cholesterol

I have never had a guest post on Live Free From Obesity before, but my FB friend, Deborah Dunkerton, posted this on the Ketogenic Diet Group on Facebook and I thought it was so good, I asked her to allow me to post it as a guest post.  Over to you, Deborah:

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16 July 02:55
This will be long winded ;)

Reading James’s post and seeing the comments about cholesterol give me this funny little eye twitch.

First a disclaimer: I am not a professional on this subject but I have studied it INTENSIVELY for more than five years, and I discount any silly sensationalist web sites that make wild claims, I zero in on rational valid studies and even then I’ve spent hours pulling apart the data to draw my own conclusions.

Time for a little cholesterol 101.

Traditional western medicine would have you believe your body is some kind of ticking time bomb primed to self-destruct at any time. Why this is I’m not sure; I’m not one for conspiracy theories but it is in their interest to make you believe that you can’t possibly survive without their help or intervention.

Contrary to that philosophy, CAM (Complementary Alternative Medicine) will tell you that your body is an amazing machine capable of healing itself from just about anything, given the right fuel.

Humans are the most adaptable higher-order animals on the planet: we survive on every continent in every extreme. We can eat anything, from insects to elephants.  The only thing we can’t digest is grass, but we can eat the things that eat the grass.

Because of this adaptability and our superior brain capacity, we have thrived for millennia to become the dominant species on the planet–keep that in mind the next time your doctor tells you to eat some processed chemical-laden food to keep you healthy.

So to cholesterol: cholesterol is essential for just about every function of the human body, for healing, hormone regulation and nervous function.

Without it, you’re dead.

Your body doesn’t produce cholesterol as some kind of self-destruct mechanism, it produces what it needs in response to the requirements of your body – if your cholesterol is high IT’S HIGH FOR A REASON and that almost certainly will not be because you ate too much butter.

The vast majority of cholesterol in your body is produced by your own liver (more than 95% IIRC [James: I think it's more like 80%, but who's quibbling?]), a tiny proportion comes from ingested cholesterol but is normally excreted, and cholesterol has too many specific functions for the body to simply use the cholesterol from another species or plant.

Cholesterol is essential for healthy cardiovascular function – and here is where the issue arises. To cut a long explanation short, your body uses cholesterol to deal with inflammation in your arteries, the cholesterol is not a bystander but it’s also not the cause. When artery walls become inflamed (imagine rubbing them with sandpaper) your liver produces a special kind of cholesterol to smooth and cover the damage, cells then grow over that smoothed layer and the cholesterol is trapped in the artery walls. If you don’t address the cause of the inflammation the body continues to smooth over the damage resulting in a thickening of the artery walls and eventually blockage. Researchers find cholesterol at the site of arterial sclerosis and blame the cholesterol but really that’s like shooting the fireman at the scene of a fire.

To complicate matters further small particle LDL (oxidized cholesterol) tends to get trapped in these narrowed arterial sections exacerbating the problem.

So what is the real cause of arterial inflammation?

High blood sugar is the first culprit and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) are now thought to be another culprit (seed oils like sunflower and canola). So the very diet they tell you to eat to avoid heart disease actually causes it in the first place.

If your cholesterol is high you need to go look for the reasons.  It takes a good six months on a ketogenic diet to bring cholesterol levels down to normal, and this depends on you not having any other inflammatory processes as well. Myself for instance, I have a food intolerance, my C reactive protein and cholesterol skyrocketed when that manifested itself quite suddenly after a period of intense stress and a bout of shingles. These days my cholesterol sits slightly above normal because I continue to deal with the food intolerance (which ironically involves green vegetables), but I look on that as fine: it means my body is dealing with the issue.

Another issue and the one that makes my eye twitch go crazy is Statins. [James: me too--"On Statins, Cholesterol and the Like"]

My personal opinion is that taking statins to reduce cholesterol is borderline malpractice.

Even disregarding the issue of messing with a perfectly-tuned system of hormone balance, statins stop the body’s production of CoQ10 which is essential for cardiac health. On top of that, you leave yourself open to liver damage, onset of T2 diabetes, nerve damage, impaired brain function and muscle damage.

Oh and girls, taking statins can lead to early onset menopause because it messes with hormone production.

