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High Cholesterol Is NOT the Cause of Heart Disease
There are two parts to this persistent myths relating to cholesterol and
The idea that eating cholesterol and saturated fat raises cholesterol
levels in your blood, and that high cholesterol in your blood is what drives
the risk for heart disease
Some of the healthful fat sources listed above are also sources of
dietary cholesterol, such as eggs. Contrary to early studies, which suggested
eating cholesterol-rich egg yolks raises your cholesterol levels, we now know
that’s actually NOT true.
“That’s been pretty thoroughly disproven in the scientificliterature,”
Kresser says. “You have between 1,100 to 1,700 milligrams ofcholesterol in
your body at any given time. But only 25 percent of thatactually comes from
your diet, and 75 percent is internally producedprimarily through your liver.
Why would that be? Because cholesterol is soimportant to the proper function
of your body that your body tightlyregulates its production. If you don’t eat
enough cholesterol, your body willmake more. It needs more cholesterol,
The other thing that most people don’t know is that only free or
unesterified cholesterol can be absorbed from the diet through the
intestines. Most foods have esterified cholesterol that can’t actually be
The first thing to understand is you don’t have a cholesterol level
in your blood, actually. Cholesterol is fat-soluble, and blood is mostly
water. For it to be transported around the blood, cholesterol needs to be
carried by a protein, specifically by a lipoprotein. These lipoproteins are
classified by density. So, you have very low-density lipoprotein or VLDL,
low-density lipoprotein or LDL, and high-density lipoprotein or HDL,
which are the main ones.
I mentioned before the analogy that our bloodstream is like a river.
Remember that the lipoproteins are like boats that carry the cholesterol
andfats around the body. The cholesterol and fats are like cargo in the boats.
So, here’s the really crucial point: up until about 10 or 15 years
ago, we thought that it was the concentration of cholesterol in the
lipoprotein (or the amount of cargo in the boat) that was driving the risk of
heart disease. But recent research indicates that it’s the number of boats or
the number of LDL particles that’s really the driving factor.”
So, it’s not the amount of cholesterol that is the main risk factor for
heart disease, rather it’s the number of cholesterol-carrying LDL particles.
Oxidized LDL can also be a greater risk factor for heart disease. When
oxidative stress is high due to poor diet, insufficient exercise and sleep,
and chronic stress, or when your antioxidant capacity is low (again usually
because of a poor diet), then oxidative damage can occur. Oxidized LDL is
more harmful than normal non-oxidized LDL because it’s smaller and denser.
This allows it to penetrate the lining of your arteries, where it will stimulate
plaque formation associated with heart disease.
“The more LDL particles you have, the more likely you are to have
some oxidized LDL, and they can be more atherogenic. However, oxidized
LDLloses their predictive value when it’s adjusted for LDL particle number.
Thatsuggests that LDL particle number may be an even more important risk
factorand may need a high number of LDL particles before oxidation becomes
a bigproblem,” Kresser explains.
What Raises Your LDL Particle Number?
If the primary cause of heart disease is not high cholesterol, then what
is? Part of the reason why statins are ineffective for heart disease
prevention (besides the fact that the drug causes heart disease as a side
effect) is that drugs cannot address the real cause of heart disease, which
is insulin and leptin resistance, which in turn increase LDL particle number
via a couple of different mechanisms. While some genetic predisposition can
play a role, insulin and leptin resistance is primarily caused by a
combination of factors that are epidemic in our modern lifestyle:
A diet high in processed and refined carbohydrates, sugars/fructose,
refined flours, and industrial seed oils
Insufficient everyday physical activity. Leading a sedentary
lifestyle causes biochemical changes that predispose you to insulin and
Chronic sleep deprivation. Studies have shown that even one night of
disturbed sleep can decrease your insulin sensitivity the next day and cause
cravings and overeating
Environmental toxins. Exposure to BPA, for example, can disrupt your
brain’s regulation of weight
Poor gut health. Studies indicate that imbalances in your gut flora
(the bacteria that live in our gut) can predispose you to obesity and insulin
and leptin resistance. According to Kresser, gut inflammation can even affect
your cholesterol more directly.
“There are some studies that show that lipopolysaccharide, which
is an endotoxin that can be found in some types of bacteria in the gut… If
the intestinal barrier is permeable, which shouldn’t be, of course, some of
that lipopolysaccharide can get into your bloodstream. LDL particles actually
have an antimicrobial effect. So, LDL particles will increase if there is
some endotoxin going into the bloodstream... causing a direct increase of LDL
The culmination of the synergistic effect of these factors will put
pressure on your liver to increase production of lipoproteins, more
specifically: low-density lipoproteins (LDL), (i.e. more “boats in the
river”), which increases your heart disease risk.
Another way leptin resistance contributes to increased LDL particle
number, and hence increased heart disease risk, is as follows: when a cell
signals that more cholesterol is needed for the cell to perform its function,
LDL receptor activity increases. The LDL receptor sits on the outside of
cells, and its job is to act as a docking station for the LDL particles
floating around in your blood. Once “docked” into the LDL receptor, the
LDLparticle can deliver the nutrients it carries into the cell.
