Balancing cholesterol naturally (Part 1)

We are constantly being told that high cholesterol is the cause of heart disease. If this is the case then we would expect to find that people who have had heart attacks have high cholesterol. Reality though is different.

Cholesterol levels in those with a heart attack

Hospitals in the US have been recording cholesterol levels of those people admitted with heart attacks. We would expect to find a nice clear relationship between the so called ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and heart attacks.

The study involved over 135,000 people hospitalised in the US over a 10 year period. What they found was about half of the people who had a heart attack had LDL cholesterol levels in the normal or low range. This is not what researchers were expecting.

You can read the study at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19081406

The researchers’ commented:

“Thus, a substantial proportion of patients present with their first or recurrent CHD events
well within the current guideline-recommended targets for LDL.” 

The relationship between LDL cholesterol and heart disease was at best inconclusive. What they did find however was that there was a clear relationship between ‘good’ HDL cholesterol and heart attacks. The researchers found that most people who have heart attacks have low levels of protective HDL.

What’s really happening in your arteries?

Oxidation is a common body process where electrons are moved from one molecule to another. This is essential for extracting energy from food but can damage our cells causing disease. Fats such as cholesterol are especially vulnerable to damage from oxidation. This changes cholesterol from its benign ‘native’ form to its dangerous oxidised form which can cause heart disease.

It is generally accepted that cholesterol only becomes dangerous when smaller particles of LDL cholesterol become trapped within blood vessel walls. These are then changed by oxidative stress (free radical damage) and inflammation to a dangerous oxidised form. It is this oxidised cholesterol that triggers a process that leads to artery blocking plaques.

Immune cells ‘gobble’ up the oxidised cholesterol as they would invading bacteria. The problem is that this accumulates in the immune cell till it is full of oxidised cholesterol and change to a ‘foam cell’ which is the first step in forming plaques in arteries.

Also, the supposedly ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol actually comes in different shapes and sizes. Larger LDL particles are relatively benign as their large size makes it difficult to penetrate blood vessel walls. Smaller LDL particles are more volatile and potentially dangerous as these easily move into the walls of blood vessels where they are sitting ducks for free radicals.

Eating for cardiovascular health

It is generally agreed that the best diets for heart health are low in sugars, refined carbohydrates and inflammatory fats especially meat fats and omega 6 rich plant oils. Conversely cardio-protective diets are high in plant foods (especially low starch vegetables and legumes) while high in oily fish and anti-inflammatory Omega 3 and monounsaturated oils.

It is worth remembering that excess carbohydrates result in your body having to deal with excess blood sugar.  If this cannot be used for energy it is stored as triglycerides in fat cells. Please contact me for personalised food advice for your circumstances.

Beneficial supplements

Fortunately we have protection against this process. When the liver is making the LDL carriers to move cholesterol around the body, it builds in vitamin E to prevent dangerous oxidation.  Other antioxidants patrol our blood and prevent the same type of damage including vitamin C, the antioxidants in grape seeds (OPC) and Co enzyme Q10.

Another group of compounds called polymethoxylated flavones extracted from tangerine skins have some special tricks. As potent antioxidants they help to reduce cholesterol oxidation. Secondly they help balance the cholesterol we produce in particular the important ratio between HDL and LDL. They then help remove oxidised cholesterol and use this as a source of energy for your body. These are particularly effective when combined with a form of vitamin E from palm fruit as in Sytrinol®.

Only supplements can deliver sufficient flavones to influence cholesterol balance.  Sytrinol® is ideal for those who cannot tolerate cholesterol lowering medications or for those who would prefer a more natural solution.

We have seen excellent results with Sytrinol® when used as part of a cholesterol balance programme. In particular blood tests after 3 months use usually show improvements in the all-important LDL-HDL ratio.

John Arts (B.Soc.Sci, Dip Tch, Adv.Dip.Nut.Med.) is a nutritional medicine practitioner and founder of Abundant Health. If you have questions or need help you can contact John 0800 423559.  You can email John at john@abundant.co.nz.

Please note that the health advice given through this column is for general educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any health problem. © John Arts 2019

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