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The Cholesterol Controversy

 By William Faloon, President of Life Extension Foundation

The heated debate continues about the role of cholesterol in the development of atherosclerosis and heart disease. 

If we travel back to 1913, we would learn that the cholesterol fears of today started from study showing that rabbits fed a high-cholesterol diet developed atherosclerosis. This research was highly criticized because rabbits are plant eaters and do not have diets like humans. When dogs and rats are fed high-cholesterol diets, they do not develop artery disease.

In 1955 a study was done that measured cholesterol blood levels in people from seven different countries. Citizens of Finland, who ate the most saturated fats and cholesterol, had an average cholesterol reading of over 260 (mg/dL). The Japanese, who consumed the least saturated fat, had average cholesterol readings of a little over 160. Over a 10-year period, the number of fatal heart attacks per 1,000 men was about 70 in Finland and a little less than 5 in Japan. Saturated fat made up 20% of the Finnish diet, but only 2.5% of the Japanese diet.

NATHAN PRITIKIN

At age 40, Nathan Pritikin, a layman, was diagnosed as having heart disease. Faced with a lifetime of ever-increasing disability, he pored over the scientific literature and formulated a diet and exercise program to treat his disease. After nine years of trial and error, he had cured himself. 

 Nathan Pritikin’s healthy diet program did more than reverse heart disease. Patients who came to his clinic often saw their type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and hypertension disappear.  Pritikin was so confident that he was reversing heart disease with healthy diets that he ordered his own body autopsied after his death. Almost 30 years after being diagnosed with irreversible coronary artery disease, the autopsy showed his arteries were akin to those of a young man and clear of any signs of heart disease.

WHAT IS CHOLESTEROL?

Cholesterol is a fat that is critically important to the body such as building and maintaining cell membranes. Cholesterol also functions as a precursor to hormones like testosterone and estrogen and fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D.  While cholesterol is essential to life, the lipoprotein that carries it in the blood plays the primary role of whether it injures or protects the arterial wall.

LDL (low-density lipoprotein) transports cholesterol to the cells, whereas HDL (high-density lipoprotein) transports cholesterol away from the cells.   When one has excess LDL, too much cholesterol can be deposited into the arterial wall. Insufficient HDL, on the other hand, impairs cholesterol transport away from the arterial wall (for disposal in the liver). Too much LDL and/or not enough HDL can thus set the stage for atherosclerosis which leads to heart disease and stroke.

DANGER OF OXIDIZED LDL

The over-promotion of cholesterol medication or “statin”drugs has resulted in today’s cardiologists focusing on getting their patients’ LDL and total cholesterol down as low as possible.

In 1979 researchers made discoveries indicating that it is the oxidation of LDL that results in the most arterial damage.1-3   There are doctors who argue that atherosclerosis is all about inflammation and response to endothelial injury and has nothing to do with LDL cholesterol. What these doctors overlook is the fact that oxidized LDL injures endothelial cells and causes inflammation.  As you may surmise by now, both absolute LDL level and LDL oxidation are involved in atherosclerotic processes and heart attack risk.

COMMON SENSE APPROACHES TO HEART ATTACK PREVENTION

Some cardiologists erroneously believe that if all their patients took a statin drug and aspirin, coronary artery disease would disappear but this is not a healthful approach.

When it comes to inhibiting LDL oxidation, a number of studies prove CoQ10 and Vitamin E are excellent protection for LDL oxidation.  Perhaps no other nutrient has demonstrated better anti-LDL oxidation effects than pomegranate. In a clinical study, human subjects taking pomegranate showed a beneficial 35% reduction in carotid intima-media thickness accompanied by a 45% improvement in carotid blood flow. Pomegranate improved markers related to LDL oxidation by up to 130%!

