Did you know that in the Framingham Study, individuals who lived the longest had the highest cholesterol? This is certainly the opposite of what conventional wisdom has lead us to believe. You probably thought that having high cholesterol was horrible for your health, and you should take medication. Perhaps that’s what your doctor told you?
The reality is that much of what you thought you knew about cholesterol and it’s relation to heart disease is completely wrong.
Is this post we take a look at the top 5 cholesterol myths, and dish out the facts, based on the most recent clinical studies.
Myth #1: A low fat diet decreases your risk of heart disease
This is what we have been led to believe for the past 50 years, but couldn’t be any further from the truth. When our fat calories are decreased, we typically replace them with carbohydrates, which has been shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The bottom line: Although trans fats should be avoided at all costs, healthy fats from natural sources (in moderation) promote heart health. This is even true for saturated fats, which were once touted as the “unhealthy” fats.
Myth #2: All LDL cholesterol is “bad”
You’ve probably heard that HDL is “good”, and LDL is “bad”. he reality is that not all LDL cholesterol causes problems. In fact, the larger more buoyant LDL particles may actually be beneficial to cardiovascular health. It’s the small dense LDL particles that can cause problems (if inflammation exists).
Here is a study from over 20 years ago that showed that the dense LDL particles had triple the likelihood of causing heart disease as the larger “puffy” LDL.
The bottom line: Having high levels of LDL doesn’t doesn’t necessarily mean that you are at higher risk of getting heart disease – only the small dense LDL particles are troublesome. Decrease your small dense LDL particle count be decreasing your intake of simple carbohydrates.
Myth #3: Eggs are unhealthy because they are high in cholesterol
Eggs are one of the foods that have gotten a bad rap in the past, since they contain upwards of 200mg of cholesterol. it was thought that consuming them would cause blood cholesterol levels to sky rocket. Studies like this suggest that in most individuals, cholesterol levels remain unchanged after consuming eggs. For those “hyperresponders” who’s cholesterol levels do rise, it’s both the healthy HDL and ‘fluffy’ LDL pattern A.
The bottom line: Eggs are a healthy whole food, and consuming them does not increase the risk of heart disease.
Myth #4: High cholesterol levels cause cardiovascular disease
Cholesterol is not the direct cause of heart disease – damage to the arterial walls caused by oxidative stress is the culprit. Small cracks form on the arterial walls, which results in inflammation. Small LDL-B particles begin to fill in the cracks, and can form plaque which can eventually fill the entire diameter of the artery.
The bottom line: If there is no inflammation, there is no reason for plaque to form in the arterial walls. Focus on decreasing body inflammation be being active, and eating the right foods.
Myth #5: High cholesterol is an accurate predictor of heart attacks
If high cholesterol was linked to heart disease, you’d expect a higher percentage people diagnosed with CV disease would have high cholesterol levels, right? Well, it turns out that 50% of people diagnosed with heart disease have normal cholesterol levels!
The bottom line: There is no evidence that people with high cholesterol are at greater risk of getting cardiovascular disease. What’s more important than the HDL and LDL numbers are ratios, such as:
- Triglycerides to HDL
- LDL to HDL
- Total cholesterol to HDL
Additionally, finding out whether you have dense (bad) LDL versus light (good) LDL may be beneficial in certain circumstances.
Putting it All Together
All of the information in this post is factual, and can be backed up by clinical studies. Ultimately however, it’s up to you to perform your own research and come to your own conclusions about high cholesterol.
Remember – it certainly isn’t in the best interest of the large drug companies making billions of dollars a year to tell you the truth about cholesterol, otherwise they would be out of business.
What are your thoughts on these cholesterol myths? Please let us know by commenting below!