fasting blood sugar testThe fasting blood sugar test will actually tell you more about your risk of heart disease than your cholesterol profile. Are you surprised?

Don’t be! While this is not a “cholesterol test,” it IS an important marker for heart disease risk!

Sugar is intimately involved with inflammation, and as we know, it is inflammation that is the real culprit in heart disease, cholesterol is just along for the ride!

According to Dr. Mark Houston associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University, for every additional point above 75 on your fasting blood sugar reading, your risk of heart disease goes up!

This is due to the fact that high blood sugar levels in your blood are an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

The impact of elevated blood glucose levels

Sugar is a killer, a serial killer, where your health is concerned. Medical science is just now starting to figure out how damaging sugar can be in your system when the levels are high.

There are a number of reasons for this:

  • High blood sugar causes increased insulin (which is a pro-inflammatory hormone)
  • Elevated sugar levels make your blood more acidic and it tends to clot more readily
  • Sugar causes stiffening of arteries and blood vessels
  • Sugar decreases the oxygen carrying capacity of your blood
  • Nitric oxide is vital for heart health and high sugar levels lower it
  • High sugar levels also cause glycation which is a hardening of tissues in your heart and arteries

For all the reasons above, it’s important to know what your blood sugar levels are, so that if they are high, you can make the necessary changes that will bring the level down and reduce your risk of heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure.

How is the test performed?

A fasting blood sugar test, which is also called a fasting plasma glucose, or FPG test, measures your blood glucose level after you have fasted for at least 8 hours.

It’s a very accurate test, and does not vary by age or how physically active you are. It tends to be a physician favorite because it’s easy to do, cheap, and you get the results relatively fast.

The test is done first thing in the morning (so you can get the results by the afternoon), after at least an 8 hour period with no food, and nothing to drink but water.

A nurse or physician assistant will draw your blood and send the sample to the lab. When the results come back your doctor will discuss with you what the results mean, in terms of your risk for both heart disease and diabetes.

Levels for these tests are expressed in “millgrams per deciliter” (a deciliter is one 10th of a liter). Thus a reading of 100mg/dl is read as 100 milligrams per deciliter.

The threshold for normal fasting sugar levels should be below 100mg/dl, but some experts, most notably Dr. Mark Houston, feel the safe level is 70 -75 mg/dl!

What do the scores mean?

Doctors use what are called “reference ranges” to determine exactly what these tests indicate. All of this is of course relative to the results taken of sample populations to determine what is statistically healthy and what is not.

There are cut off points beyond which a clinical diagnosis is made, and these would appear to be splitting hairs so to speak, but of course the line must be drawn somewhere.  Whatever the result, you will have a much better idea of where you stand, and what you have to do to protect your health in the long term.

If your blood sugar measures between 100 mg/dl to 125 mg/dl, the doctor will probably order a follow-up test to eliminate error. This test result indicates “pre-diabetes” and your doctor may want to discuss steps you can take to bring your sugar levels down and prevent diabetes.

If you score 126mg/dl or above, the doctor will want to test you again to eliminate the chance of some anomaly that might have caused an inaccurate reading. If a follow-up test scores the same result, this will confirm that you are diabetic!

Of course it may seem silly to say that if your result on this test is 125mg/dl you don’t have diabetes and at 126 mg/dl you ARE diabetic, but they had to make a cut off point somewhere.

What is important is that if you are in the range 100-125 you need to make changes to your nutrition and exercise habits to get your blood sugar down to healthy levels.

Insulin is a factor too!

When your blood sugar levels spike, your body produces insulin to lower the sugar level. So if your fasting blood sugar test indicates higher than normal blood sugar levels, you can be sure your insulin levels are high as well.

Insulin is a very pro-inflammatory hormone that causes a lot of problems in your body when it is chronically elevated. This is another reason why you would want to get your sugar levels down to what is considered healthy.

Insulin causes inflammation and damage to the endothelial lining of your arteries, which is how the process of atherosclerosis begins. Thus your sugar levels have a direct bearing on the development of heart disease.

Connection with heart disease

If your blood glucose levels are chronically elevated, a process called glycation comes into play, which causes tissues like the heart and blood vessels to lose elasticity and become stiff.

This stiffening process, along with the damage from inflammation, makes you susceptible to heart attacks, high blood pressure and strokes.

To make it really simple and clear, elevated blood sugar=heart disease! This connection is far more important than cholesterol which does not directly cause heart disease. High blood glucose levels are also a factor in many other chronic diseases as well.

