Health Article:

Top 10 Things to Know About Cholesterol

This health article focuses on the the top 10 things to know about cholesterol.

Many people are concerned about lowering cholesterol levels to reduce the risk of heart disease. This Top Ten list begins with some simple dietary ways to reduce cholesterol and improve HDL-LDL ratios. The cholesterol story does not end with eggs and fiber. The list continues by discussing what cholesterol is made from, and what breaks it down into hormones and vitamins used by the body. The list ends with a technical discussion of cholesterol lowering drugs and their side effects.

1. High cholesterol levels are associated with coronary artery disease.

High levels of cholesterol are associated with a high risk of heart disease. Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is characterized by fatty streaks along the walls of blood vessels and deposits of cholesterol and calcium. People with elevated cholesterol levels are much more likely to have atherosclerosis than people with low cholesterol levels.

2. There are two types of cholesterol - HDL and LDL.

HDL (high density lipoprotein) transports fat and cholesterol from the body to the liver to be broken down. LDL (low density lipoprotein) transports cholesterol and fat from the liver to the body for use and storage. HDL is considered protective against heart disease and LDL is considered to contribute to atherosclerosis.

3. Fiber lowers cholesterol.

Fiber from beans, oats, psyllium seed, and fruit pectin are known to reduce cholesterol levels. Oatmeal is a water soluble fiber that contains mucilage which is beneficial for the digestive tract. Oatmeal is also a tasty and quick breakfast cereal.

4. Eggs are high in cholesterol.

Most dietary cholesterol comes from egg yolks, and egg eaters are more likely to die from heart disease even when serum cholesterol levels are not elevated. Eating eggs, however, does not increase serum cholesterol as much as saturated fat which is found in butter, cheese, milk, chocolate and meat.

5. Sugar lowers HDL.

Eating sugar reduces HDL (the good cholesterol) and increases other risk factors linked to heart disease. This may be because sugar is a carbohydrate which forms acetyl CoA which is the precursor of cholesterol and fat.

6. Olive oil lowers LDL.

Olive oil has been found to lower LDL (the bad cholesterol), especially when it replaces saturated fat in the diet. It is a very old custom in Italy to serve olive oil on a plate to dip their fresh baked bread into. Cold pressed extra virgin olive oil has a distinctive flavor and a slight greenish tinge that is characteristic of high quality olive oil.

7. Cholesterol is made from carbohydrates.

Cholesterol is made in the body from acetyl CoA. Acetyl CoA is formed from glucose found in carbohydrates (sugar, bread, etc.). Besides forming cholesterol, acetyl CoA can also be used to make energy or fats. Therefore a diet low in carbohydrates may be helpful in reducing cholesterol.

8. Vitamin D, bile acid and hormones are made from cholesterol.

Cholesterol is used in the body to make vitamin D, bile acids and hormones including aldosterone (which regulates sodium and potassium levels in the body), cortisol (an anti-inflammatory hormone), estrogen and testosterone (the "sex" hormones).

9. Cytochrome p450 degrades cholesterol.

Cholesterol is degraded by the cytochrome p450 enzyme system. Cytochrome p450 is part of phase 1 detoxification which helps remove alcohol, carbon tetrachloride, barbiturates, dioxin, and paint fumes from the body. Cofactors for cytochrome p450 are iron, copper, and vitamins A, B1, and B2. Cytochrome p450 is inhibited by carbon monoxide, tagamet and cimetidine. High cholesterol levels may be caused by lowered cytochrome p450 activity as a result of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, over the counter drugs, or toxicity.

10. HMG CoA reductase inhibitors lower cholesterol.

HMG CoA reductase is the enzyme that forms isoprenes and cholesterol from acetyl CoA and acetoacetyl CoA. Vitamins A, E, K and rhodopsin are formed from isoprenes, and vitamin D, bile acids and hormones are formed from cholesterol. Cholesterol lowering drugs, such as Lovastatin (Mevacor), inhibit HMG CoA reductase. Lovastatin also has many side effects, including abdominal pain, blurred vision, cataracts, constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, dyspepsia, elevated hepatic enzymes, flatulence, headache, myalgia, myasthenia, myopathy, nausea and vomiting, pruritis (itchy skin), and rhabdomyolysis.

by Ronald Steriti, ND, PhD, a Naturopathic Doctor

Ronald Steriti wants you to know: I assist people to regain and maintain their health using herbs, homeopathy and nutrition to support their body's natural healing abilities. The original source is: compiled from books by Pizzorno, Murray, Marz, Werbach, Wright and Gaby.

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This page was last updated on 12/26/05.