artichoke-leaf-extract

Artichoke leaf extract capsules

Did you know that better heart health and lower cardiovascular risk can be had with two natural products that you can buy right over the counter? Well it’s true! Artichoke extract and pantethine are what we are talking about, and it can help you cut your risk of heart disease without dangerous side effects.

Interested? Well then read on…

Millions of people use the popular statin drugs to lower cholesterol but heart disease still continues to be the number one killer of Americans. Statins lower LDL cholesterol and inflammation while raising hdl but they have serious side effects that can dramatically lower the quality of life and put you at risk for serious health complications. One area where statins fall short is raising HDL levels. They don’t elevate HDL enough to significantly improve your HDL LDL ratio.

Statins can also raise your risk for rhabdomyolysis: (muscle breakdown), kidney damage, and even diabetes. This is due to it’s interference in the biochemical pathways which bio-synthesize both cholesterol and coenzyme Q10, which your body needs to help create energy from the foods you eat in order to power the cells of the heart.

Thus statins not only commonly cause muscle pain and weakness, but can also ironically increase the risk for cardiomyopathy which is muscle damage to the heart!

While there are certain people for whom the risk of statins is justified by their effectiveness, the vast majority of people would likely be better off with natural alternatives, and there are two good ones we have access to, pantethine and artichoke extract. These two supplements or “nutraceuticals” as they are sometimes called, can lower LDL AND raise HDL safely and naturally without the risks of serious side effects.

Enter Artichoke Extract…

An extract from artichoke leaves can raise your levels of HDL, while pantethine which is an analog of vitamin b-5 can lower LDL without causing deficiency of coenzyme q10 (as statins do). The use of these two compounds together has been shown to reduce by up to 11% the risk of heart disease. Pretty powerful stuff for two natural substances!

Artichokes which are actually considered to be in the “thistle’ family contain powerful substances called flavonoids that can lower LDL levels and increase HDL. The flavonoids act as antioxidants, preventing the oxidation of LDL particles in your arteries. In addition artichoke extract can increase your levels of bile acids, which help remove cholesterol from the body.

The clinical results with artichoke extract were based upon an intake of 1,800 mg/day of dry artichoke leaf extract for 6 weeks. This resulted in an 18.5% reduction in total cholesterol, with an improvement in the HDL/LDL ratio. It was also shown to cause an average of over 36% increase in endothelial function (the layer of cells that line the arteries) which also helps to prevent heart disease.

Next Up – Pantethine…

Pantethine lowers LDL levels without reducing coenzyme q10. It does this by inceasing the breakdown rate of serum cholesterol and reducing the rate of cholesterol synthesis. Pantethineis an energy molecule that helps increase fat burning in the body.

It also improves the ratio of HDL to total cholesterol which has a protective effect on your artery walls, reducing plaque formation and lesions in the aorta and coronary arteries.

A four month study was undertaken where the dosage of pantethine was 600mg/day for the first eight weeks and then a higher dose of 900 mg/day for the second eight weeks. This resulted in a modest decrease of LDL with a slight increase in coenzyme q10, unlike statin drugs.

When you consider that every reduction of 1% in LDL levels equals a 1% reduction in heart disease risk, pantethine significantly reduces the risk of heart attack by 11%. This is a very significant result and more reason to include pantethine in your supplement regimen.

In Summary…

All of us are at risk for heart disease as we age, and the primary issue in that risk is elevations in inflammatory LDL particles and low HDL levels. Many of the
patients put on statin drugs stop taking them because of the severity of the side effects, leaving them vulnerable to risk of heart disease once more. However the
combination of pantethine and artichoke extract can help lower LDL and raise protective HDL without the side effects that characterize statin use.

People who are at low risk may be able to achieve effective protection just by using these natural compounds rather than statins drugs. For people who have
extremely high LDL and/or very low HDL, a combination of low dose statins AND natural compounds like pantethine and artichoke extract may be the ideal
combination to avoid side effects AND effectively decrease the risk of heart disease.