The fasting blood sugar test, by measuring how high your blood sugar is on average gives you a clear indication that your risk for heart disease is elevated, which in turn gives you a chance to lower your risk and avoid heart disease, by bringing your blood sugar levels down.

cholesterol lowering foods

 

Cholesterol lowering foods have a lot more benefits than just promoting good cholesterol levels. Foods to lower cholesterol often have antioxidant and anti inflammatory benefits as well. These foods will help you lower cholesterol naturally, maintain a stable weight, fight disease, and add healthy years to your life!

Some of these foods you will be familiar with, and some may be knew to you, but the point is that you will have a wide variety of tasty foods to choose from, and they will result in better cholesterol numbers as well as reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes.

Good cholesterol levels can be promoted in many ways, and your diet is a huge factor in what your cholesterol profile looks like. Focusing on cholesterol lowering foods is a great strategy because the reductions in cholesterol numbers will happen automatically just by eating certain foods.

Cholesterol lowering foods:

Foods to lower cholesterol work in several ways:

  • Foods with high fiber
    • Fruits like apples, pears, coconut, guava, grapefruit, berries, figs, apricots
    • Vegetables like greens, sprouts, squash, eggplant, green beans, and peppers
    • Whole oats, beans, legumes, lentils, peanuts
    • Nuts and seeds of all kinds
  • Foods that provide beneficial fats
    • Chicken, turkey
    • Free range grass fed meat, salmon and cold water fish
    • Avacados, olives
    • Nuts, nut butters, seeds, seed butters
  • Foods that provide antioxidant protection
    • Spices like curcumin (curry), cloves, cinnamon, oregano, nutmeg, chilli powder
    • Nuts such as peanuts, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds
    • Onions, garlic, chilli peppers
    • Dark skinned vegetables, fruits like grapes and berries

These are ALL cholesterol lowering foods, and they work in different ways. They all contribute to better nutrition, digestion, and antioxidant status. These are healthy ways to achieve good cholesterol levels, rather than depending on toxic medication that often have severe side effects.

The foods listed above help lower blood sugar, which in turn lowers insulin (a very important aspect of heart health). some cholesterol lowering foods bind with bile acids containing cholesterol and help flush it from the body. They protect blood vessels from the effects of inflammation due to the antioxidants they contain.

This is the most important relationship between cholesterol and diet, not just how much cholesterol is contained in the foods you eat. Blood glucose levels affect your cholesterol profile, so any foods which lower blood sugar are beneficial in promoting good cholesterol levels.

Some of these cholesterol lowering foods also raise HDL! This is especially important because it is the HDL/LDL ratio that determines your risk of heart disease. So raising HDL is critical to protecting your cardiovascular system from the effects of inflammation.

When we talk about foods to lower cholesterol, these are ideally foods in their raw and natural state. Some foods do have to be cooked for safety, but when you can eat foods raw and unprocessed, so much the better.

Good cholesterol levels are generally defined as total cholesterol between 160mg/dl and 180mg/dl, with an HDL level of over 45mg/dl. Cholesterol CAN be TOO low, which is dangerous as well because it is associated with increased risk of serious illness, even heart disease!

The point of all this is that using cholesterol lowering foods to reduce cholesterol levels will allow you to do it naturally, so that your body will optimize it’s cholesterol production rather than using drugs to artificially lower it.

To sum up one again the 3 benefits of cholesterol lowering foods:

  • Foods that provide fiber to bind cholesterol and eliminate it from your body
  • Foods that provide beneficial fats to balance hormones and inflammatory pathways
  • Foods that provide antioxidants benefits to protect against free radicals and oxidative stress

The relationship between cholesterol and diet really depends on the above three factors. A diet that fails to do those things, is associated with high cholesterol levels, because your body is not functioning optimally.

Cholesterol lowering foods can do all of these things and more. They will promote longevity and good health, allowing you to avoid the devastating effects of cardiovascular disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. Yes foods to lower cholesterol can do all that, so enjoy them in good health.

Citrus BergamotCitrus Bergamot is the latest natural supplement for lowering cholesterol levels and can also lower blood sugar as well. This new food supplement has taken the medical world by storm, even being used in place of statin drugs in some cases.

Truth be known, it’s an interesting compound but has many varied effects. It’s ability to block the synthesis of cholesterol means that it could cause problems in some people who’s cholesterol levels are too low to start with.

It is beneficial in other ways though, so it’s definitely something you need to discuss with an integrative cardiologist, if you are attempting to use it as a means of lowering cholesterol levels.

