vitamin-d-sourcesFew people are aware of the relationship between vitamin d and cholesterol, but it’s an important one and it shouldn’t be ignored. Although it’s called a vitamin, it’s actually a hormone and a deficiency of it can be life threatening!

It’s Actually a Hormone

Vitamin d refers to a number of is a fat soluble steroid molecules that are involved in the absorption of important minerals in your intestinal tract.

The two most important factors are:
vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) and vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol)

It’s also called the “sunshine vitamin” because it can be bio synthesized in your body when your skin is exposed to natural sunlight. This is especially important to people of African ancestry that live in temperate climates that have long winters.

Since their darker skin pigmentation filters out some of the suns rays, they are at increased risk of deficiency because of their skin filtering out natural sunlight (especially during long winters.)

For black people, supplements are a MUST! It appears that pretty much every disease that people of African descent suffer from disproportionately is linked with vitamin d deficiency. This is not widely known, but can still cause lots of health problems that could be avoided with wise use of supplementation.

The Cholesterol Connection

The human body is amazingly resourceful at bio synthesizing what it needs from what we put into our bodies. Thus when we have a deficiency of vitamin d the body will make it from cholesterol. This can cause your cholesterol levels to rise, because your body needs the extra cholesterol in order to synthesize this vitamin/hormone.

You have read in this blog that lowering cholesterol is not necessarily needed to prevent heart disease because it has been found not to be a direct causative factor. However if your cholesterol levels are elevated because of a lack of vitamin d then you need to take steps to supply your body with this nutrient by getting more sun exposure and taking supplements when you can’t get enough sun, such as in the winter.

Elevated cholesterol levels can indicate other problems in your body that you need to address. This is another reason why statin use can be problematic. It can mask the symptom (elevated cholesterol) that is being caused by another problem (like vitamin d deficiency).

Effects of Vitamin D Deficiency

  • increased risk of heart attack and stroke
  • depression
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • increased risk of cancer
  • increased risk of infection
  • increased risk of multiple sclerosis

Some Food Sources of Vitamin D

  • Cod liver oil
  • Butter from grass fed cows
  • Beef or Calves liver
  • Egg yolks
  • Cheese
  • Water packed tuna
  • Oil packed sardines

Supplementing Vitamin D

Supplementary forms of this vitamin can be found in any health food store. My favorite is Jarrow Formulas D3. I opt for 5,000 units per day in the winter and half that dosage in the summer. It is difficult to overdose on this vitamin, as long as you are not using a synthetic version of it.

The ideal situation is that you get your levels tested by a doctor and do follow ups until the levels are where they are supposed to be. This is a fat soluble vitamin and so should be taken with a meal that contains healthy fats.

Vitamin k2 should be taken with vitamin d as those two nutrients work togegher to ewnsure that your body handles calcium properly. One of the top experts on vitamin K2 Dr. Rheaume Bleue suggests a ratio of 100-200 micrograms of K2 for every 1,000 IUs of vitamin d.   Again I would go with Jarrow Formulas MK-7, combined with their D3 product.

Sun Expose is Healthy

It’s been said before, but bears repeating…sun exposure is HEALTHY! Human beings evolved on the surface of the Earth. We NEED sun exposure in order for out bodies to function properly. Don’t avoid getting sunlight, because if you do, you are undermining your health in a critical way.

sunshine vitamin

sunshine helps your body synthesize vitamin D

Use common sense of course. Don’t overdo it, as too much of anything can be a problem, but remember that getting out in the sun and fresh air has benefits that go far beyond making you feel good and improving your mood.

How Much Sun Exposure?

This depends on how dark your skin is. Light skinned people should avoid prolonged exposure such as beyond 10-15 minutes in the sun. Darker skinned people of course can tolerate longer exposure, but you should be conservative with your time in the sun and gradually build a tolerance to sun exposure over time as you get more tanned.

Wearing a wide brim hat, proper sunglasses, and long sleeve clothing can help protect you as well. Remember also that you can get burned even on a hazy day because enough of the suns rays still get through and you may not be aware of how long you have been exposed.