As always, any therapy whether drug based OR natural that is intended to protect against heart disease should be managed by your doctor, possibly with the help of
a nutritionist or other wellness professional who is well versed in natural healing therapies, nutrients, and nutraceuticals.

Medical References:

Atherosclerosis. 1984 Jan;50(1):73-83.
Controlled evaluation of pantethine, a natural hypolipidemic compound, in patients with different forms of hyperlipoproteinemia.
Gaddi A, Descovich GC, Noseda G, Fragiacomo C, Colombo L, Craveri A, Montanari G, Sirtori CR.

Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2015 Aug 27. [Epub ahead of print]
Pharmacological Studies of Artichoke Leaf Extract and Their Health Benefits.
Salem MB1, Affes H, Ksouda K, Dhouibi R, Sahnoun Z, Hammami S, Zeghal KM.
Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2013 Feb;64(1):7-15. doi: 10.3109/09637486.2012.700920. Epub 2012 Jun 29.
Beneficial effects of artichoke leaf extract supplementation on increasing HDL-cholesterol in subjects with primary mild hypercholesterolaemia: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial.
Rondanelli M1, Giacosa A, Opizzi A, Faliva MA, Sala P, Perna S, Riva A, Morazzoni P, Bombardelli E.

cholesterol-particlesHow did we arrive at the conclusion that LDL cholesterol is the villain in heart disease?

Well…once again we see the mistakes made by researchers that lead us to think of LDL as the culprit.

A little history…

It had to do with a machine used in the laboratory, called an analytical centrifuge that created evidence that ultimately mislead researchers and clouded the issue of cholesterol sub-particles.

Invented in 1949 and used until 2004, this device was used to spin blood plasma samples at 40,000 rpm to separate out the cholesterol fractions such as HDL and LDL.

However this spinning process cannot separate the particles with the precision required to identify all of the sub-fractions of cholesterol that are present in the blood. It may have been state of the art when it was first used, but still fell far short in the accuracy required to actually identify all the sub-fractions of cholesterol.

This started the characterization of cholesterol particles as either good or bad cholesterol, depending on the particle density. This was a gross oversimplification that stuck in the minds of the public.

For many years this simplified version of a person’s risk of heart disease based on their ratio of good and bad cholesterol stood as the cutting edge of cholesterol testing and heart disease prevention.

This was accompanied by the now debunked view that saturated fats caused heart disease because of their association with cholesterol. People avoided saturated fats out of a fear that was not founded in good science.

They also consumed statins, the most prescribed class of drugs on Earth due to the same fear of cholesterol and it’s supposed relationship to heart attacks.

Americans have consumed some 14 billion dollars in cholesterol lowering drugs, which some health experts have advocated be given to people of all ages including children allegedly to prevent heart disease.

John Abramson argues in his book Overdosed America that lowering LDL cholesterol has inadvertently become the main focus of preventative medical care in the United States.

Cutting edge thinking about LDL cholesterol

Yet a more recent breakthrough utilizing a new technology called ion mobility analysis has shaken the traditional concept of cholesterol’s role in heart disease to the core, and called the entire LDL cholesterol theory into question.

Ronald M. Krauss, of the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, is using ion mobility analysis to count cholesterol particles such as LDL and HDL down to the smallest sub particle types using principles of physics.

Even though it’s extremely expensive and not widely available, this technology has helped to rewrite the rules on how we think about cholesterol and heart disease.

Rather than continuing to believe that LDL cholesterol is the bad cholesterol here, we now know that there are four types of LDL particles that factor into the risk of heart disease.

Some LDL particles are benign and others more dangerous. Thus it makes no sense to continue to base diet and drug recommendations on an outdated theory when the science regarding cholesterol particle types is far more precise now.

We could be using drugs that target the wrong particles, and making dietary recommendations that are doing more harm than good at this point, all while dramatically escalating health care costs and actually making treatment less effective!

Low Density Lipoproteins

LDL comes in four sizes:

  • Large (big fluffy particles)
  • Medium
  • Small
  • Very Small

As the LDL particle size decreases the particles become more dense, (and more dangerous). This is because the large fluffy particles can’t lodge in your artery walls as plaque, while smaller dense LDLs CAN!

