The Great Cholesterol Scam
The world’s biggest killer, according to all the world’s major health authorities, is heart disease (HD). The World Health Organization (WHO) stated that in 2012 HD accounted for 3 out of every 10 deaths worldwide1. Put another way, almost 1 out of every 3 people will die from HD..
This is aggravated by the fact that as a country’s GDP increases, so does the incidence of HD2. This has dire consequences for developing countries like South Africa, India, China, etc. Deaths due to HD in low income countries = 103/100000 in 2011 while in high income countries it was 208/100000, a +100% increase! This is because as people’s incomes go up, they tend to eat more processed and pre-prepared foods. These statistics confirm what every health authority states: that HD is primarily caused by lifestyle choices. This means that changing our lifestyles changes our risk of HD.
What is amazing is that the medical profession generally ignores this and treats HD with drugs that aren’t that effective and have many nasty side effects. It’s often safer, and much cheaper, to use natural remedies to control cholesterol, blood pressure and homocysteine, the major causes of HD.
In this, the first in a series of 3 articles on HD, we’ll take a look at cholesterol.
Cholesterol is touted as the mother of all evils according to modern medicine. For the last 40+ years we’ve been told that cholesterol is the major cause of HD. We’ve been told that we eat too much cholesterol and that we need to cut out all fatty foods and only eat low fat/no fat processed foods. We need to check our cholesterol levels regularly and take statins (cholesterol lowering drugs) if our blood cholesterol levels are even slightly elevated. In fact, one prominent doctor in the USA has suggested that every adult should take a statin as a preventative measure!
The truth is that there are now a number of major studies worldwide3,4,5 that show that our diet has nothing to do with our blood cholesterol levels. In 2010 scientists in the USA showed that the brain controls cholesterol metabolism by the liver6. Cholesterol is essential for life and ±75% of the cholesterol in our blood is made by the body. It’s essential for proper cell functioning, it’s a precursor for various hormones, enzymes, vitamins and digestive acids in the body. In fact, a foetus could not develop without adequate cholesterol.
Why this massive bombardment of (mis)information portraying cholesterol as bad? Well, quite simply, because cholesterol is a multi-billion dollar business worldwide. Just think of all the cholesterol lowering drugs prescribed annually, all the cholesterol tests and all the low fat/no fat foods. All the margarines, cooking oils, mayonnaises, low fat dairy products, diet drinks and snacks, etc. All of these are huge money spinners, so we’ll keep on getting told that cholesterol is the evil that causes HD.
Let’s look at what we’ve been told about cholesterol. Specifically, that it clogs the arteries, raising blood pressure and increasing the risk of HD. If this were true, why are only the arteries around the heart affected? Why not all the arteries in the body and all the veins? How come surgeons are able to take ‘clean’ arteries out of someone’s leg to bypass the blocked arteries around their heart? It doesn’t make sense, does it?
What is actually happening is that the arteries become inflamed, causing them to swell and restricting blood flow. Science is telling us that this is caused by an imbalance in our omega 3/omega 6 ratios. This ratio should be 1:1 but in developed countries, eating ‘western diets’, the ratio is 1:15/1:16.7 Omega 3 is anti-inflammatory, while omega 6 causes inflammation. Western diets contain masses of omega 6. It’s in all the plant oils (sunflower, canola, palm, etc) that are found in just about every processed, packaged and baked foods. It’s also in all the maize derivatives like modified corn starch, high fructose corn syrup, etc., that are predominant ingredients in modern manufactured foods.
The body tries to protect the wall lining of the arteries using cholesterol. It’s actually using cholesterol as a ‘band aid’ by laying down a protective layer of cholesterol over the inflamed areas. Currently, science isn’t quite sure why the arteries around the heart are the most susceptible to this inflammation, but they do know it’s happening. The question then is, does it make sense to treat the problem by trying to lower the cholesterol level? Surely it would be far more sensible to treat the cause of the problem, inflammation? One would think so, but something as simple as increasing the intake of omega 3 won’t make billions for the pharmaceutical, medical and food industries.
The sensible thing to do is to improve our diets, eliminating the processed foods (all of which contain huge amounts of omega 6 as already mentioned) and increase our intake of omega 3 and anti-oxidants, which also combat inflammation.
What about using statins to reduce cholesterol levels? Well, firstly, studies show that they only reduce the risk of HD by ±0.05%. Not much to get excited about! What most people aren’t aware of is how statistics are manipulated. For instance, a study published to prove the efficiency of a major statin stated that the drug reduced the risk of HD by 30%. What they didn’t mention is that the actual risk was reduced from 0.05% to 0.03%! This infinitesimal benefit can never counter all the negative side effects of taking the drug. Statins have horrendous side effects, including dizziness, muscle and joint pains, memory loss, swelling (inflammation! the cause of the problem in the first place!), reduced immunity, increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cancer. In addition, studies show that they have little or no benefit the older one gets.
On the other hand, there are literally thousands of studies showing the benefits of supplementing with omega 38,9 (a Google search of ‘omega 3 heart health’ yielded 13,5 million entries!), improving one’s diet and increasing exercise levels. All of which are free of side effects and not expensive. The bottom line is, there is no longer any justifiable reason why anyone would take, or prescribe, statins as a remedy for HD.
To wrap up, here are the basic things we can do to keep our hearts healthy and control our cholesterol levels.
- Clean up the diet. Cut down (best of all eliminate) processed, packaged and baked (biscuits, cookies, etc.) foods and eat more fresh fruits and veg. Use butter instead of margarine and olive oil instead of other plant oils. Become a label reader, if a product contains plant oils and un-natural (i.e. man made) substances, don’t buy it. Sugar also adds to inflammation in the body, so decrease your intake. Try to eat 80% good and only 20% bad – life doesn’t have to be dull and dreary!
- Exercise more. Exercising helps the body rid itself of toxins, increases the heart rate (the heart is a muscle and, like all muscles, exercise makes it stronger) and gets more oxygen into the blood.
- Supplement with
- a good quality omega 3 supplement. Look for one containing all eight omega 3 factors and not just EPA and DHA.
- a good anti-oxidant containing the full spectrum of carotenoids. Carotenoids are the brightly coloured pigments (the reds, yellows, oranges and dark greens) in fruit and veg. They are super anti-oxidants, protect the cells and help prevent plaque build-up in the arteries. Vitamin C and E are also powerful anti-oxidants with proven heart health benefits. Always look for organic, whole food based supplements for the best results.
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