Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Hidden Truth about Cholesterol

by Mike Geary, Certified Nutrition Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer

We all know that heart disease is one of the leading killers of people around the world, particularly highest in countries such as the US and Australia.

However, did you know that there are several medical studies worldwide that clearly show that higher cholesterol levels in the body actually increases longevity instead of decreasing it? Yes, you heard that right! People with high cholesterol have been statistically shown to live longer and healthier than people with low cholesterol in several studies. There are multiple references for this phenomenon in Shane Ellison's controversial book, The Hidden Truth about Cholesterol Lowering Drugs, Dr. Uffe Ravnskov's (MD, PhD) book entitled The Cholesterol Myths, as well as Sally Fallon and Mary Enig's book, Nourishing Traditions.

So why in the world are the pharmaceutical and medical industry pushing for practically everyone on the planet to "lower their cholesterol"? Well, the first, and more innocent answer, is flawed medical studies from decades ago that have been accepted as fact and never fully analyzed for their validity. Another answer is that this practice of recommending that half of the damn planet takes a cholesterol lowering medication (currently, statins), regardless of whether they truly have any real risk for heart disease, creates insane multi-squillion dollar profits for the drug companies!

As a perfectly absurd example of how doctors have been wrongly influenced by the drug companies... a couple years ago, I was a perfectly healthy 28 yr old, in great shape, exercising daily, eating a balanced healthy diet full of antioxidants and quality nutrition, no smoking, and with no real risk factors for heart disease, and just because my cholesterol level has been consistently measured over 200 for my entire life, my doctor recommended I consider using a statin drug.

Consider how outlandish this scenario is! The drug companies have hypnotized doctors into prescribing unnecessary prescription drugs to healthy young people with perfectly normal cholesterol levels that just happen to be over this arbitrary number of 200 that they've come up with. Luckily, I refused to be a guinea pig and fork over my hard earned duckets for potentially dangerous drugs, and decided to start researching this whole cholesterol and heart disease connection myself. Consider also that my father, who is now 60 years old, has had cholesterol levels slightly over 200 his entire life also (just like me), yet he is perfectly healthy at his ripe age of 60.

As time goes on and scientists continue to learn more about heart disease, it has become quite clear over the recent years that inflammation within the body (NOT cholesterol levels) is what causes plaque build up in the arteries and eventual heart disease. Inflammation can be caused by many personal factors such as stress, smoking, viruses, consumption of refined and/or hydrogenated fats (man-made trans fats), an imbalance of omega-6 polyunsaturated fats to omega-3 polyunsaturated fats in the diet, excess refined sugars in the diet, etc.

Here's a quick and dirty of how it works in general. Cholesterol is a healing substance within the body (among many other important functions), and responds to arterial inflammation by getting deposited in combination with other substances, forming "plaque" as a healing agent on the artery lining.

Levels of inflammation in your body can be measured with what's called a CRP test (c-reactive protein). The accuracy of this test still has room for improvement, as it can vary depending on the time of day and other factors, but it is a much better indication of heart disease risk than a cholesterol test (which is practically useless for determining heart disease risk).

Another more important test than cholesterol levels for heart disease risk is a test for serum homocysteine levels. The next time your doctor wants you to get blood cholesterol tests, request CRP and homocysteine tests instead. He/she should be well aware of the validity of these tests if they are up to date.

Basically, if you have significant internal inflammation, this plaque will be deposited as a healing agent regardless of whether you have high or low cholesterol. On the other hand, if you don't have inflammation, high cholesterol levels just keep circulating without getting deposited on the artery linings. Therefore, it is more important to control inflammation rather than trying to lower your cholesterol.

Lowering your cholesterol doesn't attack the root of the problem (what is actually causing the inflammation in you). Lowering your cholesterol does nothing except to make the drug companies rich, and possibly leave you with a whole assortment of possible negative side-effects.

The good news is that preventing heart disease is about living a healthy lifestyle, not about throwing down a drug pill everyday. Controlling your inflammation to prevent heart disease is as easy as reducing the stress in your life (try deep breathing exercises, Qigong, yoga, etc.), maintaining a healthy weight, eating a high-antioxidant, highly nutritious unprocessed diet (as recommended in my Truth about Six Pack Abs program), and avoiding smoking and other causes of heavy free radical production in the body.

I hope this article has given you some helpful info about the real causes of heart disease and not the propaganda that has been shoved down your throat for years, based on flawed medical studies from 40-50 years ago, making drug companies filthy rich.

If you or anyone you care about is currently taking statins, or if you just want to learn more about cholesterol and the scandal that is revolving currently around statin drugs, please see The Cholesterol Myths.

On a related topic, were you aware that there is also quite a controversy these days in the health industry over the fact that saturated fat is not necessarily bad for you, and can actually be downright good for you in some cases? I posted this article a few months ago, but thought I would mention this article again - The Truth about Saturated Fats