High fat diets tend to increase the large fluffy LDL particles, while low-fat high carbohydrate diets increase the smaller more dense particles.

From this you can see why the standard medical advice about how we should eat to avoid heart disease is seriously flawed! It was all based on an oversimplified and outmoded concept of the nature of cholesterol particles.

Typical cholesterol tests can’t differentiate between large and small LDL particles. There are also genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that affect LDL particle size.

Enter “Ion Mobility Analysis”

Using ion mobility analysis, Dr. Krauss and his colleagues determined that there are some 11 different particles. This was done using a sample of 4,600 healthy men and women volunteers.

Eight percent of the test subjects went on to develop heart disease, and using statistical algorithms the researchers developed a series of three very accurate predictors for who would go on to develop heart disease.

Here are the correlations that Dr. Kraus’s team found:

    1. High levels of small and medium LDL particles with low HDL (called atherogenic lipoprotein phenotype) Also known as pattern B
    2. Low HDL levels
    3. High total LDL cholesterol

So as it turns out LDL cholesterol and the risk of heart disease is a complex relationship that standard cholesterol tests are almost useless to predict.

The PLAC Test

There is one test however that can give you a better idea of what your risk is. You can read about it in my article called “The PLAC Test.” This is the latest test that really utilizes our new knowledge of LDL to make more accurate predictions about what your real risk for heart disease is.

Using this test you can make better choices about lifestyle and diet, because they are based upon a more complete understanding of the science of cholesterol particles.

Raise good cholesterol with Coenzyme Q10, and lower inflammatory LDL particles at the same time.  Sure sounds like a win-win situation for heart health, and recent research strongly supports this important role for Co Q10!

coenzyme q10 moleculeLets take a look at this new nutritional weapon against heart disease, and the other health benefits of Coenzyme Q10.

What’s Coenzyme Q10?

Coenzyme Q10 or CoQ10 as it is also referred to, was discovered by Professor Fredrick L. Crane and his research team at the University of Wisconsin–Madison Enzyme Institute in 1957.

The reduced form of CoQ10 was called ubiquinone and was identified as a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger, and as we will see…it also has the ability to raise good cholesterol and lower inflammatory LDL.

This fat soluble antioxidant is found in the membrane structure of the mitochondria and is a key player in the electron transport chain which functions as an energy creating mechanism in your cells. The end product of these reactions is the creation of ATP, the primary source of energy for your body.

Because of it’s vital role in cellular energy production CoQ10 is found in highest amounts in the organs and tissue that have the highest energy demands.  Your body can synthesize CoQ10 but you also need to acquire it from your diet and possibly from supplementation as well.

How Do You Get Coenzyme Q10?

You can get CoQ10 in tablet form or as a soft-gel. The softgel form is superior because it’s easier for your body to absorb. The usual dose when used to benefit the heart is from 50 to 150 milligrams. The most effective form is the “reduced” form which is called “ubiquinol.”

Food sources of CoQ10 tend to be from animal sources, such as organ meats like liver, heart, as well as muscle. Again this is because those types of organs and tissues have a high demand for energy, and CoQ10 is a vital component of energy production in both animals and humans.

Here are the top foods sources:

  • Pork heart
  • Pork liver
  • Beef heart
  • Beef liver
  • Chicken liver
  • Chicken heart
  • Sardine
  • Mackerel

If you are a vegan there ARE  vegetable sources of Coenzyme Q10, the best are whole grains, peanuts, wheat germ, broccoli, and spinach. Keep in mind though that these sources are a lot lower in CoQ10 than animal proteins, so if you are trying to make up for a deficiency in Coenzyme Q10 you may need to use a supplement like ubiquinol if you are eating a vegan diet.

