Cholesterol and Heart Disease
Heart disease is on the rise in virtually every western culture except a select few.
In the USA heart disease is the number one killer.
500,000-600,000 patients per year die of cardiovascular disease in America alone while many more are disabled by the disease itself, procedures and side effects to medications.
Cholesterol has been the primary focus for over thirty years and cholesterol lowering medications have been widely used with mixed results.
In spite of billions of dollars being spent the rate of heart disease continues to climb.
Recent reports show that women are now getting more heart disease than ever, scary but true.
What puts us at risk for heart disease?
The traditional recommendations, cut back on eggs, butter and other foods containing cholesterol while increasing the consumption of starches [rice, potatoes, pasta and bread, you know the four food group business or the Food pyramid].
The usual plan is 3-6 months of diet and lifestyle changes and if your cholesterol stays elevated then medications might be necessary.
Like clockwork, the diet won’t work and you’ll have medication offered as the only answer to lower your cholesterol and prevent heart disease.
The cholesterol medications have side effects and a long list of adverse reactions that include liver failure or death, so if other options exist shouldn’t we consider them first?
A little history:
Harvard’s study in 1991 showed margarine and its hydrogenated oil caused almost a four times increase of heart disease over those who used butter. In fact the strongest indicator was margarine!
The French Paradox- Red wine, credited for protecting the French from heart disease, is consumed throughout France, yet in northern regions the rate of heart disease equals America’s and the UK’s! 1) The French along the Mediterranean coast ate four times more butter yet had far less heart disease (they’re eating four times less margarine at the same time) 2) They are also eating more saturated fats, yet far less heart disease [they aren’t eating as much processed foods which are reduced fat and subsequently fortified with “ B vitamin depleting” sugar]
Take home message:
Don’t eat margarine [denoted hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil], use butter. Hydrogenated oil sticks to the artery walls 50 times more than butter.
Limit sugar intake – Table sugar is sucrose which is made up of one glucose plus one fructose. The conversion of fructose into cholesterol burns up B vitamins. [The liver converts fructose, 1/2 of sucrose/table sugar, to cholesterol – this depletes B vitamins]
Women who took folate had 60% fewer heart attacks in a long term study.
In 1970, a small but well done study cholesterol went from 227 to 160 in just four weeks by reducing sugar intake.
Dietary cholesterol has little to do with your lab values. An American Heart Association study in 1994 exemplifies this fact, when given two eggs per day for 6 months volunteers had no significant increases in cholesterol.
Lab work? The serum Cholesterol on your blood work is categorized as Total cholesterol – By itself means little, what does count is the ratios: Total Chol / HDL and LDL / HDL.
LDL- aka “Bad” cholesterol, especially when oxidized -this can be prevented with anti-oxidants, vitamin E, C etc.
HDL aka “Good” cholesterol, higher the better Triglycerides 200 or less is ok, less than 100 best.
Other lab: Lipoprotein a (Lpa) An independent risk factor for heart disease
Homocysteine- When elevated triples the risk of heart disease.
Let’s start with the mainstream approach of looking at the numbers:
Is there evidence that medications have an advantage over nutritional approaches? Nope, but read on.
In 1994 a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine compared niacin [Vitamin B3] to lovastatin one of the multi-billion dollar “statins”. In summary, niacin out-performed lovastatin hands down.
The Niacin group had 23% reduction of LDL while increasing HDL by a whopping 33% while the Lovastatin group had a 32% reduction of LDL but only a 7% increase in HDL.
A more impressive finding was that Lipoprotein a [chemically similar to LDL, an independent risk factor for heart attack) was reduced by 35% with niacin while the lovastatin group had 0% reduction.
Standard Niacin or vitamin B3 [as nicotinate] has the tendency to cause a harmless flushing of the skin lasting only minutes, therefore the dose must be gradually increased to the needed level.
Fortunately, a no flush version exists, inositol hexa-nicotinate, which can be started at the effective dose on the first day.
