Cholesterol, life expectancy, and children: the link to toxins

When it comes to cholesterol, even many alternative-minded people see it just as something bad, a killer to be avoided as much as possible in the diet. The story seems simple enough: too much cholesterol in the diet coming from egg yolks, butter, red meat, and so on, causes cholesterol in the blood to go up. That in turn causes clogging of the arteries and, given enough time, heart disease and even early death.

While it has been shown that high blood cholesterol in young to middle aged but otherwise healthy individuals often leads to heart disease, the link between blood cholesterol levels and cholesterol in the diet has never been conclusively established. For example, when studies of the Atkins diet were finally released, they showed that blood cholesterol levels went down – not up – in people following this notoriously high cholesterol diet.

At the same time, studies of people on vegan or other very low or no cholesterol diets failed to show dramatic drops in blood cholesterol levels. In my own professional experience I have known several people over the years who switched to a vegan diet containing no cholesterol only to see their blood cholesterol levels go up rather than down.

We also hear increasingly from mainstream medical sources that high cholesterol is a problem that originates in childhood and that, conceivably, is when the foundation for heart disease later in life is laid. Read More »

Essential minerals: supercharge your (or your child’s) diet with homemade beef bone stock

When it comes to maintaining or regaining health, nothing plays as important a role as proper mineral balance in the body. Although we no longer hear much about it

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, leading experts in the field of nutritional medicine sounded the alarm as early as the 1930’s and 40’s: modern agricultural practices were depleting the soil, generating widespread mineral deficiencies and imbalances. This in turn left us vulnerable to weakened immunity, digestive and nervous system disorders, and more. When combined with the dramatic spread of environmental chemicals and other toxins over the past half century, the recipe for disaster is complete.

Those sounding the alarm were the likes of Henry Bieler, MD, and Max Gerson, MD. Dr. Bieler wrote the book “Food is Your Best Medicine.” He believed in drug-free medicine and was well-known at the time for being the personal physician to Greta Garbo and other stars. He was also known because his patients had a habit of living well into their nineties. Dr. Gerson authored “A Cancer Therapy.” He used food, vegetable juices, and little else to successfully treat diseases ranging from migraines to diabetes and even cancer.

Mineral supplements can help correct deficiency in some instances; however, many essential minerals are poorly absorbed from supplements. In addition, manmade supplements that are not properly balanced can aggravate any existing imbalance. The bottom line is that only natural unprocessed foods contain minerals in optimal ratios and, in fact, the body is ideally suited to absorb minerals from food rather than supplements.
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Do you have high cholesterol? High blood sugar? Gout? Weight gain around the waist? Inflammation? Try cherries!

Though this may seem hard to believe, if research now spanning several decades is accurate, natural cherries or cherry extract have all these benefits and more.

Gout sufferers who are tuned in to natural remedies have known for decades that drinking a bottle (or two) of cherry juice can put a stop even to a severe gout attack. The earliest published study on this that I was able to find is dated 1950 (Cherry diet control for gout and arthritis, Tex Rep Biol Med).

Recent studies show that compounds in cherries lower both uric acid (the direct cause of gout) and inflammatory markers in blood. In particular cherry consumption was shown to lower C-reactive protein (CRP), an indicator of inflammation in blood that is now considered a better predictor of cardiovascular disease than cholesterol levels (Kelley, J Nutr 2006).
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Vitamin C helps more than the common cold

Most people readily associate vitamin C with the common cold. While there continues to be controversy on whether it really protects from colds and other viral conditions, studies have shown that it does.

Many also associate vitamin C with Linus Pauling, a two-time Nobel laureate who conducted a great deal of early research on this vitamin and fought to publicize its benefits. However, almost no one remembers that much of Dr. Pauling’s research focused on the benefits of vitamin C in cardiovascular health.

By definition, a vitamin is something that is essential to life but that our bodies cannot make, so we need to get it from our food. Oddly enough, vitamin C is not a vitamin for most other mammals; their bodies make as much of it as they need through a four-step chemical reaction that uses blood sugar as the raw ingredient.
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The cholesterol story: the French paradox, the Swiss paradox, the Russian paradox – where will it end?