Health Benefits of Coenzyme Q10

There are many health benefits of Coenzyme Q10 from protecting yourself from heart disease, to blood sugar control and better energy.  Here is a short list of medical conditions where Coenzyme Q10 can be beneficial:

  • Malignant Melanoma
  • Diabetes
  • Endothelial Dysfunction
  • Heart Disease
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Senile Dementia
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)

CoQ10 is both an antioxidant and a bio-energetic nutrient, which means it both protects cells against oxidative stress (which robs the cells of energy) and also has a vital role in making the ATP molecule that supplies energy that cells need to maintain and repair themselves.

Coenzyme Q10 and Cholesterol

CoQ10 has beneficial effects on cholesterol profiles because of it’s role as a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger.  It’s been established that heart disease results from inflammation and free radical damage to the heart and the arteries through which blood flows.

By fighting oxidative stress and the free radicals it produces, CoQ10 can help prevent the damage to the endothelium and the process of atherosclerosis that causes coronary artery disease. The effect of CoQ10 on cholesterol is that it will raise good cholesterol (HDL) and lower LDL.

Even though we have learned recently that cholesterol does not CAUSE heart disease, it is a FACTOR in atherosclerosis that damages arteries. Coenzyme Q10 has been shown to alter the ratio of HDL to LDL that helps protect against coronary artery disease.

Cardiologists like Dr. Stephen Sinatra have been using Coenzyme Q10 to treat heart disease for many years, and now his colleagues are beginning to embrace this nutrient and add it to their treatment protocols, because of it’s ability to raise good cholesterol and lower inflammatory LDL particles.

Coenzyme Q10 and Statins

Statins, the drugs most often given to people to lower cholesterol have some very serious side effects. Some prominent cardiologists have come out against widespread statin use because the benefits of these drugs are far outweighed by the dangers to health that these drugs pose.

Statins deplete Coenzyme Q10, leaving the body vulnerable to a number of damaging processes that are rooted in oxidative stress and free radical damage. It is for this reason that a number of cardiologists recommend that in cases where statins are used the patient MUST be given Coenzyme Q10 in supplement form to protect against this statin caused deficiency.

The Case for Co Q10

Cardiologists are starting to use it, and in fact it has been used for many years in Japan to treat heart disease. Incidentally the Japanese are the longest lived population in the world, so it seems they know a thing or two about the health benefits of Coenzyme Q10.

The ability to raise good cholesterol with Coenzyme Q10 is the real value of this nutrient in helping to treat and prevent heart disease. Given the fact that heart disease is the number one killer of Americans, Coenzyme Q10 may prove to be one of the most effective strategies to keep your cardiovascular system healthy and extend your life.

Green Tea and Cholesterol have been the subject of many research studies that indicate that it a highly beneficial substance for its ability to lower cholesterol naturally, and also provide antioxidant protection to your entire body!

cup of green teaThis age old herbal wonder has been used as a folk remedy for many different conditions in Asia, and has now become popular all over the world as a health sustaining drink.

Drinking tea can be a very healthy habit to get into IF you are drinking the right kind of tea.

What are the benefits for managing cholesterol levels?

Studies have shown that green tea and cholesterol have an inverse relationship, that is higher consumption of green tea results in lower cholesterol levels. Keep in mind that high chlesterol levels are often the body’s way of compensating for deficiencies (like vitamin-d for example), so when a substance seems to lower cholesterol levels it may indicate the body needs that substance to be healthy.

Here is a short list of benefits:

  •     Lower triglycerides
  •     Lower LDL cholesterol
  •     Raise HDL Cholesterol
  •     Boost antioxidant activity
  •     Lower inflammation
  •     Boosts levels of the super antioxidant SOD
  •     Lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer

Lower triglycerides

Green tea can lower triglycerides which in turn will lower LDL cholesterol. This effect on blood fats has been well documented. In addition the antioxidant benefits prevent LDL particles from oxidizing and this is very important for avoiding the artery damage that causes heart attacks.

Lower LDL cholesterol

LDL or “low density lipoproteins” are a big risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Green tea effectively lowers the levels of LDL in your body, removing a serious risk factor for the causation of arterial plaque, heart attacks, and strokes.

Raise HDL cholesterol

By raising HDL levels, green tea further protects arteries from damage caused by oxidized LDL. HDL itself is an antioxidants, and it has been shown that when several antioxidants combine in the body, they have a synergistic effect when combined.