It is worthwhile to note that the prescription “slow release, no flush niacin” contains hydrogenated oil as a filler/matrix and has been associated with liver problems.
Dietary answers: Elevated total Cholesterol and LDL? Limit sugar intake and minimize hydrogenated oil usage.
Elevated Triglycerides? Reduce sugar intake and eliminate margarine/hydrogenated oils. Take extra Omega 3’s like fish oil and flax seed oil. Supplement with B vitamins [B Complex] l-Carnitine (the fat carrier or fat burner), found in red meat, helps us process fats – a supplement is available.
HDL is low? Margarine – will sabotage your body’s ability to make HDL. Vitamin C, 2,000mg per day increases the HDL. Omega 3 fats increase HDL, while reducing triglycerides numbers.
Elevation of Homocysteine levels in the blood ? [may be a bigger threat than cholesterol]. The good news is by taking folic acid (VitB9), vit B6 and B12 Homocysteine levels fall into the normal range.
Yet other studies show a preventive role of Vitamin E.
The more vitamin E the lower the rate of heart disease, this convincingly based on two different Harvard studies, one with 40,000 male doctors and another with 100,000 female nurses.
Another study of over two thousand patients taking vitaminE showed a 77% reduction in occurrence of heart attacks and deaths from heart disease by 47%.
Concerning cholesterol, how high is considered high?
There is significant pressure from drug companies to influence doctors, this is nothing new or even secretive.
Over the past 10-15 years the acceptable range for cholesterol has inched downward: where 239 had been considered acceptable 15 years ago now 200 is considered to be that limit and there is talk of reducing that further to 160.
This reduction would double the number (literally) of patients who would “qualify” for drug therapy.
Animals, lions, tigers and bears, all have cholesterol in their systems as we do.
The normal range for them is 220 to 270.
It is worth noting that animals and humans share quite a lot of biochemistry, anatomy and physiology.
From the cell membrane, tissue organization, organ form and function to the ubiquitous red blood cell with its hemoglobin to protein based [made of amino acids] hormones such as insulin and growth hormone and finally to the cholesterol molecule being used in the brain, nerves, kidney… [every cell of the body] as well as serving as the starting point for over 150 sterol hormones [testosterone, estrogen, cortisone, aldosterone, progesterone, DHEA, pregnenolone…].
Some examples of “normal” or physiologic consistency shared by all mammals: the range of glucose [blood sugar], ratios of calcium/magnesium/phosphorus, sodium/chloride/potassium ratios and blood levels, essential fat or oil requirements per calorie consumed and the list goes on and on; so it is not any stretch of logic to say that our cholesterol numbers should also correspond to other mammals’ values.
In history there are many examples of how we’ve misinterpreted and misapplied science for generations.
Remember the saying “mad as a hatter”? Hatters used mercury to suppress mold growth in felts and routinely went mad [ie crazy/insane]. In the 1800’s the derogatory term Quack was coined [German for mercury].
We, as mainstream doctors, used mercury to treat syphilis until 1950. It sounds silly now and it was then. In fifty years the cholesterol story will have a similar ring.
To achieve full spectrum nutrition we all need to supplement our diets.
Supplements to consider:
1) Get a good multiple vitamin/mineral product. Versions with “Chelated” minerals are best. I also like those with some plant based vitamins.
2) Take a quality Calcium product. Look for MCHA as the calcium source and one that includes Magnesium, vitamin D and some assorted trace minerals.
3) Take Omega 3 oils. Flax oil is the best to start. Adding Krill or fish oil later [BTW – Krill oil in the container has a distinctive odor – if you place 3-4 desiccant packs in the bottle and refrigerate it, the odor is gone in 12 hours]
4) Find a good Colloidal mineral product for trace minerals. Make sure it’s from Humic shale and NOT ionic minerals. Humic shale is the “fossilized” remains of the dinosaur days. Plant based colloidal minerals are 98% absorbed.
As always, feel free to comment or message questions or concerns.