Medical authorities continue to
recommend drugs and low-fat diets to reduce cholesterol. However, there is
much more to the cholesterol story.
WHAT IS CHOLESTEROL?
Cholesterol is an essential body chemical, mostly synthesized in
the liver. It is the precursor or raw material used to make the vital
pituitary, adrenal and sex hormones. Cholesterol is also required to form
vitamin D and bile acids. The liver makes about 2 grams of cholesterol
daily, regardless of diet. Under stress, the body makes more cholesterol
in order to make more adrenal or stress hormones.
Cholesterol is a mixture of compounds. These include high density
lipoproteins or HDL, and low density lipoproteins or LDL. The latter
contain lipoprotein-A, thought by some authorities to be important in the
genesis of heart disease.
which is unoxidized cholesterol, is sometimes called “good cholesterol”,
while LDL, the oxidized form, is often termed “bad cholesterol”. Blood
laboratories often measure the ratio between the HDL and total cholesterol.
DOES CHOLESTEROL CAUSE HEART DISEASE?
cholesterol theory of heart disease asserts that: 1) The risk of cardiovascular
disease correlates with the serum level of cholesterol; and 2) Eating
cholesterol-containing foods raises your cholesterol level. Let us explore
this theory and alternative hypotheses in more detail.
About 100 years ago scientists noted that fatty deposits in the arteries
often contain cholesterol. Of course, it was not known whether
cholesterol deposits were the cause or the result of heart disease.
Studies, including the large Framingham study, found a definite
correlation between high serum cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease.
the picture is not as clear as it seems. The Framingham study found that
LDL or oxidized cholesterol was more predictive of heart disease than total
cholesterol. Also, the study could not correlate eating foods containing
cholesterol with an increase in the blood cholesterol.
Furthermore, many studies from around the world do not support the simplistic
idea that eating more cholesterol or saturated fat increases the risk of heart
disease. In an interesting book, The Milk Of Human Kindness Is Not
Pasteurized (1), William C. Douglass, MD cites the following:
The famous heart surgeon Michael Debakey analyzed 1700 patients with
hardening of the arteries and found no correlation between blood cholesterol
levels and the degree of atherosclerosis (2).
The New England Journal of Medicine reported that a group of Guinea natives
whose diet is normally low in cholesterol were fed eggs to see how much the eggs
would influence their cholesterol. There was no significant effect on
cholesterol levels (3).
study done by the American Cancer Society revealed that non-egg users had a
higher death rate from heart attacks and strokes than egg users. This was
a large and therefore convincing study involving over 800,000 people (4).
living on a diet of mostly meat and fat, have low cholesterol levels (about 130
mg) provided they stay on their native diet.
Masai tribe of Africa drink about 7 quarts of milk per day containing 60%
saturated fat. Yet the average adult cholesterol level was 122. (The
average American adult level is 234.)(5)
American Academy of Pediatrics is warning against the latest call for
low-cholesterol foods for children, since it is known that cholesterol is vital
for children's growth.
studies show no significant effect on blood cholesterol from eating eggs or
other cholesterol-containing foods. Several are reported in The New
Vegetarian, by Gary and Steve Null. A study in France found that
although butter consumption is much higher in Western than in Eastern France,
the mortality from heart disease in Western France is almost half that of
Eastern France (6).
Western eating habits were introduced into the Eskimo population, they lived
almost exclusively on animal meat and fat. Yet the incidence of heart
disease was very low and cholesterol levels were below 200 mg (7). Similar
results were found in studies in the Soviet Union, India, and elsewhere (8,9).
cholesterol theory of heart disease is very simplistic. It is like saying
that duct tape wrapped around a damaged water hose is the cause of the hose
damage. More likely, the tape - and the cholesterol - are the result
of the damage, not the cause. In fact, two scientists, Brown and
Goldstein, won a Nobel Prize in 1985 for their research into this theory.
Cholesterol plaques are often there to protect a damaged artery. After
all, a clogged artery is far preferable to a ruptured one. Elevated
cholesterol is associated with heart disease, but may not be its cause.
WHAT CAUSES HEART DISEASE?
If cholesterol is not the
cause of heart disease, what are the causes? Many factors may contribute
to cardiovascular disease. A properly performed hair mineral analysis can
help identify a number of them. Here are some of the major factors
suspected in cardiovascular disease:
and others showed that copper deficiency is associated with atherosclerosis.
Copper is required for connective tissue synthesis.
deficiency reduces the flexibility of the arteries and causes hardening.