KEEP YOUR LDL LEVELS BELOW 100

Atherosclerosis remains the leading cause of death in the Western world.63 Eastern populations who are switching to high-fat Western diets are seeing vascular disease rates spiral upwards. We cannot ignore almost 100 years of research showing that excess LDL-bound cholesterol is a coronary risk factor.. We therefore reiterate our 29-year recommendation that healthy members keep their LDL levels below 100 mg/dL.

TYING IT ALL TOGETHER

In reviewing the history of dietary fats and heart disease risk, a number of interesting facts emerge.

  • Decrease both saturated fat and polyunsaturated fat like corn, soybean, safflower, and sunflower oils.
  • Add in an antioxidant with CoQ10 and Vitamin E
  • Take a plant polyphenol antioxidant with pomegranate and other plants

Web source: By William Faloon, http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2009/feb2009_The-Cholesterol-Controversy_01.htm

1)   Henriksen T, Mahoney EM, Steinberg D. Enhanced macrophage degradation of low density lipoprotein previously incubated with cultured endothelial cells: recognition by receptors for acetylated low density lipoproteins. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 1981 Oct;78(10):6499-503.

2)   Hessler JR, Morel DW, Lewis LJ, Chisolm GM. Lipoprotein oxidation and lipoprotein-induced cytotoxicity. Arteriosclerosis. 1983 May;3(3):215-22.

3)  Quinn MT, Parthasarathy S, Fong LG, Steinberg D. Oxidatively modified low density lipoproteins: a potential role in recruitment and retention of monocyte/macrophages during atherogenesis. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 1987 May;84(9):2995-8.

Dr. Iverson's Comment

I like Life Extension Foundation for their ability to tie sound scientific research with human nutrition. You can use their website as a resource for natural medicine research; www.lef.org.   I found this article and thought it would be good to help my patients understand a bit more about cholesterol.  It seems there is a lot of confusion.  Many people still believe that high total cholesterol is deadly.  It seems that the problem is not cholesterol but the protein that carries the cholesterol LDL (low density lipoprotein). 

Recent research has proven that total cholesterol is not affected by dietary intake of cholesterol.  Those people that eat eggs daily do not show an appreciable increase in their cholesterol levels.  In the clinic, I see the biggest causes of cholesterol elevations from diet are because of eating too many polyunsaturated fatty acids like corn and soybean oil and junk food hydrogenated oils.  Eating foods that are high in cholesterol such as meat and eggs that are cooked at high temperatures is likely to oxidize and damage the cholesterol within the meat.  Scrambled eggs are a no-no because they are high in oxidized cholesterol; choose to poach or fry on low with a lid instead.   Eating concentrated high fructose corn syrup, sugar, and artificial chemicals flavors and colors all create an inflammatory state that stimulates cholesterol to be made in the liver.

A diet high in vegetables, protein like fish and lean free range animals, complex carbohydrates and plenty of healthy oils from nuts and seeds can keep the ratios of lipoproteins in balance.  A healthful diet, adequate water, regular bowel movements, and daily exercise will promote the good HDL (high density lipoprotein) and decrease LDL.  I also recommend eating foods high in polyphenols which are found in foods rich in color especially reds, blues, and purples.

I couldn’t be more in agreement regarding the daily intake of plant phytochemicals in a supplement form.  These healthy phytochemicals called polyphenols are Nature’s way to neutralize the inflammation.  I recommend taking one more of these plant protective supplements daily.  Green tea, curcumin, milk thistle, hawthorn, grape seed extract, pomegranate are just a few of the dozens of superfoods high in polyphenols that protect your body not just from heart disease but all inflammatory processes.  It is well understood that every disease has a beginning in inflammation. 

Because I could not find a supplement on the market that combined all the polyphenols I recommended in one capsule, I formulated my own!  It is called PHYTO-OX and it is soon to come out of manufacturing to be available for all of us.  In the mean time I am still a big fan of our herbal antioxidant HERBAL OX.  It is an powerful combination of polyphenols that I suggest are taken nightly to neutralize the daily oxidation that can lead to disease.

Balance your Lipids and Fill yourself with Polyphenols!

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