I read the front page of Yahoo every day, several times a day. It’s where I get most of my news. And throughout these years I’ve noticed a trend. If a story is popular among readers, it will be shown for a long time (whereas most articles come and go within hours).
So, what does this have to do with cholesterol?
Good question. I recently came across an interesting article that was linked from Yahoo’s main page for the better part of a week. It’s not surprising either as it highlighted several cholesterol myths most people still believe and, essentially, fall victim to.
You should definitely take the 5 or so minutes to read it in full. Also, make note that every word of it is true. The fact is, cholesterol isn’t evil. It’s a very important substance produced by your body, without which you couldn’t live. After all, cholesterol makes up to 50% of every cell membrane. Heck, 12% of your brain is comprised of the stuff!
Given that, you might be wondering why there’s been such a scare throughout these years, and… why most people think that the lower the cholesterol one has, the better.
Now, I don’t want to cry conspiracy over here, but let’s just say that cholesterol-lowering drugs (i.e. statins) have been massively profitable for Big Pharma. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, Lipitor is the most successful drug in history (in terms of sales, that is). That’s all I’m going to say about this subject matter. You can draw your own conclusions.
With that out in the open, let’s switch our focus to few key points about this natural, waxy substance that you should know about.
- There is no such thing as good cholesterol or bad cholesterol. Cholesterol is just cholesterol. HDL and LDL are its transporters – they are what’s known as lipoproteins. LDL carries cholesterol to the tissues while HDL takes it back to the liver for recycling. By the way, notice that word “recycling”. If cholesterol was indeed inherently evil, why would your body make something that would kill you? Furthermore, why wouldn’t eliminate it rather than recycle it? Some food for thought…
- Now, while there is no good cholesterol and bad cholesterol, you do have good LDL and bad LDL. The former is large and fluffy like a cotton ball. It has been shown to be anti-inflammatory. In contrast the latter is small like a pellet. This is the stuff that gets trapped in your arterial walls and leads to heart attacks and strokes.
- Your total cholesterol doesn’t tell you much. Of course, if your blood work comes back and it’s over 200, most docs will scramble to write you a script. And it’s unfortunate because what ultimately matters is your total cholesterol to HDL ratio. You should strive for a level less than 3:1. Stated differently, you can have “high cholesterol” (i.e. more than 200) and still be in perfect health if your HDL is causing that number to high.
Of course, the next obvious question is: how do you raise your HDL and keep your LDL particles large and fluffy?
It’s pretty simple but highly counterintuitive. HDL goes up when you eat saturated fat (i.e. the very thing you’ve been warned against). But take note: I’m referring to natural fat, not the man-made trans-fats. This is a VERY important distinction as the latter will lower HDL – a lot.
Next, in order to shift your production of LDL from the small, deadly kind to the large, fluffy variety, you have to keep your insulin levels as low as possible. And you know what that means, right? You have to eat a healthy diet that’s very low in sugar.
Combine the above with more good eating habits that incorporate natural, whole foods, plenty of fibrous veggies, and some fruit, and you’ll be set as far as cholesterol and heart disease are concerned.
That’s crucial because you do not want to be on statin drugs. Sure, they’ve been hailed as the “aspirin of the 21st century”. Heck, some experts even think we should put them in the water supply. But the reality is they’re far more dangerous than most docs let on and can lead to debilitating side effects such as muscle wasting and memory loss. But again, that’s something I’m not going to get into at the moment.
In the end, the main takeaway is this: there is no reason why you can’t have a perfect cholesterol profile. You just have to know how to eat (which is oftentimes the opposite of what you’ll be recommended). That, and get a bit of exercise. Your body will take care of the rest and without the need for dangerous drugs.