It may also cause inflammation of the arterial walls.
and taurine deficiencies may contribute to high blood pressure and other heart
toxicity is associated with hardening of the arteries.
homocysteine levels are a factor in heart disease. Homocysteine is an
amino acid. Its level can be reduced by increasing the intake of vitamin
B6 and folic acid.
to Rath and Pauling”s unified theory of heart disease, the causes are
deficiencies of vitamin C and lysine. These are required for collagen
synthesis. This theory asserts that high levels of lipoprotein-A, part of
LDL cholesterol, is responsible for arterial damage.
vitamins and minerals are involved. Chromium supplements, for instance,
have been shown to lower cholesterol levels. Chromium, manganese and
B-complex vitamins may reduce stress by enhancing carbohydrate metabolism.
thyroid activity is associated with heart disease. Hypothyroidism may have
numerous causes, including nutritional deficiencies and toxic metal poisoning.
and infections are now known to be important in cardiovascular disease.
These can include seemingly unrelated foci of infection such as dental
infections. These can spread toxins that affect every organ.
blood pressure from any cause is a factor.
diabetes, obesity, coffee-drinking and a sedentary lifestyle are risk factors.
damage from vegetable oils and other oxidant exposure contributes to vascular
disease. This factor may explain why populations that consume more animal
fats often have less heart disease. (Animal fats are not as subject to
fats found in margarine, dressings, fried foods and elsewhere may contribute to
and fluoridated drinking water, and residues of ionic detergents may be a very
important factor in heart disease.
homogenized milk may be harmful for the arteries.
Davis in Let’s Get Well noted that “animals and human volunteers that
are fed sugar instead of unrefined carbohydrates develop high cholesterol
and genetic tendencies, and emotions such as hostility appear related to heart
WHY DOES CHOLESTEROL RISE?
nutritional science reveals several important facts about cholesterol:
cholesterol can be a symptom of an imbalanced body chemistry. One can
observe high cholesterol levels in vegetarians who consume no cholesterol at
can increase cholesterol. Cholesterol is needed to make stress-fighting
hormones such as cortisone and cortisol. A body under excessive stress
(from internal or external sources) may produce extra cholesterol to increase
the anti-stress hormones.
Cholesterol plaques may protect weak arteries to prevent breakage.
may in fact protect the body against free radical or oxidant damage. This
theory was first advanced by Dr. Elmer Cranton in the book, Bypassing Bypass.
This may be why high HDL which is non-oxidized cholesterol is positive, while
LDL, which is oxidized cholesterol, is more of a risk for heart disease.
In coping with oxidant stress, the HDL is oxidized, or converted to LDL.
people seem to have a familial tendency for elevated cholesterol.
consumption of sugar can contribute to high serum lipid levels.
cholesterol tests are among the least accurate medical tests. Always have
such tests repeated. HDL and LDL levels are as important or more important
than total cholesterol. A simple cholesterol reading is not too revealing.
WHAT ABOUT DIETARY FAT?
subject of fat in the diet is complex. There are many kinds of dietary
fats, produced in many ways. Some are natural. Others are highly
processed. Each has different characteristics. In addition, some metabolic
types fare better on dietary fat than others. Let us examine dietary fats
in more detail.
egg was indicted as a major cause of elevated cholesterol based on studies in
the 1940s and 1950s. However, it turned out that powdered eggs were
used in those studies(10). These processed eggs contain oxidized
cholesterol, the type known to cause problems. When the studies were
repeated with fresh eggs, they did not raise cholesterol significantly(11).
However, many physicians and health authorities still quote the old studies.
(Stay away from powdered eggs). Eggs from chickens allowed to run free, so
called cage-free eggs, have less cholesterol. In other words, the way our
eggs are produced also influences their nutritional content.
have shown that a diet high in tuna, salmon, sardines and mackerel, which
contain anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats, can reduce heart disease (12).
Other studies show great value in natural oils of coconut and palm, although
they are largely saturated.
George Watson(13) identified metabolic types he called fast and slow oxidizers.
