Searching for products?

Abnormal Cholesterol

Definition, Diagnosis, and Natural Treatment

Introduction:

Why Everything You Think About Cholesterol is Probably Wrong

Table of Contents

Everyone knows someone who is “watching their cholesterol.” But what does that mean exactly? What are people watching, and why is it important to pay attention to your cholesterol levels?  

What truly defines abnormal cholesterol? When is it necessary to do something about your cholesterol? Is all cholesterol bad? 

The documentary Statin Nation: The Great Cholesterol Cover-Up presented by Rethink Productions provides powerful evidence that the widely-held ideology that high cholesterol causes heart disease is entirely false. 

This film pulls the cover back on the real reason behind millions of statin (cholesterol-lowering) prescriptions being written each year – profit.

Statin drugs are money in the bank for pharmaceutical industries, and the more people are convinced that cholesterol is the enemy, the more money they make.

When you hear the word cholesterol, where does your mind immediately go? Perhaps to visions of greasy burger joints or bacon and eggs frying in a pan. Do you know that these visions are not your own but have been creatively fabricated and implanted in your mind by overzealous, greedy pharmaceutical marketing giants whose only agenda is profit? 

The words cholesterol and clogged arteries seem synonymous even though there is no scientific proof that one leads to the other. The modern medical community needs a primer class on cholesterol to get this right once and for all. Grab your notebook as we embark on that class right now.

If you have never heard any of this before, if this is new to you, we at Natural Heart Doctor are so glad that you landed on this page. We are committed to setting things straight once and for all when it comes to cholesterol.

Before proceeding, it is essential to get one thing clear:

Saturated Fat and Cholesterol DO NOT CAUSE HEART DISEASE.

Humans have survived for a very, very long time eating fats. 

Ninety-nine percent of our existence on earth consists of eating vegetables, fruits, protein, and fats, with saturated fat making up 7.5 percent of our ancestor’s diets.

So we must ask the question: If saturated fat is so bad for our hearts, how have humans continued to thrive? Wouldn’t our species have died out a long time ago? First, you must understand that your DNA and genetics are nearly perfect and are not trying to kill you. Let’s unpack this.

Debunking the Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Myth

Where did this notion that saturated fat causes heart disease come from? The first demonization of saturated fat came in the 1950s when physiologist Ancel Keys published a well-known paper, now deemed The Seven Countries Study.” Ancel Keys was a public health scientist and the inventor of K rations eaten by millions of soldiers during WWII.

Observing that death rates due to heart disease in the United States population were climbing, Keys set out to examine the relationship between saturated fat and heart disease across multiple countries. 

Keys concluded that the more fat people consume, the higher the cholesterol in the blood, meaning the higher the rates of heart disease.

Despite much controversy around the study’s validity, this “lipid hypothesis” became widely accepted scientific dogma. The vegetable oil and food processing industry exploded on the wings of this lie. 

The American Heart Association shared the message, and the media brought it to the people. The low-fat processed food craze had begun. 

What some scientists failed to acknowledge was that animal fat and butter consumption were declining, while vegetable oils, margarine, and sugar intake were on the rise. Cardiac disease continued to explode. Perhaps saturated fat was not the culprit. 

It sounds legitimate enough, right? It’s easy to envision that food rich in saturated fat and cholesterol like bacon and eggs could easily cause a build-up of fat in arteries leading to heart disease. HOWEVER, the BIG problem with this theory is lost in the translation – literally. 

There is NO scientific evidence to prove dietary saturated fat and cholesterol correlate to increased bodily cholesterol and heart disease. 

But there is plenty of evidence supporting that eating certain real foods containing cholesterol is good for health. 

Sadly, as Americans followed the advice of Keys, millions succumbed to chronic disease, including heart disease, while consuming diets loaded with refined carbohydrates, hydrogenated oils, and artificial ingredients.

Did You know?

Along with humans, all mammals, including cows, chickens, dogs, cats, and even gorillas, make cholesterol. If it is so bad for us, why do we make it? The answer is, it’s not bad at all. In fact, it’s vital to life. If the body is making it, it has a purpose!