Remember also that sunblock will prevent your body from making the vitamin d it needs from sun exposure, so If you are using sun screens on your skin you are defeating the purpose of getting sunlight.

pantethine-capsulesGood cholesterol levels can be achieved easily and naturally using pantethine, which is what I call a heart healthy nutritional supplement.

It is a derivative of vitamin b5 and it’s made up of two molecules of pantothenic acid linked together by what’s called a cysteamine bridge.

It is an intermediate step in the synthesis of  Coenzyme A, which in turn is involved in various enzymatic reactions including the production and oxidation of fatty acids.

pantethine molecule

Pantethine is what’s called the “active” (more biologically available) form of the vitamin b5, but unlike the more well known form calcium pantothenate, it is less stable and will degrade if not refrigerated.

The theory is that since it’s closer biochemically to coenzyme A, it is more beneficial than pantothenic acid. It’s involved in the activation of coenzyme A and helps transport fatty acids across the cell membrane into the mitochondria to be used to make ATP, (a key component in health).

However as you will see it’s benefits go far beyond improving your cholesterol hdl ratio!

How does it work and what does it do?

Biochemistry details aside, the bottom line for the average person is “what does it do?” Dr. Stephen Sinatra has stated that in every type of heart disease, what we find is an energy starved heart! The role of pantethine in cellular energy production is a big part of it’s beneficial effect on heart health.

The heart is a very energy intense organ, and the ability for the cells of the heart to produce  energy in the form of ATP affects every aspect of your heart function, from contraction to the electrical signaling that keeps your heart beating strongly and evenly.

Pantethine is right in the middle of all of this because it is a key player in the production of ATP in the mitochondria of your cells. In plain English, it boosts energy not only to your heart, but all the organs and systems of your body!

It  has been shown (in animal experiments) to lower LDL cholesterol and raise hdl cholesterol, improving the cholesterol hdl ratio, as well as decreasing triglycerides. The ability of pantethine to promote good cholesterol levels is highly beneficial to heart health.

In addition is increases levels of apolipoprotein A1, which is the component of HDL responsible for transporting cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver. Pantethine also functions as an anti stress nutrient, due to the fact that it supports the health of your adrenal glands and protects the health of your hormonal system particularly when you are under stress.

Pantethione also protects your brain in several ways. It promotes the synthesis of Coenzyme A (CoA) which in turn is used in the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is critical for healthy brain function, and a lack of this neurotransmitter can lead to Alzheimer’s Disease.

It’s positive effect on the synthesis of CoA improves the efficiency of your heart and in turn improves blood flow to the brain. Pantethine has also been shown to be beneficial for the immune system, detoxification, arthritis, and wound healing. It is used also to treat acne, and also for gout and CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome).

So the evidence is that pantethine…

  • Improves hdl cholesterol levels
  • Improves ldl cholesterol level
  • Protects the brain by boosting acetylcholine
  • Improves heart function and blood flow
  • Can be used to treat acne
  • Is helpful in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Improves detoxification
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Combats arthritis
  • Can be used to treat gout

How is it taken (form and dosage)

Pantethine as a nutritional supplement is taken orally in capsule form. Clinical research protocols have used as little as 300mg per day with statistically significant result. Levels of 600mg to 900mg have been used in research and yielded very significant reductions in LDL levels for subjects with elevated cholesterol levels. In general though there is little information to use as a guide for precise dosage levels.

Remember that where dosages are concerned, more is not necessarily better. The best course of action would be to use this supplement under the guidance of a complementary physician who can do follow up blood work and determine the correct dosage based on that.

This supplement should work at a relatively low dose, even as low as 5mg to 50mg per day. Start with the lowest dosage and work upwards until you find what works for you.

There are home cholesterol tests that you could use to establish a baseline reference and follow up test would tell you if the pantethine was having an effect. You would have to be careful to account for all the variables in your diet and activity level, and even at that it would not be a “scientifically accurate” result, but enough for you to determine whether pantethine was actually promoting good cholesterol levels.

