It has come to my attention that there is still a misconception within the community about cholesterol and its nasty intentions for our health! It is true that for many years we have been told by various health professionals that too much cholesterol will lead to heart disease and ultimately an untimely demise unless we get it under control.
Recent research and studies have found that perhaps we need to question this long standing belief about cholesterol.
First things first…
WHAT IS CHOLESTEROL?
Despite what you may have been told, cholesterol is not a fat, it is a type of alcohol called a sterol. Sterols have two parts, one that dissolves in water and the other that dissolves in fat. This allows cholesterol to travel in the blood which is water based while also carrying fat based products.
Cholesterol is in every cell of your body, forming the part of the cell membrane. Our cells actually make cholesterol and so does our liver.
Cholesterol travels in our bloodstream with lipoproteins attached. These lipoproteins are full of fats, proteins and nutrients like Vitamin D. So essentially cholesterol is like a car and the lipoproteins are the trailer on the back, delivering nutrients where they are needed in the body.
The lipoproteins form within the small intestines and start to bind and gather nutrients in preparation to deliver them to tissues in need via the bloodstream. The lipoproteins are either classed as high density (HDL) or low density (LDL). Neither is good nor bad, but a problem does arise when more LDL’S are delivered to damaged tissues and this then results in inflammation.
What is also important is the type of fat that the LDL particles are carrying. If they are carrying lots of damaged and oxidized fats then this is what will be delivered to your cell membranes thus further increasing inflammation and the risks of diseases associated with inflammation. Imagine the car trailer carrying nice fresh leaves or dried up old twigs. The “dried up old twigs” are not as nourishing as the leaves.
The types of fats that can cause this type of damage are called PUFAs (polyunsaturated fats). These are found in oils like corn oil, soybean oil, and canola and cotton seed. They are often poorly processed and are predisposed to oxidation. Oxidation is when there is damage done to the cell, like cutting an apple open and it browning. The sorts of oil that are used within processed and packaged foods are what causes this oxidation (or “browning” so to speak).
WHAT ABOUT PLAQUE FORMATION?
Once the LDL has delivered the oxidized PUFA fats inside the artery wall the body recognises that there could be a potential for cell damage so it sends in the team of macrophages and white blood cells (these act like soldiers) to clear away the oxidised fats. The white blood cell response leads to increased inflammation and plaque will begin to harden, potentially leading to obstruction. Why HDL gets a good wrap is because they can deliver anti-oxidants like Vitamin E which can counter balance the damage caused by the LDL carrying PUFAs. Hence the reason why there is such a focus on the HDL levels in comparison to LDL.
WHAT CAN WE DO TO AVOID PUFAs AND HAVE HEALTHY LDLs?
If we can work towards having less inflammation within the body, there will be a decrease in the over production of cholesterol. We also need to make sure that the type of fats available for the LDLs to gather are not of the PUFA origin. We can do this by consuming a diet that is rich in healthy fats like: coconut oil, grass fed butter, avocado, and ghee and avoid the unhealthy PUFA fats found in vegetable oils and processed, packaged foods. That means margarine is out and butter is back in!
It has been found in recent studies that the cholesterol within our food does not actually raise our own cholesterol but foods that cause inflammation are more the culprit. We need to try and eliminate highly refined and processed foods and balance them with foods that are high in nutrients such as fruit, vegetables and nuts, seeds and other wholefoods (foods that haven’t been processed) to ensure we have healthy well-functioning cholesterol.Are you concerned about your cholesterol levels? Has your healthcare provider told you that you need to “get your cholesterol down?”. Why not call Emma Tippett for a free 10 minute phone briefing on how you can learn about eating the right foods so that your cholesterol is within the happy range, but more importantly, that you are transporting the right fats and nutrients to the right cells. Call to make a time on 1300 21 44 25.