Coronary Calcium Scan

A word about the “accepted” levels of cholesterol as advised by the health authorities – the level used to be much higher, but because of research by the drug companies (and we know that research is fair and balanced right?) the level was lowered drastically, that coincidentally caused tens of millions of Americans to be classified with high cholesterol and put onto cholesterol lowering medications thereby boosting the profits of the drug companies. Pfizer is actually lobbying the FDA to take Lipitor off the prescription list so it can be bought off the shelf in the US. Lipitor is the biggest selling drug of all time, $3 billion a year last I checked, its in their best interests for you to worry about cholesterol levels.

Bottom line: eat a healthy low-carb diet and stop worrying about your cholesterol.  Iif you’re worried about your heart health then ask for a coronary calcium scan.

If you want to watch a real eye opening documentary on statins I highly recommend you go buy this DVD, http://www.statinnation.net/

OK, now my eye has stopped twitching :)

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$tatin Nation Trailer

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdHQQpcXjf4

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A couple of weeks ago I needed to see the diabetic nurse at my GP Practice.  Expecting that she wouldn’t have heard of the Ketogenic Diet, I produced a one-page introduction that I (and you) can download and print out.  It’s here, if you would like it: A One-page Intro to Ketogenic Diets to hand to medical sceptics.

She had a look at my recent blood results: (you’re welcome to have a look if you’re interested: Blood Results James Hardiman 2013 07 03) and said my cholesterol was high and handed me a highly-coloured sheet of advice for people with high cholesterol.  I was going to scan it, but it’s too much of a hassle, for no benefit to anyone.  If you want to know what Flora Pro-Activ say about cholesterol, and themselves, try their website.  I was shocked at this blatant commercialism, getting my health professional to push their stuff, especially when it tells me to eat bread spread with margarine as a “heart-healthy diet”.

I whinged about it on Facebook and a good friend came back to me with a link to an article in the Ecologist: “Behind the label: Flora Pro-Activ“.  By now I was pretty unhappy, so I have made that article into a printable one-pager, together with one-pagers from two of my own blog posts: Is There Good and Bad Cholesterol? and On Statins, Cholesterol and the Like.  To download these articles, right-click on the link below and choose Save As.

No.

End of post?  Well, perhaps not, as so many people seem to think there are.  I have written about cholesterol before (“On Statins, Cholesterol and the Like“) but I am still getting questions, so perhaps I’d better explain.  But first a simple test.  Can you tell the difference between the various pictures below?

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Bus

Taxi

People

People

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We hear about cholesterol and we hear about HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.  HDL and LDL are not cholesterol. They are vehicles for transporting cholesterol, hence the silly question above.

For cholesterol: think “people”.  For HDL think “bus” and for LDL think “taxi”.  HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein) and LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein) are the vehicles used to carry cholesterol around your body.

Cholesterol is vital: it’s in pretty much every cell of your body, and it is nearly all (over 80%) manufactured in your liver.  The amount of cholesterol derived from dietary sources is pretty low.  After your liver has manufactured cholesterol it is loaded into taxis and shipped out to whichever part of your body needs new cholesterol.  Worn out cholesterol is loaded onto buses and shipped back for repair or discard.

Now, what is of interest is, do you have big taxis or small taxis, and how crowded is the highway?  Buses are no problem, big taxis are no problem; it’s having rush-hour numbers of small taxis that causes hardening of the arteries.

High LDL-P

High LDL-P (Mumbai tuk tuk taxis)
(Courtesy Joel Duncan Photography)

The big taxis come from eating animal-based food, by and large.  The tuk-tuks come from eating carbohydrates. Don’t take it from this old man.  Hear a top expert on “It’s not the passengers, it’s the cars”.  You will hear them talk about particles.  Those are particles of LDL: that’s taxis.  LDL particles come as big and fluffy (big taxis) or small and hard (tuk tuks).  When they talk about LDL-P that’s a count of particles: how crowded the road is.  When they mention atherosclerosis, that’s what we non-medical folk call “hardening of the arteries”.

Here’s Dr Tara Dall:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fLuxjQ2s6s

For more information, the “go-to” place is Chris Masterjohn’s http://www.cholesterol-and-health.com/, but he’s not the only one.  The good folks at http://coconutoil.com/ are also talking about it: “Putting The Myth To Rest: There Is No Such Thing As Bad Cholesterol“.

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