STATINS.   Millions of people now take statins to lower their overall cholesterol levels, but forward thinking doctors are realising that a high LDL is not the whole story. Those on Statins may feel the drugs give them a licence to eat saturated fats such as butter, plus cakes, biscuits, high fat milk chocolate and so on with impunity. YES white foods ARE a major cause of many health problems because all excess sugars (carbs) that are not burned off during exercise including fructose (click here for my Sugars help sheet) will convert to fat in the body – and can end up deposited around your internal organs such as your liver, heart and kidneys – hence why your waist measurements are an important health marker.

ALSO, every cell wall in your body is made from fat, but for good health it needs to be more of the right type of fats!  Also, your brain’s primary food source is fat.

The take home message here is to eat more foods that are higher in essential fats such as oily fish, avocados, flax seeds and oil, walnuts and walnut oil, krill oil, chia seeds, hemp seeds and raw, organic coconut butter/ oil.

STATINS –  and LDL.. NO LONGER THE BAD GUY

The Naturopath Stephen Langley told me, ‘My question to the statin manufacturers is, because our bodies deem cholesterol vital to life, our livers manufacture what we need. LDL cholesterol is the vehicle by which Essential fats enter our cells in the first place, therefore to use statins to ‘shut down’ this production is counter productive to health’….. ‘

Also statins slow or stop production of a very important vitamin like substance called Co-Enzyme Q10 which is also produced by the liver. CoQ10 helps produce energy within our cells and muscles including the heart, hence why many people taking statins complain of muscle pain, energy loss and at times shortness of breath – they need CoQ10. Again this demonstrates that the statins are shutting down  vital nutrients that the body makes naturally. It’s madness’……

We also need cholesterol to manufacture hormones including testosterone and oestrogen, as well as vitamin D (which is acts like a steroid hormone in the body and is vital for immune function and healthy bones). Cholesterol is also a crucial component of the myelin sheath that coats neurons in the brain,. Cholesterol acts as a powerful antioxidant for the brain, and helps manage your body’s electrolyte balance.

Langley and Perlmutter are also keen for people to realize that cholesterol in your food has nothing to do with your blood cholesterol and that Cholesterol levels will go higher if your Essential fatty acid levels are too low.

Perlmutter states time and again ‘LDL IS NOT THE ENEMY. The problems occur when a higher carbohydrate diet yields oxidized LDL and increases the risk for atherosclerosis’.

In the Grain Brain Perlmutter writes ‘When cholesterol levels are low, the brain does not work so well ‘  and like  Steve he encourages everyone to help prevent oxidation of their LDL by hugely reducing their intake of refined carbohydrates including sugars.  Mind bogglingly turning on it’s head the mantra that has been cited for the past two decades he says ‘ High cholesterol can extend longevity’. Even further Dr George Mann, a researcher from the famous Framington Heart Study says ‘ the diet heart hypothesis that suggests that a high intake of fat or cholesterol causes heart disease has been repeatedly shown to be wrong……The public is being deceived by the greatest health scam of the century’.

As this subject is huge and the book needs to be read in its entirety to truly understand the whole picture – PLEASE read the Grain Brain by Dr David Perlmutter.

As things stand at the moment a total cholesterol blood reading above 6 mmol/L is considered high. Interestingly most people who die of heart disease or stroke have normal or low cholesterol but having high cholesterol indicates imbalances.

A healthy reading is considered to be around  5mmol/L.

It appears that the problem lies with the LDL and specifically whether that LDL oxidises (like rust) in our blood vessels causing damage and occlusion. The LDL will oxidise unless we have some form of insurance such as plenty of “fat-soluble” antioxidants to “mop it up” such as vitamin E.

Ideally, 20%–40% of your total cholesterol should be HDL. There is also a type of cholesterol, VLDL (very low density lipoprotein), which is extremely bad for you.

You need cholesterol for healthy cell membrane production and the manufacture of hormones. It is also needed to help in the synthesis of bile acids for the digestion of fats and for production of vitamin D. Low cholesterol levels are linked to depression and in rare cases suicide, hence why fat free diets are definitely not a good idea. For years we have been told to avoid certain foods, especially eggs, because they contain cholesterol. In fact, blood levels of LDL cholesterol, are more affected by eating too much fat and sugar, rather than foods like eggs which contain cholesterol (see Friendly Foods).