If you have questions about cholesterol, you are in the right place. We at Natural Heart Doctor understand your confusion and are here to help. After reading this article, you will have a better understanding of the following:

  • What is cholesterol?
  • What are the subtypes of cholesterol?
  • Why can’t you live without cholesterol?
  • Factors that cause abnormal cholesterol and lipid ratios
  • Why pharmaceuticals are NOT a real solution
  • Testing for abnormal cholesterol
  • How to reverse and prevent abnormal cholesterol naturally
  • Evidence-based supplements for abnormal cholesterol

Every animal on planet earth makes cholesterol.

Dr. Jack Wolfson

Chapter 1:

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a small molecule containing three elements (or atoms) – carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. That’s it, three simple elements. So scary, right?

Cholesterol contains the three building blocks of life and is a pretty basic structure that has been around since the dawn of creation. 

Cholesterol is a soft, white, waxy molecule found in every cell in the body. It does not like water – this is called hydrophobic. It enjoys the company of fat instead. 

Envision a pot of homemade chicken soup that you left out on the counter overnight. When you lift off the lid, you see a thick layer of fat and cholesterol hanging out together.

The human body makes about enough cholesterol daily (1000mg) to fill a small vitamin capsule.

The average person in the United States consumes about  200-300mg of cholesterol daily, or about the weight of three raindrops. 

Most of the cholesterol from food is not absorbed but passed in the stool. This is because the gut prefers the cholesterol made in the liver to what we eat.

Hold this truth in your mind for later! When you eat refined carbohydrates and sugar, insulin is released, stimulating excess cholesterol production.

Lipoproteins, the “Ubers” for fats

Cholesterol and triglycerides are the most common fats found in the bloodstream. To travel in the bloodstream and be used, the fats are wrapped in proteins, creating a sphere-shaped lipoprotein. These lipoproteins transport the fats to wherever they are needed in the body. 

The two most common lipoproteins are high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL). There are also two other types of lipoproteins, very-low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) and intermediate-density lipoproteins (IDL), which carry fewer triglycerides than the VLDL.

High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL)

Think of HDL like a super powerful shop vac. When there is plenty of it in the blood, it does an excellent job sucking up excess cholesterol and plaque build-up in the arteries. 

After cleaning up, it deposits the excess build-up in the liver. The liver takes over and cleanses the nasties from the body. This tag-team effort reduces the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. 

Lower numbers mean higher risk: Any HDL number under 40 mg/dL in men and 50 mg/dL in women increases cardiovascular risk. For instance, a person with an HDL of 25 mg/dL has a four times higher cardiovascular event risk than someone with 65 mg/dL HDL.

Optimal HDL numbers are:

  • Men: 40 mg/dL or higher
  • Women: 50 mg/dL or higher

What's for breakfast?

Choose which option you think will raise LDL numbers:

Option A

Cereal, toast, and orange juice

Option B

Bacon, lard, eggs, and tea

The winner is…Option A. Eating a diet high in saturated fats results in higher HDL and lower mortality than the high-carb breakfast in option A.

Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL)

You may have heard the term “bad” cholesterol used synonymously with LDL. The truth is, it is a little more complicated than that. LDL is not the demon responsible for all sickness, as you may think.

LDL is a carrier protein that transports life-sustaining cholesterol to every cell in the body. This is a critical job. It also helps transport saturated fat to cell membranes.

To say that LDL is “bad” cholesterol is wrong in two ways. First, it is not cholesterol; it is a protein. Second, it is not all bad. 

LDL particles are divided up by their size. This size is critical for determining whether or not LDL will contribute to or protect against heart disease.

Type A – LDL Particles: Large, fluffy, and good

Type B – LDL Particles: Small, dense, and bad

What’s Inside Each Type of Lipoprotein?

Patient Files:

Mike and Sam both have the same cholesterol in their LDL, 100 mg/dL – known as LDL-C.  However, Mike has 1000 type-A LDL, large and fluffy particles, which are good. Sam has 2000 type-B LDL that are small, dense, and evil.

