Even the Harvard School of Public Health has come out and said that this whole vilification of dietary cholesterol and eating low fat is a myth. People have been told to avoid butter, eggs, coconut oil and red meat and cheese totally because of the saturated fat. However, these are the foods that our ancestors thrived on for hundreds of thousands of years!
At the Real Food Con, Sean interviewed Jimmy Moore, author of Cholesterol Clarity, What the HDL is Wrong with My Numbers? and blogger at Livin’ La Vida Low Carb. This interview was very enlightening as to what those cholesterol blood tests really mean!
What Do Saturated Fats do?
Aside from making food taste great, saturated fats increase satiety and the ability to go longer between meals. They also raise HDL cholesterol, lower triglycerides and make small dense LDL particles (these are the harmful ones!) less prevalent in the blood.
Saturated fats carry important fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
Fat Does Not Make You Fat
If you prescribe to calorie counting, it does make sense to cut fat — but there is a much more important hormonal impact of food that needs to be considered.
It’ s not the fat — it’s the hormonal impact that is caused by processed carbohydrates that is ruining the health of so many people.
How Did This Vilification of Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Happen?
In the 1950’s a researcher by the name of Ancel Keyes did a study that involved feeding rabbits fat and cholesterol. The rabbits developed heart disease. Well, of course they would — rabbits are herbivores and fat and cholesterol is not their natural diet. Of course they would get sick.
From that flawed study with rabbits, Keyes observed 22 countries around the world with diets high in saturated fat and he tried to correlate this with heart disease.
It turned out that some of the countries had more saturated fat intake and less heart disease, and some had less saturated fat and more heart disease. Since this would not impress anyone in the scientific community, he choose only the 7 countries that fit his hypothesis.
Amazingly he got this study published and was on the front page of Time magazine as this brilliant scientist and innovator who identified a cause for heart disease!
From there, the government started to publish dietary guidelines starting with the food pyramid and today the My Plate. But it is all based on lowering fat and cholesterol and adding sugars and grains!
This is what Big Pharma grabbed onto and started to develop cholesterol lowering drugs. The food industry also jumped in and now every sugary cereal is heart healthy. They are now so entrenched in it and making so much money — there is no turning back.
The Blood Tests
There really is no good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. There is only one cholesterol — LDL and HDL which are lipoprotein cholesterol carriers and they are both equally necessary for health and wellness. LDL carries cholesterol from the liver to the cells. Once the lipoprotein reaches the cell, the cell attaches to it and extracts the fat and cholesterol it needs.
However, we do know that the small dense LDL particles are dangerous. These are the ones to watch, because they can easily penetrate and injure the arterial wall and this leads to inflammation and heart disease.
Two Foods to Avoid
These small dense LDL particles are primarily the result of consuming sugary carbohydrates (sugar and grains). Even worse, industrial vegetable oils will oxidize the good fluffy LDLs and turn them into the small dense LDLs.
These two food items are the critical products that many people consume on a daily basis and this is the source of the heart disease problem we have today.
Total cholesterol is nothing more than the total amount of LDL-C (also know as simply LDL), HDL and VLDL. HDL is the healthy cholesterol and when it is high — which it should be — this will bring up the total cholesterol. When conventional doctors see total cholesterol over a mere 200 they jump on the statin band wagon and frighten misinformed people with this totally fake number.
Because cholesterol is not soluble in a watery environment (the environment of the tissues and cells), they need a vehicle to cart them around in. Lipoproteins fit the bill and are the carrier proteins for cholesterol — they are sort of like taxi cabs for cholesterol.
Recent research in the development of atherosclerosis and the role oxidation and inflammation play, has indicated that cholesterol in itself does not cause atherosclerosis. It is only when cholesterol bound to atherogenic lipoproteins becomes trapped within the arterial wall, that it becomes a part of the atherosclerotic process. It does this by causing an inflammatory response within the arterial wall and this damages the artery.