When it comes to diet and health, one of my favorite books is “Life Without Bread.” If the title sounds too forbidding, you can relax (at least a bit); based on content, the book should really be named “Life With a Little Bread.”

I like this book because the authors call it as they see it, with no concern for marketing gimmicks or the politically correct. One of the two authors, Austrian physician Wolfgang Lutz, wrote this book after retiring from 40 years in practice. By contrast, many diet and health books today are nothing but self-promotional tools written by individuals with little actual experience to back them up.

Throughout his years in practice, Dr. Lutz meticulously charted the benefits of his carbohydrate-restricted diet on conditions ranging from hormone imbalances in women to digestive disorders and even cardiovascular disease. I am not saying that this diet is a cure-all, but I do think that Dr. Lutz and his co-author Dr. Allan know what theyíre talking about.
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Beware: Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs Will Soon be Prescribed for Children

Cholesterol-lowering “statin” drugs work by inhibiting an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase that is responsible for making cholesterol. Unfortunately, this is the same enzyme that also makes Co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10), one of the most powerful antioxidants in our bodies. CoQ10 helps protect us from the harmful effects of free radicals that cause a multitude of health conditions, including heart disease and cancer.

Blocking the body’s ability to produce cholesterol inevitably also blocks its ability to make CoQ10. Because of this association, many experts believe that the use of cholersterol-lowering drugs over extended periods of time increases the risk of cancer. One such expert is Diana Schwarzbein, MD, an endocrinologist and author of the best-selling diet book The Schwarzbein Principle. In her book, Dr. Schwarzbein quotes several studies that support an association between these medications and cancer risk.

A recent short-term study from The Netherlands found that these drugs were “safe” and effective in children (“Simvastatin safe and effective for children with familial hypercholesterolemia” Circulation, 2002; 106: 2231-37). It is likely that physicians in this country will soon be under pressure to screen children’s cholesterol levels and prescribe medications when levels are found to be high. Since these medications are usually prescribed for life, it can be expected that children will be exposed to the highest risk of side effects from long-term use.
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Very low carbohydrate diet promotes weight loss and lower cholesterol levels

A recent Duke University study looked at the effects of a very low carbohydrate diet on weight and metabolic parameters. 51 overweight or obese individuals were put on a diet consisting of unlimited meat and eggs plus two cups of salad and one cup of a low-carbohydrate vegetable, such as broccoli, every day.

It should not come as a surprise that these people lost weight. After all, Dr. Atkins has been promoting this very diet for more than two decades. If anything, the extent of their weight loss is disappointing, as it only averaged 10% of body weight. For example, an individual weighing 300 lbs., with a target body weight of 150 lbs., would have weighed 270 lbs. after six months and, considering that weight loss tends to taper off over time, would probably never have reached his or her goal without also restricting the intake of calories.

The real surprise of this study is what happened to cholesterol levels of the study participants. Total cholesterol decreased an average of 26 points. LDL cholesterol (the kind generally considered “bad”) decreased 25 points, while HDL cholesterol (considered “good”) increased 8 points. And yes, you read correctly: these people were actually consuming unlimited amounts of eggs and red meat!

Previous studies had already shown that the consumption of eggs does not raise cholesterol, but do eggs actually lower it? Or – more likely – is it that the excess sugar and carbohydrates in the average American’s everyday diet affect metabolism, causing the body to produce unhealthy levels of cholesterol?

The journal reference for this study is Am J Med, 2002;113(1)30-36.

Suicide, cholesterol relationship found

Do you still think that the lower your cholesterol, the better your health? Think again. A Canadian study (Epidemiology, 2001;12(2):168-172) followed more than 11,000 individuals for 12 years. Researchers found a significant correlation between low serum cholesterol and the incidence of suicide.

Previous studies had found a relationship between low total cholesterol and depression. Although the mechanism is not fully understood, it is believed that cholesterol plays a role in serotonin metabolism.

The war on cholesterol: promoting public health or drug company marketing strategy?

