Florida Health Tips: Cholesterol
Cholesterol receives much bad press, but it is a vital component to health, in fact, it is one of the body's main building blocks. According to Dr. Patricia Niland, it is a type of fat or lipid produced by the liver. It is 2-carbon acetates, derived from the breakdown of sugars, proteins and essential fats. Essential fatty acids are fats that we cannot produce within our body, but have to consume, they are found in nuts and seeds and oily fish. Cholesterol is responsible for:
- Cell membrane function.
- Is a component of bile acids - These are vital for digestion and absorption of fats, oils and fat soluble vitamins.
- Sex hormones, including testosterone and estrogen, adrenal hormones and vitamin D are all made from cholesterol.
- It helps damaged skin to heal.
- Acts as an antioxidant and protects us from certain cancers.
- Works as a chemical messenger
- Facilitates the transport of fatty acids, which are essential for many metabolic processes
The Good and The Bad
It is important to remember that cholesterol comes in three forms, one that is beneficial to health and two that are detrimental. Cholesterol scores are not the whole story, as even when cholesterol scores are low it is crucial that the ratios between these types are balanced and favour the GOOD cholesterol as opposed to the BAD. A report in The Telegraph (03/08/2001) 'Too little cholesterol 'is harmful for elderly', identified extremely low levels of cholesterol as a health risk. As seen above, cholesterol is a necessity for life, however, it is important to consider the relative amounts of HDL and LDL in the blood. A high level of HDL and a low level of LDL is the desirable state.
- LDL or low density lipoprotein - is known as the BAD cholesterol and is mainly fat
- VLDL or very low density lipoprotein - is a BAD cholesterol and is mostly fat
- HDL or high density lipoprotein - is the GOOD cholesterol. HDL and is mostly protein
LDL cholesterol is detrimental to health as it can block arteries, and is therefore implicated in cardiovascular disease. VLDL is another triglyceride (fat) that is a factor in CVD. Whereas HDL cholesterol carries excess cholesterol away from the arteries and transports it back to the liver, where it can broken down and recycled. Therefore preventing cholesterol building up in the arteries. Low levels of HDL are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Women tend to have a higher HDL cholesterol level than men.
Triglycerides are a different type of fat, which mostly come from fats in food. Calories that are eaten and not used immediately are converted into triglycerides and transported to fat cells for storage. Triglycerides are stored in fat tissue, low levels are also found in the blood and carried as very low density lipoproteins (VLDL).
When the body is working effectively. Any excesses cholesterol is hooked up to EFA's and shipped to the liver, it is then converted to bile salts. This process only occurs when the necessary vitamins, minerals and enzymes are present in the liver. Bile salts are then dumped in the intestines. Providing the bowels are working efficiently these are then eliminated before they have an opportunity to be reabsorbed and recycled.
What are the reasons for high cholesterol. There are three main possibilities as to why cholesterol levels build up. 1. Overloaded from the cholesterol in food - you are taking in too much 2. Abnormally high synthesis - you are creating too much 3. Removal from the body is too slow - the bowels are not working effectively
There are other contributing factors that can aid to increase levels.
- High stress levels
- Too much coffee
- Food additives
- Trans fatty acids or margarine or hydrogenated vegetable oil
Many nations eat much more cholesterol than we do, yet there blood cholesterol levels remain low. So why does it effect us? It may be that it is the combination of foods rather than one single element in the diet that works as a major factor. The Lancet in 1931 said that heart attack was almost unheard of before 1926 and the introduction of margarine. Margarine is perceived by the body as a 'bad' fat. It blocks the body's ability to perform effectively.
The Lethal Combination
Intake of refined carbohydrates(this includes sugar) increases levels of fat in the body. However sugar taken with fat creates the highest increase in blood cholesterol and triglycerides levels. Take one of the typical meals consumed by so many:
- Coke and a hamburger
- Milkshake and cheeseburger
- A ready meal and a sugary pudding
CHECKLIST -- How to help yourself
Reduce stress levels where possible
- Stop Smoking
- Aim to reduce your body weight if you are overweight
- Regular exercise is essential.
- Aim for at least 15 minutes per day. It will improving circulation and elimination. This in turn will work to reduce your cholesterol levels. If you are unused to exercise, please chech with your doctor before you begin your program.
Eliminate/reduce coffee and reduce alcohol.
- An occasional glass of red wine is fine
- Eliminate sugar
- Eliminate all processed/refined foods.
- Eliminate trans fats
2 litres of water per day
- Live yogurt - to increase gut motility to increase elimination of excess cholesterol
- 5+ Portions of fruit and vegetables per day - antioxidants to protect the cholesterol from oxidization
- Fish with teeth 2-3 times per week - essential fats to make the system more effective
- Increase fibre, including more whole foods, fruit, vegetables and whole grains to increase elimination
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