Lower blood pressure

Green tea has a positive effect on blood pressure by promoting function of your arterial lining, which is what regulates blood pressure. This is preferable to the use of prescription drugs which can have serious side effects.

Research done in Japan on over 1,300 Japanese men indicated that green tea and cholesterol were inversely related, the more tea they consumed the more they were able to lower cholesterol naturally.  It can be part of a more natural approach to cholesterol mangement that avoids the serious side effects of using statins. This alone makes the tea worth serious consideration.

Those men who drank 9 cups per day or more had levels of cholesterol that were significantly lower than those drinking 0-2 cups per day. Tea drinking in Japan is a popular custom, and the Japanese are the longest living people in the world on average. While it’s true that the Japanese and Chinese do many healthy things diet and exercise wise, tea drinking is among the healthiest of them all.

Form and dosage

One to ten cups per day will provide benefits for your cardiovascular system, or you may find it more convenient to use in supplement form, consuming one (350-500mg) capsule per day of 95% extract of green tea.

Green tea and cholesterol will continue to be the subject of ongoing research, and it’s likely that this research will uncover even more benefits from using this age old herbal substance. One thing is for sure, and that is that you will get multiple health benefits by enjoying this age old Asian remedy!

What are optimal cholesterol numbers? Doesn’t this contradict the latest theory that cholesterol does NOT cause heart disease. The truth is that it is a “factor” but not the “cause”!

cholesterol numbersHow do we establish what the optimal levels for LDL and HDL are? These are important questions because the idea that cholesterol specifically causes heart disease is so deeply ingrained in the average person (and most doctors as well).

This is a difficult question to answer definitively because the issue is just so complex. I can tell you what some of the guidelines are, and of course they vary from one source to another. There is a generally accepted “optimal range” for cholesterol numbers.

Here are the guidelines issued by the American Heart Association.

 

Desirable Borderline Risk High Risk
Total Cholesterol 200 or less 200-239 240 and over
HDL 60 or higher 40-59 40 or less (men)
HDL 60 or higher 50-59 50 or less (women)
LDL less than 100 130-159 160-189
Triglycerides less than 150 150-199 200-499

 

 

 

 

 

Keep in mind that these guidelines somewhat reflect the influence of the drug industry and their attempts to increase their market for cholesterol lowering drugs called “statins.”

The recommended cholesterol numbers keep being adjusted downward, in my opinion in order to get doctors to prescribe more statin drugs which of course boots revenues of the drug industry.

In addition, there are other tests which are called “inflammatory markers,” that have a direct bearing on your risk for developing heart disease, and these tests should also be used to more accurately determine what your overall risk of cardiovascular disease is.

Once you know your level of risk based on the latest tests and analysis of particle types, then you can target your lifestyle strategies (exercise, diet, and stress reduction) to protect your heart health. This should always be the end point of ANY testing…a program to address whatever risks the tests have identified.

What really DOES Causes Heart Disease?

Here’s a simplified explanation. Heart disease is caused by inflammation. That is what actually damages the lining of your arteries. As Dr. Stephen Sinatra likes to say “Cholesterol is found at the scene of the crime, but it’s not the perpetrator!”

When arteries are damaged, your body uses LDL to try and repair the damage, kind of like patching holes in a wall. Obviously the LDL did not cause the damage, but gets attached to the artery walls and accumulates eventually clogging the artery. This is called an “occlusion.”

When the LDL particles that stick to your arteries become oxidized and thus inflammatory, the process of arteriosclerosis begins. This is where the small highly inflammatory LDL particles called HP(a) come in.

So again, the cholesterol did not initiate the process of heart disease, but it IS an important factor in the progression of heart disease. With that out of the way, lets move on…

Focus on Particle Size and Type, Not Just Cholesterol Numbers

The real focus should be on the type and particle size NOT just the levels. According to Dr. Stephen Sinatra, an integrative cardiologist who is board certified by the American College of Cardiology, if your LDL particles are large and fluffy then you really don’t need to worry so much about your LDL levels.