He found that fast oxidizers require more fats and oils to help normalize body
chemistry. Slow oxidizers, by contrast, do poorly on fats. This fact
alone means that studies that look at the effects of fats on large groups are
flawed unless they take into account different body chemistries.
can help account for divergent results of studies, some of which show no ill
effect of fats, while others show that saturated fats, for example, are not
healthy. The concept of metabolic types can be most helpful to assess the
effects of fats on any particular person. Let us explore this is
FATS AND FAST OXIDIZERS
oxidizer is the term Dr. George Watson used to describe a person who was able to
metabolize fats well, but had difficulty metabolizing carbohydrates. These
individuals may become irritable, hungry and nervous if they are on a low-fat
diet. One might think that fast oxidizers would have low cholesterol because
they burn their fats and other nutrients better than most average. In
theory, this is indeed true.
in practice, often fast oxidizers have elevated cholesterol levels. There
are at least two reasons for this. First, many of them live on
high-carbohydrate diets. This diet unbalances their body chemistry,
creating more stress. The body may respond by producing more cholesterol
many who appear to be fast oxidizers are in fact what we call slow oxidizers
under stress, or temporary fast oxidizers. This means they are in fact
slow metabolizers, who often have more difficulty with fats. Also, they
are under plenty of stress, which can cause the body to produce more
cholesterol. This situation is especially likely when on a hair mineral
analysis, the ratio of sodium to potassium is less than about 2:1, or when the
calcium and magnesium levels are above 40 mg% and 6 mg% respectively.
you are in fast oxidation and feel you must restrict cholesterol, use
high-quality vegetable oils including coconut oil, olive oil, flaxseed and
hempseed oil. It is best to avoid processed vegetable oils such as
corn, soy, sunflower, safflower, canola and peanut oils sold in the supermarket.
These have had all their vitamin E removed, and can cause more problems.
health authorities recommend restricting all fats and oils when the cholesterol
is elevated. However, fast oxidizers often note a reduction in cholesterol
when some fats and oils are added to the diet, substituting for high
carbohydrates in the diet.
disease in fast oxidizers is most often due to deficient in copper, zinc and
magnesium. Excessive adrenal activity may also cause constriction of the
coronary arteries. This can precipitate sudden and massive heart attacks.
oxidizers have more difficulty converting cholesterol into adrenal and sex
hormones. The body may attempt to compensate by raising cholesterol to
help produce more stress hormones. This is one cause of elevated
cholesterol in these individuals. The solution is to improve glandular
activity. Slow oxidizers may be under stress for other reasons, and this
can also lead to elevated cholesterol.
disease in slow oxidizers may occur due to calcium deposits in the arteries.
Also, zinc deficiency or cadmium toxicity may cause inflammation and damage to
the arteries. Sluggish circulation may allow emboli to form.
oxidizers usually fare better restricting all fats and oils due to their
LOW SODIUM/POTASSIUM RATIO
analysis pattern often associated with cardiovascular disease and elevated
cholesterol is a ratio of sodium to potassium less than 2.5:1. This is a
chronic stress pattern, associated with excessive tissue breakdown, fatigue,
diabetes and heavy metal toxicity, all of which may contribute to cardiovascular
MARGARINE AND OTHER PLASTIC FOODS
is made by heating vegetable oil and bubbling hydrogen through the mixture to
produce an artificially saturated fat. (The advertising about
polyunsaturated oil used in margarine is misleading. The oil is saturated
by the time they finish with it.) The problems with margarine are:
in the oil such as vitamin E are destroyed when the product is heated.
(Vitamin E deficiency from overeating on refined vegetable oils increases
the risk of heart disease).
produces trans-fatty acids. These are non-naturally occurring fatty acids
that contribute to inflammation, one of the causes of heart disease. (Some
margarines today claim to have the trans-fatty acids removed).
is added as a catalyst in making margarine. Nickel is a highly toxic metal
- fine for making coins, but not for eating.
Artificial color and flavor are often added to margarine to make it palatable.
These chemicals may have their own toxic effects.
recent study showed that margarine elevated the undesirable LDL cholesterol.
problems with margarine apply equally to commercial peanut butters, vegetable
shortening such as Crisco, fake whip cream products such as Cool-Whip, and many
fried foods, salad dressings and crackers made with hydrogenated oils.
These artificially saturated fats are worse for the body than
REDUCING ELEVATED CHOLESTEROL AND TRIGLYCERIDES
cholesterol and increasing the HDL/LDL ratio can usually be accomplished with
nutritional methods. Here are some guidelines:
some fat restriction may be helpful, other dietary factors are often much more
important. A properly performed and interpreted hair analysis will provide
much information about diet as well as mineral deficiencies, heavy metal
toxicity and supplement recommendations to correct stress patterns.
products containing refined white flour and white sugar - in all its forms -
should be totally eliminated from the diet.
addition to a scientific nutrition program to balance body chemistry,
symptomatic nutrients that may help include vitamin C, niacin, chromium, ginger,
lecithin, omega-3 oils and extra fiber.
such as dental infections and diabetes need to be addressed.
considerations are important including exercise, weight control, adequate rest
and sleep and smoking cessation.
