance it floats in water and needs lipoprotein “vehicles” to transport it in our blood to the cells it needs. The vehicle that brings cholesterol out from the liver is called LDL. Cholesterol jumps on and gets where it needs to go. When LDL is done, it breaks down and makes a mess. This is where HDL comes in. HDL is the street cleaner/ garbage truck that comes and cleans up the mess the LDL leaves behind. Without the presence of HDL (the “good” cholesterol), high levels of LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) break down even smaller and get stuck along arterial walls. Over time, this “plaque” makes artery passages smaller and blood has trouble passing through. If a large blood clot triest to pass, it will block blood flow causing a heart attack or stroke. The standard blood test showing low levels of HDL and high levels of LDL is called “dyslipidemia” meaning “High Cholesterol”. This is one of the main blood tests used in diagnosing assessing risk for Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) and Metabolic Syndrome (the pre- diabetes heart disease combo.) For young women, symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome (insulin resistance leading to systemic metabolic issues) can go hand in hand with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome).
So why do some people have High Cholesterol (LDL) levels? Genetics helps dictate production and breakdown of cholesterol, but studies now show that levels can be reversed by diet and lifestyle changes. Sugar and refined carbohydrates are the cause of “High Cholesterol” in most people, not the cholesterol they are eating. Guru Mark Sisson explains in his book “The Primal Blueprint” that high cholesterol “can occur routinely [from] a high carb diet (even if it is low fat), because excessive insulin production [turns] ingested carbohydrate into fat/triglycerides. High levels of triglycerides promote production of small dense LDL.”1 Furthermore, more and more research suggests that a diet high in carbohydrates increases the risk of CVD, independent all other risk factors. Take a look at this study showing sugar consumption significantly associated with increased LDL and decreased HDL. In a study of over 40,000 people published by JAMA Internal Medicine researchers looked at all risk factors for CVD and found that the intake of sugar VASTLY increased the risk of death from CVD.
Were you convinced your health was based on a “calories in, calories out” method? Top advocate in the health field about this topic Dr. Marc Hyman states “Here’s the simple fact: Sugar calories are worse than other calories. All calories are not created equal” . Moreover he states that “recent and mounting scientific evidence clearly proves that sugar — and flour, which raises blood sugar even more than table sugar — is biologically addictive. In fact, it’s as much as eight times more addictive than cocaine.” What’s worse, the government and media have been trying to divert our attention from this for decades. Check out this New York Times article, “How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat”. So if you were not convinced before about cutting out white flour and sugar, let this article be the final push.
Need some tangibles for how to increase your HDL and reduce your LDL without medication? Try the following for 3-4 weeks and then get your bloodwork done again:
- Eliminate sugar, sugary drinks, and moderate alcohol consumption to no more than 1 per day (try to stick with the occasional glass of red wine);
- Eliminate processed carbohydrates and grains altogether;
- Eliminate processed/trans fats – ) here is a good list and avoid grain and vegetable oils
- Consume some omega 3 oils from fish, fish oils, marine sources, english walnuts, and pastured eggs;
- Consume quality saturated fat from grass fed meats, ghee, or bone broth (avoid grain fed protein);
- Participate in a moderate amount of weight bearing and cardiovascular exercise – this raises the levels of HDL!
- Find ways to help your stress levels (meditation, saying no, and taking breaks when needed);
- Try antioxidant supplements like Vitamin E, CoQ10, beta-carotene, and lycopene.
- Consume high antioxidant foods (vegetables, low glycemic fruits, seeds, dark chocolate, red wine, etc);
- Get adequate sleep; go to bed at a reasonable hour (10:30 latest) and get 8 hours.
Want to learn more about the topic of cholesterol on your own? Take a look at a few of these sources dedicated to education about Cholesterol:
- “The Cholesterol Myths: Exposing the Fallacy that Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Cause Heart Disease” by Uffe Ravnskov, M.D., PhD., New Trends Publishing.
- “Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol” by Mary Enig, PhD, Bethesda Press. As the title suggests, this book is a thorough guide to the biochemistry of fats and their physiological function.
- “Eat Fat, Lose Weight” by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, PhD, Hudson Publishing. These authors have a range of books that can help you incorporate healthy fats into your meals.
- www.thincs.org The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics website. A list of books, publications, and research along with a discussion group.
Need a personalized plan to overhaul your numbers? Contact us for a consultation about your diet, lifestyle, and how working with Naturna Institute could help you achieve your health goals.
~The Naturna Team.
1 Sisson, Mark; 2012 “The Primal Blueprint”, Primal Nutrition, Inc.