However if the LDL’s are small dense highly inflammatory particles, then your risk is greatly elevated. There is a test that measures for these small inflammatory particles (HP(a)), called the Lipoprotein Particle Profile (LPP) test.

The LPP test measures the level of HP(a) which is a small dense LDL particle which is very toxic and inflammatory to the blood, potentially causing your blood to become “hyper-coagulated” which is another word for sticky and more likely to clot.

The takeaway message is that if you have this dangerous inflammatory LDL particle, then obviously the higher your total cholesterol numbers, the more of this dangerous particle you have, and the greater your risk. Simply stated, high levels matter when you have dangerous LDL particles in your blood.

So in closing, optimal cholesterol numbers are totally dependent on particle size and type. If your cholesterol particles are the small dense inflammatory type, then you need to make a greater effort to lower your levels.

If your LDL type is large and non-inflammatory, then your total levels are not something to be overly concerned about. You should take the time to consult with an integrative cardiologist to determine how best to manage your heart health.

The VAP cholesterol test is the very latest diagnostic test to determine your risk of heart disease. Standard cholesterol level tests identify only 40% of those at risk for heart disease. In fact, half of all heart attacks are suffered by people with normal levels!

VAP cholesterol testProblems With Traditional Tests

One of the shortcomings of standard tests was that they didn’t measure or identify lipoprotein particles associated with increased inflammation.

Medical science has really caught on to the fact that it’s really the damage that inflammation does to your arteries that causes heart disease.

The old standard for testing was to measure LDL, HDL, and total cholesterol and to use the ratio between LDL and HDL to determine a person’s risk of heart disease. This was fairly accurate for it’s time, but it has been superseded by a new standard for determining your risk.

The old testing protocol produced four measurements:

  • Total cholesterol
  • Triglycerides
  • LDL – Low-density lipoprotein
  • HDL – High-density lipoprotein

Although these four elements do have some value in determining your risk of heart attack, they lack the accuracy of newer test methods in determining risk.

Enter the VAP Cholesterol Test

Medical science has recently developed a newer and more accurate test for heart disease risk called VAP  for (Vertical Auto Profile). This test benefits you in two ways.

  • It is THE most accurate indicator of your risk of heart attack
  • It helps identify various risk factors that you can control to prevent a heart attack

VAP cholesterol test can pinpoint your risk, taking much of the guesswork out of this medical diagnosis. This is very helpful for people who have test results that show normal levels, but who’s true heart attack risk can now be successfully identified.

Not all doctors provide the VAP cholesterol test, but it’s use is increasing as more and more doctors realize their standard testing fails to identify everyone that is at risk.

The VAP test is done the same way as other tests where a nurse or lab technician draws your blood and then sends it to a laboratory which then runs the test and returns the test results to your doctor.

How Does The Test Work?

The test identifies the following:

  • Identifies small dense LDL particles that cause arterial plaque
  • HDL2 and HDL3
  • IDL – Intermediate-density lipoprotein
  • Lipoprotein A
  • (VLDL1, VLDL2, VLDL3) Very low density lipoproteins

These small sub-fractions of cholesterol pose the greatest danger to you. The VAP cholesterol test will identify these particles, their density, and distribution. This information helps your doctor create a customized approach to reducing your risk of a heart attack and strokes.

Standard test results are still valuable as a screening method for heart disease. It is an inexpensive way of determining if you are at increased risk. The addition of the VAP test further clarifies your degree of risk and allows you to make needed lifestyle changes to head off a possible heart attack.

The key is to identify risks early while there is still time to reverse them with diet and exercise rather than drugs such as statins which have toxic side effects. The test really represents an advance in thinking that more accurately gauges how these individual lipoprotein particles affect your overall risk for heart disease.

The VAP cholesterol test will soon become the standard for determining your heart attack risk. This will go a long way toward making heart attacks increasingly rare and survivable! Ask YOUR doctor about the VAP test, and start reducing your risk now!