What is Citrus Bergamot?

Citrus Bergamot is a small sized tree that will blossom during winter. In terms of bitterness, it is less bitter than lemon but more than grapefruit. It is used as an ingredient in Earl Grey Tea. The juice of this plant is not consumed, but is used as a treatment for malaria, and the oil is used for aromatherapy.

A fragrant orange sized yellow green citrus fruit that is grown commercially in the Calabria region of Southern Italy. It is grown also in the southern part of France, as well as the south of Turkey.

The essential oil of Bergamot is a dark greenish-brown in color and is extracted in Cote d’Ivorie. It is grown in Antalya Turkey for use in marmalade.

Unlike other citrus fruits, Bergamot has very large amounts of polyphenols. Two of those compounds Melitidin, and Brutieridin, block the synthesis of cholesterol in the liver in much the same way statin drugs do.

It also has a similar effect to grapefruit in that it can affect the way your body metabolizes various pharmaceutical drugs.

How does it work?

Bergemot reduces the amount of triglycerides and cholesterol you would ordinarily absorb through meals. It also reduces the biosynthesis of cholesterol in the body. It also helps glucose get into cells which is beneficial for diabetics.

It blocks the HMG CoA Reductase Enzyme, which is what statin drugs do. It contains substances called polyphenolic flavanoids that suppress cholesterol production in much the same way that statins do, but it works in a different way that does not seem to deplete coenzyme Q10.

There are three main modes of action:

  • Blocks the HMG CoA Reductase Enzyme
  • Works on insulin receptors to improve shuttling of glucose into cells
  • Blocks cholesterol absorption in the intestine similar to plant sterols

What are some of the benefits of Citrus Bergamot?

  • It promotes fat burning and improves blood sugar control. This helps combat obesity and promotes weight loss.
  • It combats arterial stiffness due to it’s effect on sugar metabolism, and the benefits of the flavinoids it contains.
  • Can reduces LDL and triglycerides and increase HDL cholesterol
  • Helps in lowering blood pressure
  • Bergamot shows anti-tumor action and may be effective in combating neuroblastoma and other metastic cancers
  • It demonstrates anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that improve endothelial function

How is Bergamot taken?

When used for it’s cholesterol lowering effect, it would be taken in capsule form at appropriate doses, and this is where things get tricky. The medical profession knows a lot about drugs and the dosages that should be given, but not very much about vitamins, nutraceuticals, and herbs.

Citrus Bergamot capsulesDosage recommendations for this supplement are anecdotal and not the result of carefully controlled trials and years of clinical case studies and experience. Great care should be taken with this supplement, as it does mimic the effects of statin drugs, and thus could have some of the same side effects.

Given this fact, I think it’s wise to seek the advice of a complementary physician, who has knowledge of alternative treatments.

In research conducted at the Scripps Integrated Medicine Conference in San Diego California, in January 2012, they used 1,000 milligrams per day and got an average reduction in total cholesterol levels of 29%, a 36% reduction in LDL, and increase HDL cholesterol by 40%!

Reductions in triglycerides of 30%, and blood glucose of 20% on average were also noted. From this result the researches concluded that Citrus Bergamot extract at a dosage of 1,000 milligrams per day was an effective substitute for statin drugs for lowering LDL cholesterol, and also treating metabolic syndrome.

In Summary:

Citrus Bergamot is an interesting compound with some powerful effects on cholesterol metabolism, blood sugar control, and metabolic syndrome. It has demonstrated anti-tumor effects as well. However due to it’s statin like mode of action, I would very strongly suggest that you use it ONLY under the direction of a doctor who is knowledgeable about alternative medicine.

The doctor can help you determine if it’s right for you, and if so, how to arrive at a safe and effective dosage.

Research references:

Fitoterapia. 2011 Apr;82(3):309-16. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2010.10.014. Epub 2010 Nov 4.
Hypolipemic and hypoglycaemic activity of bergamot polyphenols: from animal models to human studies.

Fitoterapia. 2010 Sep;81(6):453-61. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2010.01.013. Epub 2010 Jan 20.
Neuropharmacology of the essential oil of bergamot.

Int J Cardiol. 2013 Dec 10;170(2):140-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2013.08.125. Epub 2013 Sep 8.
Bergamot polyphenolic fraction enhances rosuvastatin-induced effect on LDL-cholesterol, LOX-1 expression and protein kinase B phosphorylation in patients with hyperlipidemia.

