For many years we have been warned of the dangers of a diet high in cholesterol and its impact on heart disease but new guidelines from America have turned that on its head. A whole industry has sprung up to service this belief that lowering cholesterol was good for us so we have had ‘fat-free’ products, ‘low cholesterol’ items and a range of medications such as statins to bring our levels down.
The impact of statins has been huge as it has been shown not to be the wonder drug for heart disease for everyone and now it seems it is not necessary as we don’t need to lower our dietary cholesterol at all.
Dietary guidelines revised
A recent review of studies investigating the link between dietary fat and causes of death concluded that recommendations to reduce the amount of fat we eat every day should never have been made. The problem was that when fat was removed from processed foods, sugar was added in and this is the single factor that has led to the massive increase we have seen in obesity, diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, even among children.
You may have believed that such an intense campaign to get us to reduce our cholesterol levels was based on well founded research, but over 60 years of ongoing research has failed to demonstrate a correlation between high dietary cholesterol and heart disease. Now, according to research published in the Open Heart journal and led by Zoe Harcombe, PhD, there was no scientific basis for the recommendations to cut fat from our diet in the first place as it is not dietary cholesterol that is the problem.
So this new review has meant that in the USA limitations for cholesterol will most probably be removed from the 2015 edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Indeed they go further by stating that overconsumption of dietary cholesterol is now cited as being of no concern.
This is not news of course to nutritionists and health professionals looking at the overall picture, not just the narrow frame of cholesterol.
Why we need cholesterol
Sources of natural cholesterol such as oily fish, eggs, nuts and organic meats do not cause heart disease. We need to have reasonable amounts as it is actually one of the most important molecules in the body. It is vital for all these essential functions:
* the building of cells
* the production of stress hormones such as adrenaline
* the production and functioning of our sex hormones
* to enable us to utilise vitamin D
* brain health
* helps with memory
Low levels are linked to:
* memory loss
* Alzheimer’s disease
* increased risk for depression, stroke
Although blood serum cholesterol is still considered an important risk factor for heart disease it seems that cholesterol consumed in food (i.e. dietary cholesterol) plays a relatively insignificant role in determining blood levels of cholesterol.
How to be heart healthy
It is not well enough recognised that women at menopause do carry increased risk for heart disease and strokes, so this is not a license to increase all types of cholesterol. If you process saturated fat or cholesterol and heat it by frying, then that is not heart healthy – particularly if you are are using trans fats or hydrogenated fats. In overall heart health terms trans fats are worse than sugar for you.
It is back to basics here because the less adulterated and processed your diet is, the more nutrients and healthy fats, proteins and carbohydrates your body will get, and the less you’ll have to worry about heart disease.
Bioidentical progesterone is known to protect the heart and in women has been shown to help with hot flushes and be safe. Risk factors for heart disease in women are linked to oestrogen dominance, being overweight and taking little exercise. So getting your hormones in balance is a great first step to preventing the conditions where heart disease can arise.