What is Cholesterol

What is cholesterol? Among other things it is a very much misunderstood substance that people have been unnecessarily frightened of. They have been told repeatedly by “experts and authorities” that it’s a dangerous substance, that must be lowered in your body before it kills you!

what is cholesterolIn this information website, we will try and demystify this perfectly natural substance and disprove once and for all that it causes heart disease! We will also provide good solid information and easy to implement strategies that will help you prevent heart disease instead of just “lowering cholesterol.”

Let’s start with a discussion of  what is cholesterol…

Cholesterol is a fat (also called a lipid) that is made in the liver. It’s part of a class of compounds called steroids which are made in the bodies of all animals. This substance is vital to your body, is transported through the blood, and is contained in the external layers of all cells.

The origin of the word cholesterol originally comes from the word chole which means bile in Greek. The other part of the word derives from the Greek word stereos meaning stiff or solid. This waxy fatty substance is necessary for your cells to maintain their structural integrity.

This is why it is absolutely vital for life, and in fact your body actually manufactures this substance for use in all of your cells. Statin drugs interfere with the production of cholesterol which is why they cause so many side effects.

What is cholesterol used for?

There are many functions for this amazing substance:

  • It is used in creating the myelin that coats and protects your nerves somewhat like the insulation on a wire.
  • It is used for synthesizing bile acids which your body needs for digestion.
  • Your body uses it to make sex hormones (androgens and estrogens) and also in the synthesis of the adrenal hormones such as cortisol and aldosterone.
  • It’s used in to metabolize vitamins A, D, E, and K (the fat soluble vitamins)
  • It is used in the reactions that synthesize vitamin D from sunlight.
  • It’s essential for maintaining the outer structural layer of your cells and also for keeping the cell membranes permeable so that certain molecules can pass through the membrane and enter the cell.

In order to travel through your bloodstream, it needs to have a protein coating and thus becomes something called a “lipoprotein.” They are called lipoprotiens because they contain both protein and fat.

The four main types of these lipoproteins are:

  1. LDL or low density lipoproteins often called bad and are associated with an increased risk of heart disease when they are high
  2. Chylomicrons (triglycerides) consisting of approximately 90%  fat
  3. HDL or high density lipoproteins (often referred to as the “good cholesterol”) HDL is thought to “protect” the arteries from damage by carrying away LDL particles so they can’t build up on your artery walls.
  4. VLDL or very low-density lipoproteins (often referred to as a very bad form of lipoproteins) These particles are considered to have the highest risk of contributing to heart disease because they are small dense highly inflammatory particles that can damage artery walls.

The role of triglycerides…

Triglycerides are fat molecules that come from the fat in the foods we eat, or can be synthesized from carbohydrates that are not burned for energy. These triglycerides are stored in your body and released to be burned for energy when your body does not get enough food to meet it’s energy needs. The truth is that it is triglycerides that really increase the risk of heart disease!
Hypertriglyceridemia is a term used to refer to high levels of triglyceries in the blood and researchers now know that this is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. High glycemic carbohydrates can raise levels of triglycerides and greatly increase risk of heart disease.

While this area is still somewhat controversial, it’s clear that triglycerides have a major role in heart disease and they are increased by sugar consumption. It makes sense for this reason to keep your intake of sugar and high glycemic carbohydrates low to avoid setting yourself up for cardiovascular disease.

A Complex Question…

Doctors have been taught to calculate your risk of heart disease using ratios of these lipoprotein particles. They have also been given guidelines for what the “safe” and “dangerous” levels are.  Now these guidelines have been called into question, as new information has changed what the medical community “thought” they knew!

Even though the question of  what is cholesterol is a complex one, you will see that terms like good  and bad cholesterol are misleading and inaccurate. All of these forms of this vital substance have their necessary roles. Instead we should be looking at the effects of chronic inflammation and how we can neutralize it, because it is really inflammation that causes heart disease!

References:

Curr Cardiol Rep. 2011 Dec;13(6):544-52. doi: 10.1007/s11886-011-0220-3.
The role of triglycerides in atherosclerosis. Talayero BG, Sacks FM.
Source: Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA. btalayer@hsph.harvard.edu