This is precisely why some people with a high LDL-C number develop coronary artery disease, and others do not.

You must know the particle numbers and sizes of each type of particle. At Natural Heart Doctor, we do this type of testing, so we know the whole picture!

A diet high in refined carbohydrates and loaded with processed foods and sugar causes the liver to produce large amounts of triglycerides. These are packaged in big VLDLs, which circulate in the bloodstream. 

The triglycerides are deposited where needed and also stored in fat tissue. At the end of their lives, the VLDLs become very small, dense, and dangerous LDLs, which oxidize easily – leading to an increased risk of cardiovascular issues.

The reverse of this is a diet that does not contain refined carbohydrates and sugar. Hence, fewer triglycerides need packaging. The liver produces IDLS, which are smaller than VLDLs and contain fewer triglycerides. At the end of their life, the IDLs are big, fluffy, and safe LDLs.

According to research published in the Journal of American Medical Association, type-b LDL particles were three times more likely to cause heart disease than type-a LDL particles.

If this is something you have never heard before, you are not alone. Doctors rarely explain this part about cholesterol, and pharmaceutical companies don’t EVER want you to find out!

At Natural Heart Doctor, we do the most advanced testing in the world. We test total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides and the much more important markers of Apolipoproteins A and B. THIS ratio of B/A is the most predictive marker of future cardiac events. 

Another critical factor in the formation of coronary blockages is oxidized LDL. Type-b LDL is much more likely to oxidize than type-a LDL. Oxidation is like rust on an old car. Inflammatory cells in vessel walls pick up the small oxidized LDL particles, contributing to plaque formation and increased risk of heart disease.

A study published in the journal Circulation discovered that participants with high oxidized LDL had a 4.25 percent higher heart attack risk than those with low oxidized LDL cholesterol. PLEASE make sure you are tested for this number.

Everyone has a perfect LDL number that is appropriate for them based on their genetics. I call this Caveman Cholesterol. If a person follows the appropriate nutrition, detoxifies, and takes the correct supplements, your Caveman Cholesterol can be achieved.

Dr. Jack Wolfson

Remember what we asked you to keep in mind above about carbohydrates and sugar? Pull it out now. The real problem is too many carbohydrates (sugar) which transform the light, large and fluffy good LDL particles into heavy, small and dense nasty LDL particles.

What are triglycerides?

Triglycerides are a form of molecular fat found in food and produced in the liver. These fats travel inside of lipoproteins as seen in the diagram above.

Once triglycerides reach cells, they are used for energy. As mentioned, when we consume too many carbohydrates or sugars, it leads to excess amounts of triglycerides and high levels of VLDL in the blood. VLDL end their life as dense LDL particles, leading to an increased risk of cardiovascular issues.

Elevated triglycerides are also linked with metabolic syndrome and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Elevated blood levels of triglycerides are associated with an increased risk of coronary disease. A meta-analysis including over 200,000 patients concluded triglycerides are an independent risk factor for coronary artery disease (CAD).

Elevated triglycerides are connected to a buildup of hard deposits in the arteries called plaque. A buildup of plaque increases the risk for heart disease and stroke. It is thought that this is due to the following:

  • Elevated inflammation
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Changes in the lining of blood vessels
  • Reduced levels of HDL

What is the best triglyceride number?

Most labs use the fasting value of 150 mg/dl as normal, but I prefer my patients get under 100 mg/dl. Omega-3 fish oil and niacin will both reduce triglycerides but going after the cause should always be the first move.

Dr. Jack Wolfson

Negative Shift in Cholesterol Patterns

Since the lipid hypothesis and the ensuing low-fat craze – there has been a huge shift in cholesterol patterns from Pattern A to Pattern B, putting North Americans at a greater risk of heart attack and stroke.

Pattern A Low levels of small and dense LDL particles and high levels of fluffy and large LDL and HDL particles

Pattern B High levels of small and dense LDL particles and triglycerides and low HDL particles.