Side effects

Large amounts of this supplement could potentially block absorption of other b vitamins. It could also cause fatigue, numbness in your hands and feet, or headaches. It’s effect on peristalsis could cause more frequent bowel movements or diarrhea.

The toxicity of this supplement is extremely low, and it has been termed “well tolerated” which is medical jargon for having few side effects. It is not likely that toxicity would be a problem at the dosages that would have benefit.

Brands to look for

Brands I like are:  Jarrow Formulas, Life Extension, and Pure Encapsulations. You really can’t go wrong with these companies when it comes to the quality of the supplements they sell. To be sure there are other good brands, but these are the ones I know of to be top notch.

To Sum Up

This is a supplement that can be helpful in many conditions due to it’s vital role in cellular energy production. Think of it less as something “medicinal” and more as a substance your body needs to create energy that powers all of your biochemical reactions.

Pantethine can be a powerful addition to your nutritional arsenal when it comes to promoting good cholesterol levels, combating heart disease and protecting your brain function. This article should be a starting point for your investigation and use of this fascinating supplement!

HDL cholesterol level is the most important factor in your cholesterol profile. The cholesterol hdl ratio is used to determine your risk of a heart attack or stroke. Low hdl means greater risk, and I will explain the reasons why.

hdl cholesterol levelThe effect of cholesterol on your heart health has been distorted by bad information over the years. This is because pharmaceutical companies want to sell statin drugs, so they influenced doctors to set up guidelines that call for proscribing these drugs for lowering cholesterol levels.

The drugs do not lower cholesterol naturally, they do it by interfering with your body’s natural production of lipids, which is unhealthy and dangerous. What makes cholesterol a problem in your arteries is inflammation and free radicals which oxidize the cholesterol and turn it into hard plaques. Hdl cholesterol prevents this process, and protects you against heart disease.

How to raise increase good cholesterol

We know that HDL cholesterol functions as an antioxidant in the body. This means that it will help prevent LDL cholesterol from turning into dangerous plaques inside your arteries. This is why the cholesterol HDL ratio can predict your risk of heart disease. The higher the HDL cholesterol levels, the lower your risk.

So just how do we increase good cholesterol? We do it by diet, exercise, and using certain nutritional supplements that help boost HDL  levels.

Let’s start with diet! Below are some foods that can help increase good cholesterol:

  • Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines
  • Raw nuts and seeds like walnuts, pecans, almonds, and flaxseeds
  • Whole eggs (yes that’s right…they must be WHOLE eggs)
  • Onions
  • Fresh raw low glycemic vegetables – especially dark leafy greens
  • Oat bran
  • Alcohol – 1 or 2 drinks per day maximum

These foods work in a natural way by giving your body the raw materials such as essential fatty acids it needs to raise  HDL!

Nutritional Supplements

Nutritional supplements can also help you increase good cholesterol

  • Fish oil
  • Pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5)
  • niacin – (vitamin B-3)
  • Gugulipid
  • Coenzyme Q-10
  • Carnitine
  • Vitamin-C
  • Vitamin-D
  • Magnesium
  • Polycosanol
  • Vitamin E-complex
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid
  • N-Acetyl-Cysteine
  • CLA – conjugated linoleic acid

All of these supplements help increase HDL levels, however niacin (B-3) and calcium pantothenate (B-5) are the most effective, so you should focus on them first, and add others if needed.

Exercise to raise your HDL cholesterol level

The best form of exercise is some kind of internal training. This might be circuit weight training, kettlebells, bodyweight exercises, ect. The main principle is the workouts should be brief, intense, and make your heart and lungs work hard.

Naturally, if you are older, or not on good health, you should get clearance from your doctor before engaging in strenuous exercise. You should also work into an exercise program gradually so that your body gets used to it. Never jump right into an intense exercise program. Take time to build up your exercise capacity so that you don’t overdo it.

The PACE program by Dr. Al Sears is an excellent exercise system for this!

Just what are good HDL cholesterol levels?

