Levels of cholesterol in blood tests have been considered markers of cardiovascular health for more than ½ a century
Eating foods containing high levels of cholesterol was considered to be the reason blood markers showed high levels. However it is now known that most of the cholesterol is produced within us in response to a requirement within the body.
Our bodies make it from sugars, fats and in a limited way from proteins. The more excess calories we consume of refined sugars and unhealthy fats the more cholesterol we are likely to make.
We are however all individual with a different genetic blueprint and this predisposes us to different metabolic processes that influence how we manage fats in the body.
Cholesterol plays a vital role in the body
Cholesterol is required for optimal cell membrane functioning and cholesterol is produced within each cell. Our bodies are naturally designed to regulate the balance of fluidity or rigidity of the cell structure by producing more or less in response to a perceived need.
It is required to make:
- all sex hormones (during pregnancy the placenta makes cholesterol for hormones that support a healthy pregnancy)
- stress hormones (this is why stress affects our cholesterol levels)
- steroid hormones
- hormones that regulate water balance
- vitamin D from sunshine
- bile acids for digestion, absorption of fats and fat soluble vitamins and the bile is then utilised to dispose of unwanted excess cholesterol
- protective elements for skin cell health
In simple terms our bodies make the cholesterol needed in response to the demand and it is a constant process.
We need sufficient ‘essential oils’ to aid the transport of excess cholesterol to the liver to be changed to bile acids and to make this work effectively we need vits. C, E, B3, carotene, chromium. We also need sufficient calcium, zinc and copper.
To keep the bile and cholesterol waste working well, we need sufficient good fibre (especially soluble fibre) to ensure our bowels take the waste out and it is not recycled and reabsorbed. If fibre is low up to 94% of cholesterol can be reabsorbed.
When is cholesterol a problem?
The way our bodies utilise refined carbohydrates increases the production of cholesterol!
Atherosclerosis is the deposition of plaques within the arteries which narrow them, slow down blood flow, influence blood pressure and increase the risks of clots forming. Cholesterol, saturated fats and denatured fats (trans-fats) make blood components sticky and aggregate more readily.
When there are more ultra-processed foods (damaged fats and sugars) in the diet we will be producing high levels of free radicals which can damage cells and artery walls – cholesterol will be increased to aid in the repair mechanism.
When we have high levels of refined sugars or carbohydrates our blood sugar increases. We produce more insulin to manage the blood sugar spikes and high levels of insulin are inflammatory.
Inflammation can damage arteries and cholesterol is increased to aid in the repair. These foods also increase free radicals which increase oxidation of fats and more artery damage can occur.
What we need to do:
- remove the refined sugars and refined carbohydrates
- hard fats – particularly the processed fats generated from pastries, biscuits and baked goods
- denatured oils from high heat temperatures in cooking or processing
All of the above processes will cause loss of most of the mineral, vitamin, fibre and nutrient content of the foods.
We need plenty of anti-oxidants in the diet to prevent oxidation of fats and oils in our system and support the health of all the functions of cells particularly in the circulatory system.
Vitamin C is the king of anti-oxidants and we cannot make it in the body – animals can but we are unable to!
Vitamin C is used :
- to maintain tissues, cell integrity and connective tissue – particularly for the strength and health of arteries
- to prevent free radicals from damaging cells
- at high rates in stress to the body
Vitamin C is obtained from fresh greens and vegetables and fruits
A quick note on triglycerides –
Triglyceride levels increase with a increasing intake of refined sugars, refined carbohydrates, excess calories and denatured fats. If we do not use the energy from these foods they are turned into fats because we cannot function with high blood sugar.
Also to note within the cholesterol measurements in blood tests are the high density lipids (HDL), low density lipids (LDL) and very low density lipids (VLDL).
Of these the HDL is considered the one to have a higher level as these fats take cholesterol back to the liver for removal and then we must go back to the fibre and disposal element discussed previously. And oxidation of these lipids is damaging and this takes us back to the need for high levels of anti-oxidants in the diet.
If you would like any further information, or advice, please contact me.