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The Dangers of Low Cholesterol

egg fryingBefore we discuss practical ways to reduce one’s risk of heart disease, we do want to warm people about the dangers of low cholesterol, since it is a problem that is seldom addressed in modern medicine. Low cholesterol readings are associated with increased risk of cancer, stroke, suicide, and death from coronary heart disease. Low cholesterol is also associated with infertility, erectile dysfunction, increased risk of infection, and reduced protection from neurotoxins, mercury and heavy metals.

The most critical problem is that the research shows that lowering your cholesterol does not decrease your risk of heart disease, but it does double your risk of dying from a heart attack if you have one. In fact, there is evidence that suggests that if you do have a heart attack that you are more likely to survive it if your cholesterol is higher. Here are some studies to consider.

A 3 year study on 11,500 patients showed that low cholesterol resulted in increased lung cancer, increase in other cancers, higher risk of cardiac death, erectile dysfunction and infertility, and a loss of memory and mental focus.
—European Heart Journal 1997, 18, 52-59

A Swedish researcher discovered that individuals with low cholesterol suffer from frequent and severe infections, while individuals with high cholesterol had a lower mortality than the average population
—Uffe Ravnskov, MD, PhD, independent researcher Magle Stora Kyrkogata 9, S-223250 Lund, Sweden

A 30 years follow-up on one of the original studies linking cholesterol and heart disease showed no correlation between high cholesterol and mortality, but did show a correlation between low cholesterol and mortality. Death rates from coronary heart disease increased 14% for every 1 mg/dl drop in total cholesterol per year
—Anderson KM. Cholesterol and Mortality, 30 years of Follow-up from the Framingham study. JAMA 1987 Apr 24;257(16):2176-80

A paper in the Journal of Cardiac Failure on an analysis of 1,134 patients with heart disease showed that low cholesterol was associated with worse outcomes in heart failure patients and impaired survival rates. It also showed that elevated cholesterol was not associated with hypertension, diabetes or coronary heart disease.
—Horwich TB. Low Serum Total Cholesterol is Associated with Marked Increase in Mortality in Advanced Heart Failure. J Card. Fail. 2002 Aug;8(4):216-214

A Japanese Study found as cholesterol levels went up death rates from coronary heart disease went down.
—Okayama A., Marmot MG Int. J Epidemiol Dec 1993

A study conducted at the University of San Diego School of Medicine showed high cholesterol can be protective against environmental toxins and that low cholesterol is a risk factor for heart arrhythmias.

High cholesterol readings are associated with protection from neurotoxins and cancer protection according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Despite successful attempts to lower cholesterol with statin drugs, the rate of heart disease has not changed in 75 years and mortality from heart disease is more than double what is was in 1996.
—Uri Goldbourt. Arteriosclerosis Vol 10. No 4. July/August 1996

For a detailed analysis of the flawed data linking cholesterol as a cause of heart disease, read some of the books listed Selected References at the end of this article.

If your cholesterol is low (below 170 mg/dL) it may be wise to increase one’s intake of foods like real butter, eggs and red meat. One may also wish to improve liver health and check thyroid and adrenal function.

Real Prevention

Of course, the only reason we’re discussing cholesterol is because of its supposed link to reducing a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease. If that’s your goal, stop focusing on cholesterol and start focusing on reducing inflammation and oxidative stress in your body.  This is the real key to avoiding heart disease.

cruciferous veggiesA healthy diet is the place to begin.  Start by eating a lot of vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables like kale, mustard and collard greens, spinach, swiss chard, bok choy and dark green leaf or romaine lettuce. It’s also good to include some antioxidant-rich fruits, such as blue berries and other berries, pomegranates and apples.

Do an oil change, dropping margarine, shortening and processed vegetable oils from your diet.  Use olive oil, coconut oil and butter instead. Supplementing your diet with omega-3 essential fatty acids and the fat soluble vitamins D3 and K2 will also be helpful as these nutrients reduce cardiovascular inflammation.  They can also inhibit the oxidation of cholesterol..

Finally, severely reduce or eliminate all refined carbohydrates from your diet.  While eating cholesterol-rich foods like butter and eggs, and consuming naturally occurring saturated fats has not been correlated with increased risk of heart disease, high insulin levels have been demonstrated to be a major risk factor.

Simple carbohydrates, like refined sugar, corn syrup and white flour spike insulin levels, increasing insulin resistance, which increases inflammation, contributes to high blood pressure and dramatically increases your risk of heart disease.  So, if you really want to reduce your risk of heart disease (and be more healthy overall), say “no” to sugar and say yes to good fats and complex carbohydrates.

Another step you want to take to reduce your risk of heart disease is to avoid environmental toxins as much as possible. Chlorine, bromindes, solvents, and other chemicals will not only increase inflammation in your body, they may cause cholesterol to oxidize.  Since you can’t avoid all toxins, it also helps to do a periodic cleanse.

Exercise also reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease and helps balance your blood sugar levels at the same time.  Stress is also a big factor in heart disease because stress also contributes to chronic inflammation.  So, learn some good stress management skills.  If you’re under a lot of stress, consider taking some adaptagens.

Supplements for Cardiovascular Health

Besides these basic nutrition and lifestyle recommendations, there are some supplements that can be very helpful for reducing your risk of heart disease.  The first is Co-Q10, which was mentioned earlier.  If you have gum disease, there is a high probability that you also have cardiovascular inflammation.  Co-Q10 can help with both.

Magnesium is another important supplement to consider.  It relaxes artery walls, lowers blood pressure and helps the heart produce energy.
Also consider taking five grams of l-arginine daily. This is the amount research suggests can help to reduce blood pressure and inhibit plaque formation in the arteries.

Hawthorn and garlic, mentioned earlier, are great herbs to take to improve cardiovascular health. These herbs, along with capsicum, ginger, gingo and prickly ash are important herbs in Cardiovascular Stimulant Formulas and Cardiac Tonic Formulas. Lists of these formulas can be found in the Modern Herbal Medicine book.

Selected References

The Cholesterol Myths: Exposing the Fallacy That Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Cause Heart Disease by Uffe Ravnskov, MD, Ph.D.
Ignore the Awkward: How the Cholesterol Myths are Kept Alive by Uffee Ravnshov
Fat and Cholesterol are Good for You! by Uffee Ravnshov
The Great Cholesterol Myth by Jonny Bowden, PhD and Stephen Sinatra, MD
Cholesterol and Cardiac Health by Kimberly Balas, ND and Steven Horne
The Comprehensive Guide to Nature’s Sunshine Products by Steven Horne and Kimberly Balas
Modern Herbal Medicine by Steven Horne and Thomas Easley