However, if you’re leptin resistant, the LDL receptor doesn’t get the
message. It’s not sensitive enough to hear the signal. And without LDL
receptor activity, the LDL particles floating around are never encouraged to
“dock” into the receptor, and this too directly increases LDL particle
Besides insulin and leptin resistance, another common cause of elevated
LDL particle number is poor thyroid function. T3 hormone (which is the most
active form of thyroid hormone) is required to activate the LDL receptor,
which is what takes LDL out of the circulation. If you have poor thyroid
function or low T3 levels, then your LDL receptor activity will be poor, and
you’ll have a higher number of LDL particles. The good news is, if this is
the cause for your elevated LDL particle number, then addressing your thyroid
problem will reduce it.
How Intermittent Fasting Can Help You Address High Cholesterol
I’m particularly fond of coconut oil because I believe it’s a useful
therapeutic agent to help you implement intermittent fasting, which is
perhaps one of the most valuable stealth strategies to get healthy—largely
because it can radically improve your insulin and leptin resistance. In that
respect, intermittent fasting is also a powerful way to address cholesterol
and LDL particle number.
Kresser explains:“Insulin resistance and leptin resistance are widespread problems...
and that’s one of the main driving forces in elevated LDL particle number.
The reason for that is that LDL particles carry not only cholesterol, but
also triglycerides, fat-soluble vitamins, and antioxidants... If you have
high triglycerides, which you often will when you have insulin or leptin
resistance, then that means a given LDL particle can carry less cholesterol,
because it’s stuffed full of triglycerides. Your liver will then have to make
more LDL particles to carry that same given amount of cholesterol around
the tissues and cells in your body.
...Intermittent fasting is one of many ways to improve insulin
sensitivity and leptin sensitivity, because there are certain processes in
the body that engage after you haven’t eaten for a period of time. They’re
all evolutionary mechanisms that are designed to help us survive in periods
of food scarcity. You have an upregulation in metabolism basically, and...
your insulin and leptin sensitivity improves.
It’s a really good way for people to lose weight, which again will
improve insulin and leptin sensitivity, because obesity is both a cause and
an effect of leptin resistance. I think it’s a really great strategy for most
people; I do use it in my practice a lot.
The only kind of caution might be in people who have pretty severe
fatigue, or are suffering from some kind of chronic illness, and need to eat
more often. But for most people, I think it’s great.”
Coconut oil is most beneficial during the transition period from burning
sugar to burning fat, as it will not upset insulin and leptin resistance.
It’s neutral, yet it is rapidly metabolized and provides a good source of
energy. Fatigue can be a real challenge, so if you want to try intermittent
fasting but worry about flagging energy levels, coconut oil can be a useful
tool. You can even have some coconut oil during your fasting period as it
will not interrupt the beneficial processes that are happening while you’re
fasting. It’s mainly protein and carbohydrate that will interrupt those
processes. So having a little coconut oil in the morning might help you make
it through until you break your fast for your first meal. Kresser recommends
putting it in a smoothie, or even adding it to your tea or black coffee, if
the idea of eating the coconut oil by itself is too unappealing.
Tying It All Together
Remember, the most important test you can get to determine your heart
disease risk is the NMR lipoprofile, which measures your LDL particle number.
This test also has other markers that can help determine if you insulin
resistance, making it doubly useful. If you have insulin or leptin resistance,
you’ll have an increase in LDL particle number and specificallythe number
of small LDL particles. The NMR lipoprofile measures that too, and gives you
an objective score called the lipoprotein insulin resistance scoreor LP–IR. If
your LP–IR is above the recommended reference range, chances arethat you
have leptin and insulin resistance.
Insurance usually covers the test, but if you order it yourself from Direct Labs
or Access Labs, it costs about $100. If your LDL particle numberis high, Kresser
recommends searching for the cause. Again, two of the majorones are insulin and
leptin resistance, which the NMR test will alert you to.
The third common cause is poor thyroid function. Chronic infections
could also be a factor.
Once you’ve determined the cause, you need to address those. Remember,
statin drugs CANNOT address insulin or leptin resistance, and they do NOT
affect particle size or particle number. They ONLY suppress cholesterol
production in your liver, which can make your situation worse. Kresser
advises paying careful attention to the following seven factors when
addressing insulin and leptin resistance:
Diet: shifting toward the nutrient-dense-food-based diet with higher
fat and lower carbohydrate intake
Intermittent fasting may be useful
Make sure you’re getting enough sleep
Exercise regularly, and make sure to incorporate high intensity
interval exercises, as they are particularly effective for improving insulin
and leptin sensitivity
Avoid sitting too much, as that can have a direct adverse effect on
insulin and leptin sensitivity
Minimize your exposure to environmental toxins as much as possible
Optimize your gut health by eating fermented foods, soluble fiber
that enriches the beneficial gut flora, and avoiding food toxins and things
that harm your gut flora
As you can see, the things you need to do to treat your high LDL particle
number are identical to what you would do to promote optimal health in
Thank You Dr. Mercola
God Bless Everyone & God Bless The United States of America.
42 S. Sherwood Dr.
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