In this colossal nutrition failure, healthy and heart-protective saturated fat has been replaced with an excessive amount of high-sugar processed foods and unstable oils prone to oxidation that increase the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Replacing refined grains and carbohydrates with plenty of healthy saturated fat is the best way to stay disease-free. This reduces the top two major biomarkers for heart disease – triglycerides and type-B LDL particles and raises the heart-protective HDL particles. More on this to come!

What you probably don’t know about Lp(a)

Lp(a) is similar to LDL but is nasty and causes a lot of damage. Research shows it as a significant risk factor in cardiovascular conditions, including heart disease and stroke. The higher the Lp(a) levels are in the blood, the greater the amount of plaque in the arteries and the greater the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Lp(a) is a type of lipoprotein composed of an LDL-like particle along with a second protein called apolipoprotein(a), or apo(a). which coils around the LDL-like particle.

High levels of this particle put you at a greater risk for:

Blame it on your genes

There is a genetic component to how much Lp(a) the body makes. About 20 percent of the population has the marker.

Lp(a) speeds up the process of atherosclerosis by binding to LDL, calcium, and other components to form plaque on vessel walls.

Young patients with heart disease usually have elevated Lp(a) levels, likely a major factor in their early onset and aggressive blockages. Research has shown that high Lp(a) levels can triple one’s risk of stroke and heart attack

How Lp(a) does damage

  • It is quickly taken up by inflammatory cells in plaque
  • It leads to inflammatory cell recruitment of plaque
  • It interferes with plasminogen. Therefore, it interferes with clot breakdown
  • It impairs vasodilation
  • It promotes smooth muscle cell proliferation in plaque
  • It impairs barrier function of endothelial cells

Can you lower Lp(a) levels?

Lp(a) levels are difficult to lower, but one proven way is by eating saturated fat. Yes, animal fats and coconut oil drop Lp(a) by an average of 10 percent.

Research supports the use of the following to reduce Lp(a):

Niacin, N Acetyl Acetyl Cysteine (NAC), Berberine, Vitamin D, Curcumin, L-carnitine, CoQ10, Flaxseed, Resveratrol, and Vitamin C

Don’t look to Lipitor for help because trials using statin therapy do not show any consistent ability to lower Lp(a) levels. In fact, statins can raise Lp(a). Hormone replacement therapy in women has proven effective, but I would not recommend its use specifically to lower Lp(a).

Dr. Jack Wolfson

Dr. Wolfson Case Study:

Lp(a) Matters

Jim P. is a 37-year-old guy who came to me because he was told his cholesterol was high. His doctor wanted to put him on pharmaceuticals, but he was uncomfortable with that recommendation. 

Jim’s total cholesterol was 243, with an LDL of 167. The knee-jerk drug company response is to prescribe statins.

However, I looked more in-depth at his blood with advanced lipid analysis and found his LDL particle count was in a decent range, his protective HDL particles were high, and his triglycerides were 140. He had normal levels of Lp(a). 

“The goal is to find the perfect cholesterol and lipid level for YOU.”

We talked about ancestral nutrition, and I had Jim start with a one-week juice cleanse. Three months later, we repeated Jim’s blood tests, which revealed even lower LDL particles but with a larger size. His total LDL dropped to 133, likely his “Caveman Cholesterol.” 

I call Caveman Cholesterol the cholesterol number for someone walking around the planet long ago. Jim no longer sees his original cardiologist…

Important Cholesterol Facts

  • HDL and LDL cholesterol carry vitamins, CoQ10, beta carotene, vitamin E, and other nutrients to the mitochondria – the powerhouse of cells. 
  • HDL is very beneficial, but it can be damaged easily by sugar and toxins.
  • Know your particle numbers and sizes.
  • Lp(a) is a nasty player.
  • LDL does not cause disease. Whatever is leading to small, damaged LDL is the real cause.

You know that cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides all serve a purpose. Without them, animal life does not exist. Yet, the medical establishment continues to treat lipids as the enemy. 

The quest to discover more drugs to combat cholesterol seems never-ending. We need to realize that cholesterol DOES NOT cause disease.