If you do have a high cholesterol level, two of the most important supplements you can take are natural source full spectrum vitamin E, which helps to prevent the cholesterol oxidising, and B-group vitamins including B12, B6, B3 and folic acid, all of which prevent the elevation of homocysteine levels (see below), which again tends to oxidise cholesterol and leads to plaque formation in the arteries. Thanks to eating too much animal fat many children in the West now have raised cholesterol and arterial plaque by the age of 10. But, while cholesterol levels have been used for many years as a possible way to predict our risk of heart attacks and strokes – it’s only part of the story. Medical science is now beginning to re-think the role that cholesterol plays in heart disease and strokes.

Homocysteine levels are now also being recognized as an important indicator for heart disease and stroke. Homocysteine is a toxic amino acid produced during the metabolism of proteins and high levels are associated with an 80% increased risk for heart disease and strokes, even if you have a healthy cholesterol level. The good news is that there is now an easy way to test your own homocysteine levels (see Helpful Hints), and you can lower levels naturally, by simply taking more B vitamins (see under Useful Remedies). If your level of homocysteine is high and you are taking B-vitamins to lower it, retest your levels periodically to see if you are taking sufficient dosages.

High plasma levels of homocysteine cause damage to artery walls, then LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) can easily stick to them – which triggers the cascade of events that leads to heart disease and strokes. It is also linked to numerous other age related conditions from Alzheimer’s and diabetes, to obesity and mental health problems such as schizophrenia.

Our cholesterol will naturally tend to rise (as liver function decreases) up until age 65 and high cholesterol will be more common in men younger than 55 years old than women of the same age. However, after menopause women’s cholesterol rises and women over 55 will tend to have higher levels than men.

Around 20% of the body’s total cholesterol is obtained from the diet, and the body manufactures the rest. Studies have shown that overweight people produce 20% more cholesterol than people of normal weight for their age, usually triggered by eating too much fat and sugar, refined carbs such as cake etc, stress and smoking. However, if you have a persistently raised cholesterol level but eat a healthy diet, you may have an under active thyroid. Also, people with blood type A are more susceptible to high total cholesterol.

Optimum liver function helps you to make more good cholesterol, therefore the more you look after your liver, the more likely you are to have a healthy level). About 1 person in 100 has a genetic predisposition to high blood cholesterol levels and even this can be helped through diet and taking the right supplements.

Statins are being treated as  magic bullets to treat high cholesterol and approximately 7 million people in the UK take statins regularly.  But, statins have been found to have considerable negative long term consequences for some people –  including memory loss, loss of libido, muscle pain and nerve damage (possibly to the myelin sheath that coats nerve endings).

Statins mask an underlying imbalance such as a fatty liver, and although  statins lower LDL and   total cholesterol, they only have a modest effect on boosting the artery cleansing HDL. Statin drugs do not however, lower the dangerous triglycerides. Also, statins  place a strain on all muscles including the heart muscle as they lower production of a vitamin like substance CoQ10 which is produced naturally in the liver. But as we age production of this vital substance slows and statins exacerbate the problem further.

Anyone taking statins should take a daily CoQ10 supplement. In fact naturopath Steve Langley says ‘ The average 70 year old does not have adequate reserves of Co Q 10  and if such a person is then given statins, it could reduce levels to a critical state and trigger heart problems.’

Several doctors are now openly linking some of the  side effects of statins to lowered levels of CoQ10.

Foods to Avoid

  • Eating too many barbecued or burnt foods, especially meat, hard margarines, fried foods and so on, causes cholesterol to oxidise which makes it more dangerous, and once oxidised it begins attaching itself to artery walls. And as we age cholesterol tends to oxidise at a faster rate, therefore the more antioxidants we eat, the less cholesterol oxidises, triggering health problems.
  • Cut down on your intake of  non grass fed animal fats and full fat dairy produce and eat more essential fats
  • Read labels – and as much as possible avoid mass-produced foods and oils that contain hydrogenated or trans-fats.
  • Refined carbohydrates, white rice and pastas, processed white breads, cakes etc, can reduce the production of HDLs and white bread eaters usually have higher cholesterol levels than those who eat mainly whole – meal varieties.
  • Sugar, if not burnt for energy during exercise, converts to fat in the body and resides on your hips
  • Eggs contain cholesterol, but this is balanced by a high choline content (great for memory), which breaks down the cholesterol. However, some scientists say that if an egg is fried – this causes oxidative damage – and it’s the frying that causes the problems not the eggs themselves. It makes sense then to boil or poach eggs. Buy organic or eggs containing omega-3 fats, which are now available in all major supermarkets.
  • Alcohol and coffee (especially if micro-waved), taken to excess has been shown to raise cholesterol levels.
  • Greatly reduce the amount of sodium-based salt you use.