Such a holistic approach is endorsed by Jonathan Wright, MD, a leading holistic
physician and former medical columnist for Prevention Magazine. He writes:
"Only a few patients of the hundreds I've treated for high cholesterol have
had to severely limit dietary intake (of fat). Usually, it is a matter of
correcting the metabolism rather than the diet".(12)
classes of drugs are used to lower cholesterol. Unfortunately, many have
significant side effects. They may deplete vital nutrients such as
coenzyme Q-10. In one study, patients placed on gemfibrozil did have
reduced cardiac events than a placebo group. However, the overall death
rate was almost identical. Those taking the drug had a higher incidence of
violence, accidents and intercranial hemmorhages (14). Note that studies
show that a low cholesterol level, below 130, is not beneficial either.
recommendations suggest the use of medication whenever cholesterol is over 200
mg (15). This ignores the research that total cholesterol is not nearly as
important as LDL and its ratio to the total cholesterol. Drugs do not
address the biochemical causes for high cholesterol in most cases. This
means that pathology in the body may continue to progress, despite the use of
these drugs. Drugs ought be used as a last resort, only after natural
methods have been tried.
approaches to cholesterol and heart disease have no side effects, except perhaps
improved general health. Also, they address deeper causes to create a more
permanent correction. However, it is often best to consult a physician
before stopping any medication.
summary, high cholesterol is often a symptom of stress or imbalanced chemistry,
but not necessarily the cause. If you are healthy and your cholesterol
level is within normal limits, don't be a fat hater and abandon all eggs, butter
and meats. Do skip refined foods such as white flour, sugar, margarine and
other hydrogenated oil products. Fats and oils are not all the same, by
any means. Eating healthful fats and oils often pose no problem, whereas
the refined oils can cause significant heart problems.
people need to restrict fats, including slow oxidizers and at times those with
elevated cholesterol. A mineral analysis will provide more information in
this area. By combining a scientific nutrition program with a
healthful lifestyle and appropriate diet most people can reduce their
cholesterol and their risk of heart disease without drugs.
1) Douglass, W.C.,
The Milk of Human Kindness is not Pasteurized, Copple House Books,
Lakemont, Ga., 1985.
2) JAMA 189:655-59
3) New Eng. J. of
Med. 98:317 (1978)
4) Abrams, J.
Applied Nut., Vol.32, #2, pp.53-87.
Disease of the Masai, Mann et al.
6)Maclennan, R and
Meyer, F., ěFood and Mortality in Franceî, The Lancet, 2 (1977): p. 133.
7) Ho, K.J. et
al., ěAlaska Arctic Eskimo: Responses to a Customary High Fat Dietî, Am.
J. of Clinical Nut., 25:1972, pp. 737-745.
8) Malhotra, S.,
ěGraphic Aspects of Acute Myocardial Infarction in India with Special Reference
to Patterns of Diet and Eatingî, British Heart J., 29:1967, pp. 337-344.
9) Prior, I.A. et
al., ěCholesterol, Coconuts, and Diet on Polynesian Atolls: A Natural
Experimentî, Am. J. of Clinical Nut., 25:1972, pp. 737-745.
10) Cook, R.P., Cholesterol:
Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Pathology, Academic Press, NY, 1958.
11) Passwater, R.,
Super Nutrition for Healthy Hearts, Deal Press, NY 1977. See also
Flynn, M.A. et al, Effects of Dietary Egg on Human Cholesterol and
Triglycerides, Am. J. of Clin. Nut., 32 (May 1979) pp. 1051-1057.
12) Wright, J.,
MD, Dr. Wright's Book of Nutritional Therapy, Rodale Press, Emmaus,
13) Watson, G., Nutrition
and Your Mind, Bantam Books, NY, 1972.
14) Frick, M.H. et
al, Helsinki Heart Study. Primary Prevention Trial with Gemfibrozil in
Middle-aged Men with Dylipidemia, New Eng. J. of Med., 317 (1987).pp. 1237-45.
15) J. Amer. Med.
Assn., May 16, 2001;285:2486-2497.
16) Atkins, R., Dr. Atkins Health Revolution,
Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1988.
© 2005 HealthSmart Nutrition. All rights reserved.
Revised: June 23, 2007