Understanding Cholesterol

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Patients in the clinic come in runs, quite often it is an influx of sore knees, sore lower backs, but in the past few weeks and months I have had many patients with concerns about high cholesterol. So how do you lower cholesterol naturally?

And can it even be done?

First I need to explain some basics so you understand general cholesterol principles. What does ‘good cholesterol’ and ‘bad cholesterol’ mean?

All cholesterol is made in the Liver.

Cholesterol is vital for life and terribly important, you cannot survive without it.

LDL (low density lipoprotein) is called ‘bad’ because when the Liver makes it in excess, that excess is stored in arteries which can cause problems with blood flow.

HDL (high density lipoprotein) is called ‘good’ because when the Liver makes it in excess, that excess is returned to the Liver for storage so it does not affect arterial blood flow.

Both types of cholesterol are vital for the body. Despite what people think, foods that are ‘high in cholesterol’ like eggs, cheese ect really do not affect cholesterol levels at all.

Cholesterol belongs to the lipid family (fats). What will raise cholesterol levels in the body are sugar’s like excess fruits and things that break down in to sugar in the body, like grains, bread and flour products and especially white potatoes. White potato will raise your blood sugar faster than easing ice-cream!

Sweet potato however, does not do this. Many people think these are health foods, but they break down into glucose ( a simple sugar) which is then converted into fat and cholesterol in the Liver.

You may have thought that was a typo, or just in case you thought you may have been hallucinating, let me write that again.

Eating white potato raises your blood sugar faster that eating ice-cream.

Foods that are easily broken down into sugar like rice, potatoes and pasta strongly negatively affect your blood sugar, and raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol. Even worse are the more refined varieties, like white bread, white rice and white pasta.

Brown bread/rice has a less detrimental effect because the fiber in these foods take longer to digest and diffuse more slowly into the blood, as well as the fact that the fiber helps bind cholesterol which can be passed in the stool.

As written above, cholesterol belongs to the lipid (fat) family. If you want to lower your cholesterol levels the usual way of doing this is with drugs called statins. Statins work by blocking a pathway in the body which makes cholesterol in the Liver.

The problem with this is that other nutrients are also using this pathway like Co enzyme Q10 (CoQ10) which is essential for energy production. Other nutrients are also affected. You may lower your cholesterol levels, but this comes at a cost obviously, so it can cause other issues.

Although this may be necessary in some cases, you are treating the symptoms (high LDL cholesterol) and not the cause (over productive Liver from excess sugar/carbohydrates).

You will not lower your cholesterol levels naturally without getting the liver to work better, lowering your sugar/glucose levels and burning out the excess glycogen.

Glycogen is the fancy name for lots of sugar/glucose molecules stuck together, and it is stored in the Liver and skeletal muscle.

The body stores glycogen as a form of quick energy, which can be quickly converted back into glucose and burned for energy. When the Liver and skeletal muscle is full of glycogen, excess sugar/carbs from sources mentioned above are converted into fat and cholesterol, because the body has no other choice.

This is super important to understand, as high cholesterol, hyperlipidemia, heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes all follow this mechanism of action so can all be treated in a similar way.

  1. Stop putting sugary carbs into the body

  2. Get the body to burn out the glycogen (by doing nothing, it just happens when you stop eating the carbs/sugar)

  3. Get the body to burn fat/cholesterol for fuel instead of sugar (intermittent fasting)

This is greatly assisted, and really only happens when you include intermittent fasting. Fasting burns off the stored glycogen and makes the body run on a different fuel source (lipids/fat).

Intermittent fasting means abstaining from eating for a period of time so the body can burn off the glycogen (stored glucose/sugar).

For example some people may have dinner at 7pm, skip breakfast and have lunch at 12pm the next day. That means they have not eaten for 17 hours and this constitutes a fasting period. You can however, have black tea/coffee in the morning or as much water as you like, just have no milk or sugar.

Fasting is not what most people think it is, and before you say you cannot do it how do you know? Have you tried it? I will write a paper on this in future.

Let me quickly mention the biggest nutritional myth of all time…

‘Breakfast is the most important meal of the day’

This is the greatest bit of marketing by the breakfast cereal companies ever created, because we have all heard of it. There is no science to this statement. None. Think about that…

If you have blocked arteries you have 3 choices. You can take drugs like statins and deal with the additional health issues this will raise, or go under the not so tender care of a vascular surgeon and have him/her clean out your arteries, or practice the methods mentioned above and burn out the cholesterol naturally. You decide, what sounds like the best option?

Food sources that raise cholesterol

  • All refined carbohydrate foods like white bread/pasta/rice/potatoes

  • All refined food like substances such as cakes, white sugar, biscuits, chips, crackers ect…

  • Unhealthy fats like margarine, shortening, canola and canola oil, all vegetable oils

Note* some of the food like substances mentioned above (they are not food) will state on the packet they have no cholesterol. This DOES NOT mean it will not affect your cholesterol levels as they will be converted into cholesterol once consumed. BE AWARE!

Dietary cholesterol is not the problem as it will not raise cholesterol levels; the issue is consuming sugary carbs which are then converted into cholesterol in the body. This is the most difficult thing to get people to understand.   

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