Fitoterapia. 2014 Jun;95:83-92. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2014.02.009. Epub 2014 Mar 2.
Effect of Citrus bergamia juice on human neuroblastoma cells in vitro and in metastatic xenograft models.

PLoS One. 2013 Apr 16;8(4):e61484. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0061484. Print 2013.
Mechanisms underlying the anti-tumoral effects of Citrus Bergamia juice.

soy lecithing granules

Lecithin as a food to lower cholesterol is another natural strategy to improve your lipid (fat) profile without the use of toxic drugs, such as statins.

Lecithin is a compound found in soybeans, eggs,  sunflower, and other sources, which has the ability to help lower cholesterol levels.

Remember that when we talk about lowering cholesterol, we are really referring to optimizing your cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is often elevated by other things going on in the body. Things like insulin resistance, vitamin-d deficiency, and stress can all raise cholesterol levels.

When levels are high often this indicates that there are problems with the body that can be serious if they are not taken care of. High cholesterol levels are like the “canary in the coal mine” so to speak. If they are elevated we need to make sure we know why, and correct it.

Lecithin (also called phosphatidylcholine) is a “phospholipid compound” that supplies the b-vitamin choline, which is vital to the health of your brain and nervous system. This natural compound (lecithin) can help promote healthy cholesterol levels, but there are some things you need to know before you add it to your diet!

As a food to lower cholesterol, soy lecithin (from soybeans) may not be the best way to go, as soy contains phyto-estrogens and can cause a number of problems especially for men.  Sunflower lecithin on the other hand does not pose those problems and so would be a much better way to go, if you are using it to improve your cholesterol profile.

The following foods are sources of lecithin:

  • Animal sources:  eggs, meat, dairy
  • Vegan sources:   nuts, seeds, soy, sunflower

Eggs contain the highest amounts for any animal based food, and if you are a vegetarian, you would likely have to supplement with lecithin granules, preferably made from sunflower plants, instead of soybeans.

These lecithin granules have a pleasant nutty flavor and can be added to either liquid or solid food depending on your taste and preferences. They are one of the few things that are good for you that actually taste good!

This food does act as an emulsifier (mixes water and oil) and can be used in blending protein drinks or vegetable smoothies such as you might make in the Nutribullet! Dr. Peter D’Adamo has a recipe for something he calls the “Membrane Fluidizer Cocktail,” or “Membrosia Cocktail.”

The recipe goes something like this:

Use guava, grapefruit, or watermelon juice as a base
add 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of high-quality flaxseed oil
plus 1 tablespoon of good-quality lecithin granules
shake well until the consistency is uniform
and..enjoy!

Buying and storing lecithin

Make sure that the lecithin granules that you buy in the store are kept under refrigeration, because they oxidize (turn rancid) very easily when they are exposed to light or heat. Always check the expiration dates and pick the freshest bottle. When you get home store your lecithin in the refrigerator at all times!

Lecithin to lower cholesterol……does it work?

I have been unable to find any evidence that lecithin acts as an emulsifier and “flushes” the cholesterol out of your arteries as some people claim. It just doesn’t appear to work in this way. However choline is necessary for optimal health and promoting healthy cholesterol levels.

As a food to lower cholesterol, lecithin provides your body with a good source of choline and for this reason it likely has a positive effect on cholesterol levels. The benefits of lecithin from food sources and supplementation is really enhancing the function of your brain and nervous system.

Since the nervous system is involved in regulating cholesterol metabolism, any thing you do to make it function better will result in an improvement in your cholesterol profile.

Supplementary lecithin comes in either granules or gel caps, which are rather large and may be hard to swallow. When I use lecithin I prefer the granules, and I try to use sunflower lecithin rather than soy lecithin for the reasons I mentioned above.

Do not put lecithin into anything hot, as heat degrades lecithin (it’s poly unsaturated). Follow the dosage recommendations on the label. Since lecithin is a concentrated source of choline, you don’t need a lot.

Remember that lecithin, as a food to lower cholesterol does work but not for the reasons you have likely been told. It provides choline to your body which is essential to the health of your nervous system and thus your body’s ability to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

medical references:

J Nutr. 1990 Jul;120(7):659-67.
Evidence that polyunsaturated lecithin induces a reduction in plasma cholesterol
level and favorable changes in lipoprotein composition in hypercholesterolemic
rats.
Jimenez MA1, Scarino ML, Vignolini F, Mengheri E.