What causes disease is unhealthy foods like sugar, wheat, soy, and corn. Living in a world filled with air pollutants, heavy metals, toxic laundry products, and plastics is what leads to health problems. 

What we call disease is the body’s response to these poisons. The typical M.D. does not understand this, so it is imperative to find a health care provider who does.

Chapter 2:

Why We Can’t Live Without Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a critical, life-sustaining molecule. We can't live without it.

Dr. Jack Wolfson

Again, cholesterol has been labeled as a scary and even deadly monster in our modern world. Cholesterol gets a bad rap for things that refined carbohydrates are responsible for. The truth is, we can’t live without this essential molecule for many reasons.

Research shows that elderly persons with higher cholesterol have better cognitive function.

Male and female hormones are made From cholesterol

Testosterone is made from cholesterol. Got your attention now, guys? Without cholesterol to make testosterone, libido disappears, and erections are compromised. Women also produce testosterone as part of their delicate hormone balance. 

Testosterone increases muscle mass and leads to improved bone density and strength. Without enough cholesterol, testosterone production suffers. Low “T” is linked to Alzheimer’s and coronary artery disease.

It is well-known that testosterone supplementation reduces LDL (low-density lipoprotein). But don’t run out to fill your script for testosterone just yet. LDL is reduced because the liver does not need to produce cholesterol for testosterone production. The body is getting it externally. The testicles cry out for cholesterol when the body wants to produce testosterone.

“I am not saying all erectile and libido issues are related to cholesterol, but I am saying the body needs cholesterol; therefore, lowering cholesterol does not seem to be in the best interest for someone looking to increase sex hormone production.”

Dr. Jack Wolfson

Female sex hormones progesterone and estrogen come from cholesterol. Progesterone is produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands, and placenta during pregnancy.

“It is a crime for a premenopausal woman to be put on a cholesterol-reducing pharmaceutical since we have no idea if this affects fertility or fetal development.”

Dr. Jack Wolfson

After menopause, sex-hormone production decreases and is largely responsible for symptoms. It makes sense that we would want cholesterol around to form these hormones and minimize hot flashes, low libido, and the smattering of other not-so-friendly symptoms that accompany this stage of life.

There is a lot of controversy regarding post-menopausal hormone prescriptions. Still, there should be no confusion about letting the body produce what it naturally needs without inhibition by cholesterol-reducing drugs.

Finally, the most prevalent sex hormone in circulation is DHEA. This master molecule converts into estrogen and testosterone. DHEA is made in the adrenals, testes, and ovaries from cholesterol. 

Hundreds of studies prove that a low DHEA level is associated with an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and just about everything else. One scary fact is that vegan women have lower DHEA levels than Paleo eaters. 

Cholesterol is necessary for energy hormone production

Do you constantly feel fatigued? If you struggle to have enough energy in your tank, it could be a cortisol problem. Cortisol is the primary energy hormone of the body, and cortisol is made from cholesterol. 

If a tiger is chasing you, cortisol pumps out of the adrenal glands like oil in the Gulf. Its primary functions are: to increase blood sugar (critical in times of stress), balance the immune system, and aid in fat, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism. Cortisol maintains blood pressure and is essential for stomach acid secretion.

If the stomach does not produce enough acid, digestion is poor, and nutrients are not absorbed. The consequences are staggering. Cortisol production is markedly diminished in many people because of poor nutrition (sugar and caffeine), chemicals, lack of sleep, and chronic stress. 

By trying to decrease cholesterol, we are tying both hands behind the back of the adrenal gland and limiting the creation of cortisol.

Thyroid hormones T3 and T4 are responsible for temperature maintenance, cell metabolism, and energy. Symptoms of low thyroid include constipation, poor sleep, dry skin, and weight gain. 

Although these hormones are made from the amino acids tyrosine and iodine, not cholesterol, the follicular cells in the thyroid responsible for hormone production all contain cholesterol (as does every cell in the body). 