Remember that the cholesterol HDL ratio is very important. That determines your risk of heart attack. The table below reflects the Amercian Heart Association guidelines:

American Heart Association Guidelines

Desirable Borderline Risk
High Risk
HDL
60 or higher
40 to 59
40 or less (men)
HDL
60 or higher
50 to 59
50 or less (women)

Action steps to raise for your HDL cholesterol level:

  • Get your cholesterol HDL ratio tested so you know what they are to start
  • Work in 3 15 minute sessions of circuit or interval training per week
  • Avoid refined foods if possible – stick to raw fruits and vegetables
  • Get plenty of healthy fats in your daily diet
  • Supplement with niacin (B-3) and calcium pantothenate (B-5) to raise HDL

Your HDL cholesterol level is one of the best predictive markers for heart disease that we know of. HDL cholesterol protects you against heart disease, stroke, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. Make it a point to get your HDL cholesterol levels checked, get them into the healthy range and keep them there. Your heart will thank you!

pantothenic acid capsulesPantothenic acid benefits are not well known to most people but they have important effects on your cardiovascular health. D-calcium pantothenate is helpful in raising HDL cholesterol level, which helps lower your risk of heart disease.

Since the cutting edge in modern medicine involves the use of targeted nutritional supplements to fight disease rather than defaulting to drugs as a first resort, we need to become familiar with some key nutrients and learn how they can help protect against heart disease!

What is pantothenic acid?

D-calcium pantothenate or pantothenic acid is a water soluble b-vitamin (vitamin-b5). It is a very important nutrient and is a precursor to coenzyme A. Coenzyme A is utilized in the metabolism of carbohydrates, and the synthesis of fatty acids, and steroid hormones.

Deficiency of this vitamin in human beings is rare and usually only occurs in bad cases of malnutrition. Symptoms of deficiency include numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, fatigue, headaches, and insomnia.

Pantothenic acid benefits

There are a number of well documented health benefits associated with d-calcium pantothenate such as:

  • Raises HDL cholesterol level
  • Improves skin tone
  • Accelerates healing
  • Protects against lipid peroxidation
  • Increases energy levels
  • Accelerates post surgery healing
  • Helps healing after burn injuries
  • Enhances epithelial function

The most important of the pantothenic acid benefits is it’s ability to raise HDL levels. This is what most directly affects your risk of heart disease. Pantethine is the active form of vitamin B5. Clinical research studies show that pantethine can reduce triglycerides and cholesterol levels and increase HDL levels at the same time.

Food sources of d-calcium pantothenate

Pantothenic acid can be found in common foods and also taken in supplement form. You can get it in the following foods:

  • Meats
  • Whole grains
  • Egg yolks
  • Vegetables like broccoli and avocado
  • Rice
  • Cold water fish

Pantothenic acid benefits can also come from supplements of d-calcium panothenate taken in dosages of 50-100 mg per day. There is no known toxicity threshold for this nutrient and dosages of several grams per day have been reported as having beneficial effects with no signs of toxicity.

Since few doctors are familiar with nutritional supplements and how they should be used, your doctor will probably not be receptive to the idea or know just how these nutrients should be incorporated into your diet.

You should seek the advice of a doctor who practices complementary and integrative medicine, as the best person to advise you in this area. These doctors combine traditional treatments with nutrition and holistic therapies, to get the best results of both approaches.

The best approach is to calibrate the dosage with how you feel and what your objectives are. Raising HDL cholesterol is the most notable of d-calcium pantothenate effects, and you should adjust your dosage to optimize your HDL levels. You may want to have your HDL cholesterol checked to provide a baseline to compare against. This way you will know if it is working.

Pantothenic acid benefits are that this powerful nutrient can help optimize your cholesterol profile and significantly lower your risk of heart disease. It is non toxic and vital to energy production. When you add this vitamin to your nutritional regimen you will significantly improve the quality of your life.

The benefits of policosanol are it’s ability to lower cholesterol naturally.  It is effective in lowering LDL cholesterol and can also help raise HDL cholesterol. Since there are few policosanol side effects, it is considered to be very safe as well as effective.

benefits of policosanolThere is growing interest in this nutraceutical among holistically oriented practitioners and patients because some experts feel it can replace statin drugs which have severe side effects.

What is It and How Does It Work?

