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.

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.

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.

High cholesterol symptoms are not something you are going to notice. In fact they are almost non existent! The real relationship between cholesterol and heart disease kind of forced me to write this article backwards.

high cholesterol symptomsThe truth is that high cholesterol (let’s call anything beyond about 280 mg/dl high) is itself a symptom of other medical problems. You see, cholesterol is made by the body and used in all sorts of important biochemical reactions, some having to do with healing and the immune system.

Cholesterol also serves as an antioxidant as well, and your body will make more of it when you are faced with any kind of a health crisis or trauma, because it’s part of the protective and healing systems of the body.

So when cholesterol is elevated, it can be an indicator that something is wrong in the body, and that the body is attempting to heal or correct the problem.

Are there any real high cholesterol symptoms?

The answer is yes, although it’s not something that you would feel or notice on a day to day basis. It can show up during an eye examination. Your eye doctor may notice a buildup of cholesterol deposits in your eyes.

This CAN be an indicator of high cholesterol (kind of a “silent symptom”) that is itself, a symptom of other medical problems.

Arcus Senilis

There is a condition that affects the eyes called Arcus Senilis where a white or gray ring develops around the cornea of the eye.  It CAN be caused by elevated cholesterol, but not always. The rings come from cholesterol deposits but may be due to a metabolic disorder, rather than very high levels of cholesterol.

If you notice these rings, of course you should have your eyes checked, but again, this does not mean that you necessarily have a high cholesterol level. You eye doctor may recommend that you see another specialist and have the necessary tests done to determine if indeed your lipid profile (fat levels) are really elevated.

In people over 40, this condition is not all that uncommon, but really isn’t a reason for concern. In younger people it can be due to something called familial hyperlipidemia, which is a genetic condition where the person tends to have high levels of fats in their blood. In any case, if you have this condition, the best strategy is to have an eye exam and a full blood lipid screening.

The bottom line is that Arcus Senilis is a normal occurrence after 40 years of age. It’s nothing to get stressed about, but just follow up and get your blood lipids tested by your doctor. If you are a young person, it may indicate a problem with cholesterol metabolism and again should be checked out and dealt with accordingly.

High Cholesterol Symptoms That Are Silent

Again, try not to think of “high cholesterol” in and of itself as THE problem. For the most part, it’s an indicator that your body is trying to deal with another problem and the elevation in cholesterol is just it’s way of doing so. This is known in medicine as “acquired hyperlipidemia,” which means high blood fats due to some medical condition that is causing elevations in your cholesterol levels.

Your body may increase it’s cholesterol levels in response to health issues like:

  • Vitamin-D deficiency
  • Hypothyroid (sluggish thyroid function)
  • Cushings Disease (which causes chronically elevated cortisol levels)
  • Anorexia
  • Problems with your hormones and metabolism
  • Kidney disease
  • Alcoholism and alcohol toxicity
  • Diabetes and pre-diabetes

Obviously these are serious medical conditions and if you have any of these issues, your doctor should be monitoring your blood lipid profile (cholesterol and triglycerides) on a constant basis.

Drugs that Affect Cholesterol Levels

  • Estrogen and Corticosteroids (can raise HDL and Triglycerides)
  • Oral Anabolic steroids ( lower HDL)
  • Birth Control (can raise cholesterol)
  • Beta Blockers (can raise triglycerides and lower HDL)
  • Thiazide Diuretics (can raise cholesterol and triglycerides)
  • Retinoids (can increase LDL and triglycerides)

Of course if you are on any of these medications, you will have to discuss the side effects and risk to benefit ratio with your doctor. Don’t just go off medications without consulting your doctor, because this can have serious consequences.

If you are searching for an healthier or less risky alternative to drugs, that’s great, but you have to do that under the guidance of a physician who knows your medical history and can help you do so safely.

High cholesterol symptoms are a sign that there are important health issues that you and your doctor need to be dealing with. Since most people get routine lipid screenings your doctor should be aware of your lipid profile and it’s implications, but always do your own research and work with your doctor to identify problem areas and find the healthiest solutions you can for them.

Cholesterol too low, how can this be a problem? We have all heard about the supposed relationship of heart disease to cholesterol levels, so we assume that lower is better. NOT SO!

cholesterol too lowEverything in your body is based on maintaining a balance, and cholesterol profiles are no exception.  Low cholesterol levels can be just as unhealthy as levels that are too high.

The belief that simply lowering cholesterol will protect you from heart attacks has been encouraged by the pharmaceutical industry and those medical professionals that serve it.  While cholesterol is a factor, there are other things involved such as inflammation, that make a big difference.

The risks of various serious medical conditions rise for those individuals having a total cholesterol level of under 160 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter).  That said, some experts recommend that the ideal is somewhere between 180mg/dl and 200mg/dl for total cholesterol, (but even this is subject to controversy)

What causes low cholesterol?

Cholesterol that’s too low can be caused by:

  • Use of statin drugs
  • Malnutrition
  • Malabsorption – inadequate absorption of nutrients from the intestines
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Liver dysfunction
  • Manganese deficiency
  • Celiac disease
  • Leukemia and other blood diseases

Please note:  Excessively low cholesterol levels need to be evaluated by a trained medical professional to determine the cause and the proper treatment. It is important not only to know what causes low cholesterol, but also having a proper treatment strategy in place to make sure you address it.

When you optimize cholesterol naturally, this is not a problem, because you are not trying to curtail your own body’s production of cholesterol, but rather preventing re-absorption through the large intestine.

You will NOT bring your cholesterol too low with this approach.

Effects of low cholesterol

Hypocholesterolemia – cholesterol too low, has been associated with a number of serious medical disorders such as:

  • Reduced production of your body’s steroid hormones
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Increased risk of strokes
  • Increased risk of depression/bipolar disorder
  • Increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Possible loss of memory
  • Increased risk of suicide
  • Increased risk of schizophrenia

Effects of low cholesterol are very serious, and you need to focus not on simply lowering cholesterol, but achieving a healthy level based on your individual biochemistry.  With cholesterol too low, many vital chemical processes can’t be completed properly.

Cholesterol too low? – So what is the right approach?

The correct approach is not to simply focus on lowering cholesterol, just as weight loss should not simply be about losing weight.  Rather than making your cholesterol too low, this process will allow you to achieve the right balance.

That process includes:

  • Proper eating
  • Proper exercise
  • Nutritional supplementation
  • Stress reduction

Proper eating should include foods that are low in cholesterol but also nutrient dense, and which contain plenty of fiber. This is because fiber can absorb excess cholesterol as it passes through the large intestine and is then excreted out of the body in the stool.  The recommended fiber consumption is about 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men.

Proper exercise is short and intense, like interval training, but ultimately should be moderated by the age and physical condition of the person doing it. Be cautious and seek professional guidance in setting up an exercise program if you are an older person, or if you have a serious medical condition.

Nutritional supplementation should include full spectrum vitamin and mineral formula. A high quality fish oil is also a key supplement that will lower your risk of heart disease and every other medical condition you can think of. Sufficient levels of omega 3 fatty acids are essential to good health, and fish oil supplies these.

Stress reduction uses various techniques to lower stress and promote relaxation and tranquility. Among these, grounding is one of the most effective. Other strategies like meditation, the speed trace, and various other relaxation techniques can be very effective.

Having your cholesterol too low is a risk factor for chronic disease. A balanced approach, rather than just low cholesterol levels is the answer. Doing the things mentioned above should allow you to naturally achieve the right balance.

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!