Research has shown that dietary cholesterol has little or no effect on cardiovascular risk. A review of 22 studies including nearly 4,000 subjects showed that a diet low in fats & cholesterol has only a 2% reduction in cardiovascular mortality. Only 15 – 25% of the population is sensitive to dietary cholesterol which is exacerbated by obesity and diabetes.
On the other hand, trans-fatty acids significantly increase the risk of CV disease, increases LDL cholesterol, increases insulin resistance and blood sugar and risk of type 2 diabetes. Trans fats, also known as hydrogenated fats, are formed when a liquid fat is artificially turned into a solid fat (such as margarine) through a process called hydrogenation. Once again we are messing with Mother Nature and it is turning around and kicking us in the butt.
More importantly, the substitution of dietary fats with refined carbohydrates has been one of the major factors fueling the diabesity epidemic and increasing CV risk. For decades we have been told to eat “low fat”. This recommendation prompted a huge proliferation of low fat, high carb/sugar “diet” foods resulting in Americans getting even fatter. So once again, its all about balance between good fats and bad fats. Clearly diets very high in saturated (bad) fats are harmful but ironically diets low in saturated fats shown to increase health risks such as hemorrhagic stroke.
Dyslipidemia or abnormal blood cholesterol is not driven by dietary cholesterol. The most common underlying causes for dyslipidemia are;
Nearly half of the people that have heart attacks have normal cholesterol levels
A meal high in refined carbs and saturated (bad) fats triggers a release of endotoxins (substances toxic to the blood vessels & cells) which in turn increases glucose, insulin & triglycerides and decreases NO or nitric oxide. This causes endothelial dysfunction, oxidative stress and INFLAMMATION! LDL or bad cholesterol becomes oxidized in this inflammatory enviroment. As LDL modifies it turns into small dense LDL particles and deposits in the wall of the artery where it triggers a response from the immune system which in turn “attacks” the modified LDL. This is how vascular plaque or atherolsclerosis is formed, not from eating too many eggs.
The current standard of care in medicine is to drive blood cholesterol down to 70 or lower. Is that safe? Did you know that cholesterol is an essential component of every cell membrane and in the myelin layer of our nerves? Cholesterol is also essential for the formation of our steroid and sex hormones such as cortisol, testosterone, DHEAS and estrogen. Research has shown that a LDL < 60 – 70 interferes with the down stream effect of hormone synthesis. Low cholesterol has also been associated with a progressive decline in NO (nitric oxide) production and a significant increase in erectile dysfunction in men. Remember from my prior post that NO is an essential component for vascular health.