Dr. Ben Kim, Guest
During my university years, I used to frustrate my parents by throwing away egg yolks and eating only the whites. No worries, I thought, as my parents just didn’t know enough to realize that I was reducing my risk of heart disease by avoiding cholesterol. Looking back, I’m sure that my parents were wondering how I could so easily toss away precious egg yolks that they were able afford only a few times a year when they lived in Korea.
Today, I am grateful to have a better understanding of the relationship between cholesterol and health. How about you? Are you afraid of having high cholesterol? Are you throwing away egg yolks because you think they’re bad for your health? Are you taking cholesterol-lowering medication or considering starting on one?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, I encourage you to consider the work of Uffe Ravnskov, MD, PhD, author of The Cholesterol Myths : Exposing the Fallacy that Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Cause Heart Disease. I consider Dr. Ravnskov to be the world’s leading expert on the relationship between cholesterol and human health.
Here are some facts from his book:
Well, here are some facts about LDL and HDL that the vast majority of my patients are surprised to learn:
Cholesterol that naturally occurs in animal foods is not harmful to your health. But it can becomeharmful to your health if it is damaged by exposure to high levels of heat and/or harsh processing techniques.
If you regularly consume damaged cholesterol and foods that are rich in free radicals, you likely have significant quantities of damaged cholesterol floating through your circulatory system.
And if you regularly have damaged cholesterol floating around in your blood, then a high LDL level correlates with a higher-than-average risk of developing cardiovascular disease, and a high HDL level correlates with a lower-than-average risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
In other words, if you have significant amounts of damaged cholesterol in your blood circulation, you don’t want a lot of LDL to be available to carry this cholesterol to your arteries, where the damaged cholesterol can contribute to atherosclerosis, and you want a lot of HDL available to shuttle damaged cholesterol away from your arteries.
So while it’s true that a high HDL/total cholesterol ratio can reflect a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, what’s most important when it comes to cholesterol and your health is to avoid eating animal foods that have been cooked at high temperatures, since these foods are typically rich in damaged cholesterol.
Where Conventional Guidelines Come From
Sadly, conventional guidelines that promote lower cholesterol levels for a healthy heart are influenced in large part by pharmaceutical companies earning billions of dollars with their cholesterol-lowering drugs.
For example, in the summer of 2004, a panel of physicians lowered the “safe” level of LDL cholesterol from 130 to 100, and further recommended that people at high risk of developing cardiovascular disease aim to lower their LDL levels to 70.
This modification in medical standard of practice caused an estimated eight million Americans to become instant candidates for cholesterol-related drug therapy.
While this “news” was covered by major media outlets and news wires, only one newspaper, Newsday, reported that most of the physicians responsible for establishing the new recommendations had a conflict of interest. Almost all had received money – usually in the form of grants or honoraria – from at least ten drug companies. The National Cholesterol Educational Program, the source of the new medical treatment guidelines for cholesterol, failed to report these financial disclosures.
Guidelines for Healthy HDL, LDL, Total Cholesterol, and Triglyceride Levels
What follows are my personal guidelines on monitoring cholesterol, based on the research that I’ve done on this issue, and evaluating the blood test results and health of hundreds of people I have worked with over the past several years.
Rather than focus just on the numbers from your latest blood test, your health is best served by:
For more information on Dr. Ravnskov and his book, you can visit http://www.ravnskov.nu/cholesterol.htm.
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