Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Truth About Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a substance produced by the liver. We also consume cholesterol from animal-based foods such as eggs, butter, and cheese. If we consume no cholesterol from foods our liver still produces it, sometimes in abundance.

Cholesterol serves many important roles. It is the building block for hormones such as progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, vitamin D, and cortisol. Cholesterol is also essential to the brain and nervous system. Approximately 25 percent of our cholesterol is found in the brain.

If cholesterol is so vital to good health, why is it heavily criticized along with saturated fats?

Traditionally, elevated blood cholesterol levels have been associated with plaque build-up in the arteries known as atherosclerosis. But we now know that’s not the complete story. Plaque forms along the arteries where inflammation occurs. Plaque is made up of a combination of calcium, white blood cells, cholesterol, and other substances. Plaque acts as a bandage where the arterial wall has been damaged by inflammation. This means cholesterol is acting as a protective measure from further damage occurring.

When talking about cholesterol we have to mention HDL (high-density lipoprotein) and LDL (low-density lipoprotein). HDL and LDL are referred to as “good cholesterol” and “bad cholesterol.” In reality they are not cholesterol, rather, they are transport vehicles for cholesterol.

LDL helps to deliver saturated fat to the cell membrane, which is important for cell vitality. There are two types of LDL, Pattern A and Pattern B. Pattern A LDL is larger in size and is responsible for carrying more fat-soluble nutrients and antioxidants. Pattern A also helps to reduce oxidative stress that leads to cell damage and inflammation making Pattern A a cardiovascular protector. Pattern B LDL, however, is a much smaller particle size. It is much more prone to oxidation and to form plaque. A ketogenic diet has been shown to reduce the highly oxidative Pattern B LDL.

HDL’s primary role is to remove the excess LDL particles and return them to the liver. LDL is susceptible to oxidation if it’s in the blood stream for too long. When LDL is exposed to chronic inflammation it becomes damaged. Having a balanced ratio of HDL to LDL along with low inflammatory markers assures that the body is working properly.

Diet is a contributor to inflammation. Certain foods have a higher rate of causing cell damage leading to more inflammation. Avoiding highly processed vegetable oils–especially fried foods–sugar, and processed grains can greatly reduce inflammation. Saturated fats have naturally occurring anti-inflammatory properties. Which is why consuming omega-3 fatty acids from grass-fed butter, grass-fed beef, cold water fish such as salmon, and taking high EPA fish oil supplements have been so beneficial in healthy cholesterol levels and helps to reduce inflammation.

by John Connor, CNC

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