If you keep up with the news, you may have read or heard about the newly publicized “war on cholesterol”. It was announced that, in a shift in policy, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is recommending that cholesterol-lowering drugs be prescribed more aggressively to individuals with a history or other risk factors for heart disease, even if they do not have particularly elevated cholesterol levels. This could potentially triple the number of adults in this country taking cholesterol-lowering drugs. But is this new policy based on science alone, or on drug companies’ skillful marketing and vast profit potential? Interestingly, this announcement did not follow any new breakthrough studies showing that cholesterol is the ultimate cause of heart disease. In an interesting op/ed article published in the May 23, 2001 edition of the Houston Chronicle and other leading newspapers, Robert Atkins, MD pointed out that the new policy fails to address serious side effects of these drugs, including potentially severe liver damage and increased risk of cancer. In addition, these prescriptions have a high financial cost to individuals and/or insurers. The NIH also disregards a mounting body of evidence indicating that, through a controlled-carbohydrate diet, exercise and dietary supplements, cholesterol and other risk factors for heart disease can be effectively corrected. Dr. Atkins is a board-certified cardiologist and the author of several books on the benefits of a low-carbohydrate diet. Numerous studies spanning a decade or more point to a complex set of causes that lead to heart disease, rather than implicating cholesterol alone. Some of these causes are strongly linked to lifestyle, diet and nutrient deficiencies. They include chronic inflammation, elevated insulin levels in the blood, pro-oxidants and so-called free radicals, as well as low testosterone in men and low estrogen in women1. Elevated blood levels of a chemical called homocysteine have also been shown conclusively to be associated with a higher risk of heart disease even in the absence of elevated cholesterol2. Homocysteine buildup in the blood is caused by a deficiency of certain B vitamins.

Restricting Carbohydrates Can Decrease Risk of Heart Disease

Diane Schwarzbein, MD is an endocrinologist and the author of an excellent book, “The Schwarzbein Principle.” In a recent interview she related the remarkable story of how she went from being a conventional physician to embracing nutritional medicine. Dr. Schwarzbein worked with a group of adult diabetics who were highly motivated to control their disease and their increased risk of heart disease through diet. Gradually, through trial and error – and very cautiously at first – she came to realize that the high-carbohydrate/low-fat diets commonly recommended today were counterproductive. Her patients were actually getting worse. Although “low-fat” may sound good (many of us are trying to lose fat, after all), carbohydrates such as pasta, breads and other starches are nothing other than sugar molecules bound together in long chains. They are broken down and converted back to their sugar building blocks through the digestive process. Sugar has a dual action in the body: it raises insulin levels in the blood and promotes inflammation, thereby aggravating two known risk factors for heart disease. In addition, the body can only store minute amounts of sugar once its immediate energy needs have been met. Excess sugars are converted in the liver to triglycerides or cholesterol, and particularly to LDL, the “bad” cholesterol. Triglycerides are the type of fat that is stored in the body and are, themselves, a risk factor for heart disease. Once Dr. Scwharzbein began to recommend a more balanced diet that restricted carbohydrates and included more fat and protein, her patients began to improve. They lost weight, their cholesterol levels normalized, their diabetes was controlled and their risk of developing heart disease was lowered. Other factors, including exercise and nutritional supplements, also proved beneficial.

1. N Engl J Med 2000;343:1139-1147, 1148-1155 and 1179-1182; Free Rad Biol Med 2000;28(12):1717-1725; Diabetes Care 1991;14:173-194.

2. A great deal of the research on homocysteine is reviewed in the book “The Homocysteine Revolution” by Kilmer McCully, M.D.. According to some experts, the recent decline in heart disease may be attributable to the increased use of multivitamin supplements that may help lower homocysteine levels by supplying adequate amounts of B vitamins

Low Cholesterol Causes Aggressive Behavior And Depression

While many people think that the lower our cholesterol the better, numerous studies have contradicted this view. Now yet another study has linked low cholesterol with adverse health effects. Published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine (Dec. 1, 2000;23:519-529), the study found low serum cholesterol to be correlated with mood disorders, lack of cognitive efficiency and sociability.

It is theorized that low cholesterol leads to the suppression of serotonin, a condition known to cause both aggressive behavior and depression. With record numbers of Americans taking cholesterol-lowering medications, it should be noted that, as with everything else the body produces, there is a target range for cholesterol, and deviations in both directions indicate dysfunction.