Policosanol is one of a number of natural cholesterol lowering supplements. It is extracted from sugar cane. It is made up of octacosanol which is a “long chain fatty alcohol” and several other long chain fatty alcohols. It works by preventing the synthesis of cholesterol, but in a way that is different from statin drugs.

It doesn’t block the HMG-CoA enzyme the way “statin” cholesterol-lowering drugs do, but the precise way that it works is not understood. It does not seem to have the negative effects on energy metabolism that statins do. The standard recommended dosage for policosanol is 5-20 mg/day.

Benefits of Policosanol

The main benefit of this supplement is it’s ability to lower cholesterol naturally. Other benefits are:

  •     Helps prevent the formation of artery lesions
  •     Inhibits the formation of blood clots
  •     Reduces levels of a blood vessel-constricting eicosanoid called Thromboxane
  •     Stops cell overgrowth which can cause narrowing of your arteries
  •     Is effective in lowering LDL cholesterol
  •     Can raise HDL cholesterol
  •     Enhances the effect of exercise
  •     Inhibits the oxidation of LDL cholesterol which decreases inflammation

Effects on Exercise

It has been shown in studies to increase stamina and oxygen uptake during exercise. It is apparently used in muscle tissue as an energy substrate and positively enhances energy production. It’s initially stored in the liver but eventually finds it’s way into muscle tissue, enhancing metabolic activity.

Studies were done in Japan with 10 mg per day , which increased endurance, oxygen uptake and aerobic capacity, as measured on treadmill ECG testing. It also reduced ischemia, improved reflexes, and increased muscle strength.

Additional Benefits of Policosanol

In postmenopausal women and people over 60 who are at increased risk for heart disease, it decreased LDL cholesterol by 25% and lowered total cholesterol by 17%. This was achieved at a dosage of 10 milligrams per day.

At the 20 milligram per day dosage level, it gave people with intermittent claudication (muscle pain, cramps, and fatigue while walking) relief, and allowed them to walk greater distances with less pain. This shows that policosanol has therapeutic value that goes beyond beneficial effects on cholesterol.

Policosanol Side Effects

Along with the benefits of policosanol there are a few side effects that were reported in clinical trials.

The main side effect reported was weight loss, and the other side effect was abdominal pain, however this effect was also reported in the people who were not taking it, so it is not clear that it had anything to do with policosanol being taken.

Policosanol is very safe. Rats given dosages that were 1724 times what a human dose would be, showed no signs of toxicity. There was also no carcinogenic (cancer) activity associated with it. All tolled the side effects of are for all intents and purposes 100% positive, with no proven negative effects at all!

Drug Interactions

Although policosanol is not a drug, people may be concerned about it causing problems for them if they are on medications. However, there is no evidence that it causes any problems when used with drugs that are being taken.

There is evidence that it can enhance the effects of propranol (a blood pressure lowering drug), so caution should be taken with this combination.

There haven’t been any studies done combining it with specific drugs or types of drugs, however there was NO reported adverse effects when using policosanol along with the following:

  • Anti-coagulents (blood thinners)
  • Beta-blockers
  • Calcium antagonists
  • Diuertics
  • Vasodilators
  • Thyroid hormones
  • NSAIDs
  • Antidepressants
  • Digoxin
  • Ulcer drugs
  • Meprobamate
  • Anti-anxiety drugs
  • Neuroleptics

Does Not Inhibit Sexual Function

One of the best things that can be said about policosanol is that it does not inhibit sexual function like statin drugs can, even at high dosages used in animal experiments. Studies with male rats showed that it increased sexual activity, but the mechanism that caused this wasn’t clear. Thus when it’s used in normal amounts there is NO negative effect on a person’s sex life!

Safe, Effective, and Natural

There are many natural alternatives to statin drugs out there for optimizing your cholesterol profile.  Research these carefully and coordinate your efforts with an integrative cardiologist who understands how to use nutritional approaches to promote heart health.

Benefits of policosanol are that it is one of the safest and most effective cholesterol lowering supplements available and it compares very favorably with “statin” drugs while at the same time having none of the side effects or toxicity.