Are you getting the picture yet? The drug companies and their doctors on the payroll are demonizing this critical molecule, yet, as discussed, cholesterol is crucial for living a healthy life.

Cholesterol is needed to make Vitamin D

But wait, cholesterol does so much more. Most people have heard that vitamin D is essential for health. It builds strong bones, normalizes blood pressure, boosts immune function, and decreases the risk of cancer.

How is it made? Cholesterol travels through small vessels in the skin where sunlight converts it into vitamin D. Vitamin D then requires optimal liver and kidney function to be converted to a usable form.

“Vitamin D is straightforward to measure, and I prefer my patients achieve a level higher than 50. Some people make vitamin D, but it doesn’t function because of a genetic defect. Is your doctor testing you for this gene defect? They should.”

Dr. Jack Wolfson

Cholesterol is vital for brain health

The brain has countless responsibilities such as movement, sensation, thought, memories, sight, and hearing. Did you know the brain is loaded with fat and cholesterol? 

A study found that people with the highest cholesterol levels have the best memory.

Another report concluded that people with low cholesterol had higher depression, aggression, and suicidal thoughts.

Over the years, I realized that vegan patients do not think as clearly and suffer from more hormonal issues compared to meat-eaters.”

Dr. Jack Wolfson

Breast milk contains fat and cholesterol because a baby’s brain needs it. Infants can live for years on breast milk alone. Would the human body secrete a harmful substance to nurse its young? 

Would mammals feed their offspring with cholesterol-laden milk if it were harmful? 

A chicken cannot grow inside an egg without the cholesterol in the yolk. If you do not eat animal products, you do not give your body the nutrients to make cholesterol. If we lower cholesterol with pharmaceuticals, our levels are decreased everywhere in the body. Do we want to lower cholesterol in the brain?

Cholesterol is necessary for healthy digestion

Another critical function that uses cholesterol is digestion. Even the best foods we eat are not absorbed if digestion is impaired. The liver secretes cholesterol into the bile ducts to help digest food. 

Ask someone without a gallbladder, removed in a cholecystectomy procedure, what happens if they eat oily or fatty foods. Usually, diarrhea is a consequence of those meals. The gallbladder stores bile salts and squirts them onto fats to aid in their breakdown. 

Without cholesterol and bile salts, our digestion is poor, nutrients are not absorbed, and disease is inevitable. Doctors claim the gallbladder is not necessary. Oh, how wrong they are. If a doctor recommends removing this organ in a non-emergency procedure, get a second opinion from a natural doctor ASAP.

The human body contains trillions of cells. A thin layer called a cell membrane holds each cell in place like a house surrounded by a fence.

Cholesterol is an integral part of cell membranes

It helps keep the fence strong yet fluid so cells can communicate, keep important contents in, and keep unwanted particles out.

Hormones, vitamins, minerals, and hundreds of other tiny molecules enter and exit cells based on the integrity and health of the cell membrane. Our intestines are lined with cells, which form a tight barrier, limiting what molecules come into our body. 

Could one cause of the rise of Leaky Gut syndrome be from so many millions taking cholesterol-reducing drugs?

Cholesterol is necessary for cellular communication

One of the first organs damaged on the pathway to cardiovascular disease is the endothelium. This single layer of cells lines blood vessels and is critical to heart health. If the endothelium does not function, the equivalent of a forest fire starts in the vessel wall, with plaque creation and a possible heart attack to follow. Communication between cells is one of the keys to life, and it is dependent on cholesterol.

Cholesterol is a powerful antioxidant

Spine health is essential to your overall health. A large part of your autonomic nervous system is nested within your spine. An unhealthy spine can mean autonomic dysfunction, leading to higher blood pressure.

Chapter 3:

The Real Causes of Abnormal Cholesterol and Lipid Ratios

So if eating a big plate of eggs and munching on grass-fed beef sticks does not cause abnormal cholesterol levels, what does? The simple answer is that poor cholesterol — dense and dangerous LDL particles — result from unhealthy choices, including diet and a sedentary, toxic lifestyle.