Friendly Foods

  • Studies have shown that two glasses of red wine for a man and one for a woman will tend to raise HDL but won’t affect LDL levels.
  • Generally you need to increase your fibre intake. Eat more oat or rice bran, rolled oats, wheat germ, and any beans and peas such as soya beans, red kidney beans, lima beans, broad beans, chickpeas and lentils, whole grains such as brown rice, whole wheat, barley, rye, millet and quinoa are great for controlling cholesterol.
  • Increase your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables (raw, steamed, roasted or stir fried, not deep fried or boiled). Green vegetables are especially rich in magnesium and potassium, as are cereals (also rich in B-vitamins) honey, kelp and dried fruits like dates.
  • A couple of raw organic carrots or apples per day can lower cholesterol levels.
  • Eat porridge for breakfast. Make with half low-fat milk (or even better rice/sugar free almond, coconut or oat milk) and half water. Add a chopped apple and a few raisins to sweeten, rather than sugar.
  • Buckwheat,  is high in glycine, has been shown to lower cholesterol levels. Buckwheat flour makes great pancakes.
  • Fermented soya products, such as natto, miso and tempeh, can help raise HDL.
  • Soya lecithin granules are a great way to help control LDL and help to control the growth of kidney and gall stones. Sprinkle a tablespoon daily over cereals, into yoghurts and onto fruit salads. Make sure it’s a non GM source.
  • Increase your intake of healthier fats found in olive oil, avocados, sunflower, pumpkin, sesame and linseeds, plus walnuts and Brazil nuts and their unrefined oils.
  • Oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, anchovies, herring and sardines contain a fatty acid known as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). This helps to make the blood less sticky thus lowers the risk of coronary heart disease. Garlic and onions do the same.
  • Look for spreads that are free from hydrogenated and trans-fats such as Vitaquell Omega 3 Spread. Or blend a small amount of organic butter with a little olive oil.
  • Use Organic Raw Coconut butter to spread on crackers and for stir frying. Also great in cakes. This is one of the healthiest fats you can eat.
  • Otherwise use small amounts of walnut, almond or hemp seed butters. A/v from Health Shops
  • Vegetarians tend to have lower cholesterol levels.
  • Use an organic mineral-based sea salt available from all health stores. I use Himalayan Crystal  Salt rich in organic source minerals. A/v from good health stores.
  • Buy free range eggs.
  • Globe artichoke, celeriac, kale and fennel stimulate liver function and cell regeneration and can help lower blood cholesterol.
  • Eating more live, low-fat, plain yoghurt containing lactobacillus/acidophilus, which lowers blood cholesterol levels by binding fat and cholesterol in the intestines.

Useful Remedies

  • If you are taking statin drugs, which are now available over the counter from pharmacies, these drugs block the enzyme that makes cholesterol. The same enzyme also makes CoQ10 (Co-enzyme Q10), a vitamin-like substance, which is needed to protect against heart disease. Therefore, if you are taking statins it is really important that you also take 150mg of CoQ10 per day. Research shows people on statins have low levels of CoQ10 which can eventually trigger heart problems.
  • As a base take a good-quality multi-vitamin and mineral
  • Take 1–2 grams of fish oil daily. Krill Oil is great if you are not allergic to shellfish.
  • Evidence has shown that taking garlic each day could help lower overall cholesterol blood levels and increase the levels of HDL over LDL cholesterol. This is especially true if you are an A or an AB blood type.
  • Include a high-strength antioxidant formula that helps prevent the cholesterol oxidizing.
  • Make sure that any multi you take includes 400iu of full spectrum, natural source vitamin E which helps protect against oxidation of LDL. DO NOT TAKE IF YOU ARE TAKING PRESCRIBED BLOOD THINNING DRUGS.
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid also helps prevent oxidation of LDL, take 200mg daily.
  • Folic acid, B12 and B6 all lower levels of homocysteine in the blood, thus reducing our risk of heart disease. A good B-complex should contain 400mcg folic acid, 10–20mg B6 and 50–100mcg B12.
  • The mineral chromium 200mcg per day, can help elevate HDL levels whilst reducing cravings for sugary foods.
  • The minerals calcium and magnesium are useful for reducing cholesterol. Take 1000mg of calcium and 600mg of magnesium.

Helpful Hints

  • There is now an easy test to discover your plasma homocysteine levels. Made by York Laboratories and backed by The British Cardiac Patients Association – it’s a simple pinprick method that can be done by post. For details call York Labs on 0800 458 2052, or log on to www.yorktest.com.
  • Exercise is vital for controlling cholesterol. Try and walk for at least 30 minutes daily and do some kind of aerobic exercise 3 times a week.
  • Smoking increases oxidation of LDL.