LDL-C is a calculated number using an equation — so it is not a direct count of the particles. There is a test called the NMR LipoProfile Test, which will give an exact measure of the types of particles of LDL, but it is not typically performed. LDL is usually described as mostly large fluffy, or mostly small dense.
LDL particles also carry molecules other than cholesterol. LDL particles also carry triglycerides. Furthermore, there is an association between serum triglycerides and the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Triglyceride molecules are larger in size than cholesterol molecules. If the number of triglyceride molecules in an LDL-particle is high, there will be less space for cholesterol molecules. It has been speculated that if triglycerides are high, it may take many more LDL particles to carry a given amount of cholesterol. Therefore high LDL particle count may be associated with small, cholesterol depleted, triglyceride rich particles.
This study published in Arteriosclerosis and Thrombosis in 1992, shows that high levels of triglycerides are associates with small LDL particle size. Therefore, triglyceride count IS important.
Particle size is important, but generally LDL on a typical blood test is a multiplicity of numbers in the particle breakdown in the cholesterol profile.
What’s Most Important?
HDL and triglycerides are more important that total cholesterol number and LDL. Triglycerides are a tell tale marker of carbohydrate intake. If it is under 100 (below 70 optimal) you are eating the right amount of carbs. This will be different between people, because some people can eat more carbs and still stay below 70.
There are lots of health claims about healthy whole grains — but grains were not part of the food culture until the last 10 thousand years. Our Paleolithic ancestors did not consume grains as we know them today.
What Can You Do?
You want to increase the large fluffy LDL particles and you can do this by eating saturated fat from healthy sources.
You want to remove the threat of oxidizing the large fluffy LDL cholesterol particles you have and turning them into dangerous small particles. You can do this by removing all the industrial vegetable oils from your diet immediately!
You want to have an HDL above 50 and optimally above 70. The way to raise HDL is to eat saturated fats — also exercising consistently will raise HDL.
On the grocery shelves are the conventional vegetable oils which are highly processed and loaded with omega 6 fats which are highly inflammatory. Toxic Oil is a book written by David Gillespie and in it, he explains how these oils batter the large fluffy LDL particles and leave behind the oxidized small dense LDL particles.
What are the Good Fats?
Coconut oil will raise HDL and improve ketone production for fat burning as energy.
Butter and lard are real foods and have been eaten for ages. When they are sourced from pasture raised animals they contain healthy saturated fats. Do not use the lard from the conventional grocery.
Saturated fats from pasture feed animals contain loads of CLA and this is a fat that actually helps you lose weight.
You must be careful with olive oil because some olive oils can legally be mixed with up to 40% omega 6 vegetable oils like soy and corn (these are also genetically modified). Most olive oil in the conventional grocery in not 100%.
Cod Liver Oil
Cod liver oil provides omega 3 fats that the heart needs to function well — as well as essential vitamins A, D, and K.
Heart Healthy Claims on Cereal
These claims are all about lowering LDL — the grains will lower LDL but it is lowering the wrong kind. According to Moore, vegetable oils lower LDL-C, the good part of LDL, but it increases the amount of small dense LDL.
Cereal is NOT a health food for many reasons, but the American Heart Association puts their stamp of approval on these foods simply because they were able to show that they lower the LDL number and the total cholesterol number.
What If Cholesterol Goes Way Up With Real Food Diet?
Cholesterol is not the enemy. The healthiest groups in the world have high cholesterol. Cholesterol is not the marker of your state of health. Cholesterol is not a disease. The disease develops when there is inflammation. A blood test for inflammation is C- Reactive Protein (CRP) — imaging tests include a CIMT or heart scan to show plaque in the arteries.
As you age the cholesterol goes up naturally — remember that historically, the groups with high levels of cholesterol lived the longest.
Statins will lower cholesterol and will cause lots of side effects that include, neurodegenerative effects like Alzheimer’s and dementia, global transient amnesia, muscle pain, diabetes and cancer.
Cholesterol is not the enemy. Cholesterol is your friend. Saturated fat is your friend. Embrace them. Don’t fear them.
Of course you should speak with your health care provider when making changes to diet or medication. See my disclaimer.
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