The good news is that simple lifestyle changes have a tremendous positive impact on abnormal cholesterol levels!

Inflammatory Diet

A pro-inflammatory diet loaded with processed, nutrient-void foods is the leading cause of cardiovascular disease. This information is not only hopeful but motivating. This means that making changes to your diet could save your life!

Some of the worst foods include the following:

Sugarcane was first cultivated for pig food, and now millions of humans consume it daily. It is likely that you eat it and don’t even know it. This toxic substance is an addictive drug that is bad for your heart and bad for your health. It’s time to shed light on the truth: sugar is your biggest enemy when it comes to health.

The United States consumes more sugar than any other nation globally. The average American consumes 17 teaspoons of sugar per day, or 130 cups a year! Adults consume 30 percent more added sugar in their diet today than they did just three decades ago. 

These foods are linked to obesity, insulin resistance, fatty liver, cancer, and chronic kidney disease. Additionally, fructose causes inflammation within the endothelial cells lining the blood vessels, causing an elevated risk of heart disease.

Sugar By Any Other Name

The food industry is brilliant. It has found a way to hide sugar in products by giving it over 50 different names. So, when looking at an ingredient list on a package, here are some clues that sugar is in the product: 

  • An ingredient ends in “ose,” such as dextrose, lactose, sucrose, fructose, glucose, or maltose.
  • An ingredient includes syrup, such as rice syrup, corn syrup, malt syrup, sorghum syrup, golden syrup, or buttered syrup.
  • The word “sugar” is in the ingredient: cane sugar, beet sugar, date sugar, invert sugar, corn sweetener, or raw sugar.

Other forms of sugar include agave, molasses, maple syrup, and fruit juice concentrate.

Vegetable oils, such as canola oil, are edible oils extracted from plants. Sounds great, right? Not so fast! First and foremost, most plants produced for oil production are non-organic and genetically modified. 

For example, the canola plant does not even exist in the wild. Instead, it is a rapeseed oil plant that big agricultural factories have genetically modified for cooking purposes. 

The second problem that arises with vegetable oils lies in the extraction process. A chemical solvent, typically hexane, is used to extract oil from the plant. It is then heated again and given a bath in multiple other chemicals to preserve color and taste. Yuck, right?

Vegetable oils are high in omega-6 fatty acid, also called linoleic acid. While some omega-6 is good in our diets, such as from avocados or eggs, the excessive amount in vegetable oil is unhealthy. Not only does it promote inflammation, but it also keeps the healthier omega-3s from doing their job.

Finally, fats that are not fully saturated react to oxygen in the air and start deteriorating. Because fat is in our cell membranes, oxidized polyunsaturated fats can be harmful inside our bodies. Consumption of vegetable oils changes the actual structure within our cell membranes.

Not all carbs are bad – our ancestors enjoyed unprocessed carbs from grasses, roots, and fruits. These types of carbs do not drive up inflammation like refined carbs do. Most refined carbs are void of fiber, which promotes fullness, helps with blood sugar control, and keeps the beneficial bacteria in the gut happy. Research indicates that refined carbs raise blood sugar quickly and encourage the growth of inflammatory gut bacteria.

Some examples of refined carbohydrates include:

  • White bread
  • Pasta
  • White rice
  • Breakfast cereal
  • White potatoes
  • Pastries

Trans fats, or trans-fatty acids, are created in a factory by adding hydrogen to vegetable oils to make them more solid and shelf-stable. Trans fats are responsible for the exact opposite of what we want with cholesterol. They raise LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol. Additionally, they create inflammation.

Consumption of trans-fats is linked with multiple diseases, including Alzheimer’s, depression, heart disease, and cancer, among many others. Trans-fats are so unhealthy that the FDA banned them effective July 18, 2018. 

However, foods containing less than 0.5 grams per serving are labeled as having zero grams of trans fats. Since many people eat more than one serving, it’s safe to say that trans fats are still a danger. 

These “partially-hydrogenated” chemicals are in processed foods such as margarine, non-dairy creamers, cookies, pizza, and cake. You may even see it in microwavable popcorn, peanut butter, and breakfast bars.

