Lower Cholesterol Decreases Heart Disease Risk: Fact or Fiction?

Lowers Cholesterol - Healthy Woman

We have all heard (or read) lower cholesterol decreases  risk of heart disease.  However, emerging research clearly shows the opposite of what everyone believes about cholesterol.  What the research shows is that low cholesterol dramatically increases the risk of mortality in people over 60.

Simply put lowering cholesterol does not lower the risk of heart disease.  The French Paradox is an excellent proof of this.  In France, people eat high amounts of saturated fat and yet have lower heart disease rate.  However, once you understand that cholesterol does not cause heart disease, it is no longer a paradox.  After decades of being told to lower cholesterol, it is time we call this fiction. If cholesterol were the problem, Americans would surely have less heart disease by now. Instead, we have more heart disease now.

Here are a few links to some of the study summaries:

  • In a 2003 study of 4500 older men and women, researchers in Rome found that low Total Cholesterol “was associated with a higher risk of death”.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12834520
  • If you’re over 65, your chances of death from all causes DOUBLE the lower your cholesterol gets. In this patient population, low cholesterol is “a robust predictor of mortality.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15673344
  • A 2010 study from Finland found that “participants with low serum total cholesterol seem to have a lower survival rate than participants with an elevated cholesterol level, irrespective of concomitant diseases or health status.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20470020

The Cholesterol Theory of Heart Disease is wrong. It ignores the principles of human biology revealed in the last 30 years of scientific investigation into cardiovascular function, health and disease. Cholesterol does not cause cholesterol to build up in your arteries. Oxidative stress causes damage, which the body tries to repair with cholesterol and other deposits in the arteries.  Oxidized cholesterol is the only “bad” cholesterol.  LDL cholesterol is benign until it is oxidized.  Our bodies use cholesterol to make every critical hormone.  Unless we all understand the biological and molecular causes of heart disease, we will continue to fail to solve this problem.

If lower cholesterol is not the solution, what do we do now?  We still need to make changes in our diet, nutrition and lifestyle.  Instead of a low fat and low cholesterol diet, we should have the nutrients that support a healthy cardiovascular system.  Before I share a glimpse into my recommended nutrition and lifestyle changes, let me briefly mention the processes that contribute to an unhealthy heart and circulatory system.

Inflammation is a big part of the puzzle, measured by CRP, fibrinogen, and homocysteine levels.  In addition, we must address oxidative stress, inflammatory gene expression, and metabolic cardiology.  Dr Steven Sinatra, a cardiologist, refers to metabolic cardiology as the “missing link in cardiovascular medicine”.  A measure of oxidative stress is 8-hydroxy-2-deoxyguanosine, easily measured in the urine, as I’ve previously written in a blog post titled, “Cancer Prevention Strategies”.

The following are the cardio-specific nutrition:

  • Using Dr Sinatra’s approach, adequate amounts of co-enzyme Q10, propionyl-l-carnitine, and d-ribose are the three nutrients that have preventive effects against heart disease.
  • Pomegranate is good, because it is potent enough to influence gene expression and prevent some measure of arterial oxidative stress. Its specific polyphenols may reverse arterial plaque to some degree.
  • The spices are all good and well-recommended as dietary additions (spices are antioxidants), but none are potent enough to reverse Coronary Heart Failure (CHF) or atherosclerosis by themselves.
  • Let’s not forget the natural source antioxidants, such as the gamma, delta, and alpha-tocopherols and tocotrienols (the “powerhouse” forms of vitamin E), and the carotenoids (vitamin A), and mixed ascorbates (vitamin C).

Regarding lifestyle, you need to manage stress and relationships well, and exercise regularly.  You will need to understand which exercises strengthen the heart and those that deplete the heart.  All of these lifestyle factors are all are important, however, the most important factor is intelligently applied cardio-specific nutrition.

There is presently a plethora of good science.  It is time we apply them.  Let’s spread the word.

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