J Am Diet Assoc. 2003 May;103(5):577-81.
Fat-free foods supplemented with soy stanol-lecithin powder reduce cholesterol
absorption and LDL cholesterol.
Spilburg CA1, Goldberg AC, McGill JB, Stenson WF, Racette SB, Bateman J,
McPherson TB, Ostlund RE Jr.

Atherosclerosis. 1998 Sep;140(1):147-53.
Soy lecithin reduces plasma lipoprotein cholesterol and early atherogenesis in
hypercholesterolemic monkeys and hamsters: beyond linoleate.
Wilson TA1, Meservey CM, Nicolosi RJ.

Lowering triglycerides can significantly improve heart health! Your body is an totally integrated system. Knowing the cause of high triglycerides and learning how to reduce your levels will decease your risk of heart disease.

lowering triglyceridesWhile cholesterol is most often blamed for heart disease, recent scientific evidence does not support the theory that cholesterol causes cardiovascular disease. Fully half of all heart attacks occur in patients who have what are considered normal cholesterol levels. The evidence more strongly points toward triglycerides.

Triglycerides are a major factor in heart disease. An estimate two thirds of heart disease cases are at least partly a result of abnormal triglyceride levels.

There are two types of high triglycerides:

  • Familial (genetic) – usually over 400mg/dl this is not
    thought to be a cause of heart disease
  • Insulin resistant – usually 150-400mg/dl this is dangerous,
    associated with pre-diabetes and increased risk of heart disease

What are triglycerides and why are they important?

Triglycerides are lipids that are made from fats or carbohydrates you eat and are stored in the body. The higher their levels, the greater your risk for heart disease, which is why lowering triglycerides is so critical for your cardiovascular health.

Here is why elevated triglycerides are dangerous, and why lowering triglycerides is so important.

  • They are deposited in various organs including the heart
  • They can alter gene expression and increases heart disease
  • They can cause insulin resistance leading to diabetes
  • They can accumulate on artery walls causing plaque buildup
  • They thicken blood causing strokes and other circulatory
    problems
  • They contribute to abdominal obesity

What is a normal triglyceride level?

Before you go about lowering triglycerides, you need to check your levels to get a baseline so that you can tell how effective your efforts to lower them are!

The guidelines of the American Heart Association recommend that a normal triglyceride level is under 149 mg/dl.

However the Life Extension Foundation recommends an even lower level of 80-100 mg/dl measured in a fasting state.

The “fasting state” is when you have not eaten for at least 12 hours.

Unlike cholesterol, you really don’t have to worry about triglycerides going too low, so lowering triglycerides will have positive benefits for your health.  Doing the right things will bring the levels down naturally, to what is optimal for you.

Cause of high triglycerides

Just what causes these levels to become too high?

There are several factors:

  • Eating carbohydrates that raise your blood sugar rapidly
  • Problems with carbohydrate metabolism
  • Heavy drinking
  • Insulin resistance (poor insulin sensitivity)
  • A diet that consists of over 60% carbohydrate
  • Smoking
  • Lack of exercise – low physical activity
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic Syndrome
  • Kidney disease
  • Certain prescription medications (estrogen, birth control pills, tamoxifen, steroids, beta-blockers, and diuretics)

Lowering triglycerides

Lowering triglycerides really comes down to two things, restricting sugars, and getting regular exercise. Of course there is more to it than that, but those are the two most effective things.

Most people eat too many refined carbohydrates, and that is the cause of high triglycerides.

A “low glycemic diet” high in fiber will help in lowering triglycerides. This is because fiber slows down the entry of sugars into the bloodstream. Rapid entry of sugar into the bloodstream causes insulin to rise, and this promotes inflammation which in turn causes triglyceride levels to go up!

Nutritional supplements such as circumin, and green coffee extract, can also help by lowering inflammation, and helping the body manage blood sugar levels more efficiently.

Exercise also helps in lowering triglycerides  because it increases insulin sensitivity, maintains lean muscle, and mobilizes fatty acids to be burned for energy.

Below are some short simple steps for lowering triglycerides:

  • Limit your carbohydrates to mostly fresh vegetables – go easy on fruits
  • Eat what is known as a low glycemic diet
  • Avoid over consuming grains, and eating sweets
  • Eat lean proteins
  • Use nutritional supplements as you need them
  • Get some kind of brisk exercise each day

That’s pretty much it! Lowering triglycerides willboost heart health and improve the health of your entire cardiovascular system.  It’s probably the best things you can do to put yourself on a path to better health!