Sedentary lifestyle

Our ancestors were always on the move, scouting food, running from threats, building shelters, seeking water, etc. Since we live a life where we no longer have to do these things, we need to work movement into our lives consciously. A sedentary lifestyle is easy, accessible, and far too common.

How much of your day do you spend in your car, at your desk, in front of your computer or television? Research shows that sedentary behavior increases the risk of cardiovascular mortality. The more you sit, the less you move. The less you move, the higher your risk.

Surprisingly, sitting a lot is deadly, even if you exercise regularly. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that sitting for a long time is a risk factor for early death. 

  • Participants in the study who sat for 13 hours per day had a 200 percent greater risk of death than those who sat for 11 hours.
  • Participants who moved more and sat for less than 30 minutes at a time had a 55 percent lower risk than those who sat for 30 minutes or more at a time.
  • Participants who sat longer than 90 minutes at one time were twice as likely to die compared to those who sat for less than 90 minutes at a time.

Sitting all day long causes blood flow to slow down, which encourages the build-up of fatty acids in blood vessels leading to heart disease. Our body’s ability to process fats is compromised if we sit too long. When fat can’t be burned, it is stored. Sitting can also lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes – both driving factors of heart disease.

Chronic Stress

Stress causes the body to release two hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. This is part of the fantastic “fight or flight” system built into the human body for protection.

Share This!

When stress is chronic, and the “fight or flight” response is constantly activated, it puts tremendous strain on the body. The stress hormones cause the release of triglycerides and free fatty acids, which can elevate LDL levels.

Higher stress levels are also associated with poor lifestyle choices such as an unhealthy diet, less movement, and higher body weight. All of these things can hurt cholesterol numbers and lipid ratios.

Hypothyroidism

The thyroid gland is like a tiny factory located in the front of the neck. Shaped like a butterfly, it sits just below Adam’s apple and wraps around the windpipe. It uses iodine to produce two specific hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Since we can’t make iodine, we need to get enough of it from foods, such as seafood and salt.

At times, the body needs more thyroid hormones, and at other times, less. So, to make the exact amount necessary, the thyroid gland looks for help from another gland — the pituitary gland. When the pituitary gland senses there aren’t enough thyroid hormones, it produces thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH binds to the receptor on the thyroid cells. It then “tells” the thyroid gland to release either more or less T3 and T4 into the bloodstream. 

T3 and T4 hormones are so powerful that they make every cell in the body work harder. They play a significant role in:

  • Metabolism and energy
  • Growth and development
  • Body temperature
  • Brain, heart, and liver function
  • Regulating the breakdown and elimination of cholesterol in the body.

Thyroid problems occur if the thyroid produces too few or too many hormones. When the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones, it becomes underactive, resulting in a condition known as hypothyroidism. 

When the thyroid produces too many hormones, it becomes overactive, leading to hyperthyroidism. Unfortunately, these imbalances can lead to many problems, including excessively high or abnormally low cholesterol levels.

Natural Heart Doctor Logo

Symptoms of an Underactive Thyroid

If the thyroid becomes underactive, cells won’t get enough thyroid hormones. The body’s processes start to slow down and begin to produce symptoms, including:

Share This!

A study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that approximately 13 percent of people with hypothyroidism also have high LDL cholesterol levels. That’s because an underactive thyroid removes less LDL cholesterol from the blood. When thyroid hormone levels are too low, the liver can’t process as much cholesterol as it should. This leads to a buildup of dense and dangerous LDL particles and total cholesterol.

Meanwhile, the pituitary gland also senses hypothyroidism due to low thyroid hormone production. So, it produces even more thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Unfortunately, too much TSH, which occurs with hypothyroidism, can increase cholesterol levels

According to the National Institutes of Health Research, an overactive thyroid can have the opposite effect. Hyperthyroidism can cause cholesterol to drop to alarming levels. Health risks from low cholesterol levels are less common than those resulting from high levels. Still, adverse reactions are possible.