12 Myths About Cholesterol

Just heard on TV (so it must be true) that 1/3 of Americans have high cholesterol, so this topic is both timely and important.  Do you know your cholesterol numbers?  Would be a good idea, as well as learning more about cholesterol right here… read on…

Myths about cholesterol

[Update: It's a world wide problem.] [Update 2: Check out one man's pursuit of healthy cholesterol numbers.]

ONE OF my longest, detailed and perhaps boring post is about dietary fat.  I really dug into this topic because people seem to be so confused about the types of fat, and which are “good” or “bad”.

(If you have time to kill, read: Fat is Good…Maybe…Could Be…)

Ever since I wrote that post, I thought I should return to the topic and explain things more simply.  But I don’t have to, because Dr. Rebecca S. Reeves has done it already in her succinct article, Heart Health: 12 Myths About Cholesterol, which I summarize below.

“What does cholesterol have to do with fat”, you may ask?  “And why should I care”? Well, let’s first define cholesterol… from my “Fat” article, I quote:

“Cholesterol, is one of a class of complex lipids called “sterols“, and comes in two forms: the “bad” form associated with low density lipoproteins (“LDL”), and the “good” form associated with high density lipoproteins (“HDL”).”

Clear as mud, right?

Well, again from my “Fat” article, another attempt:

“Bad fats are saturated fat and trans fat.

Fats containing saturated fatty acids are called Saturated Fats. Examples of foods high in saturated fats include lard, butter, whole milk, cream, eggs, red meat, chocolate, and solid shortenings. Excess intake of saturated fat can raise your blood cholesterol and increase the risk of developing coronary artery disease.”

“Trans Fats are found in vegetable shortenings and in some margarines, crackers, cookies, and snack foods, and will increase the shelf life of oils. But trans fats will not extend your shelf life; rather, just the opposite – consumption of trans fatty acids increases blood LDL-cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) levels and raises the risk of coronary heart disease.  A nice recipe for a short life.”

(More on all that here.)

OK, needed to connect the dots between cholesterol and fat before turning to Dr. Reeves’ article where she sometimes uses the two terms interchangeably.

The 12 Myths About Cholesterol

  1. Healthy diets eliminate the most fat.  Not necessarily – you need fat in your diet, at least 25% of total calories.
  2. All fats are equal. No, some are good, some OK, some bad. Good are Monosaturated (olive oil, peanut oil, avocado); and Polyunsaturated (salmon, seeds, nuts, vegetable oils). OK is coconut oil, a saturated fat, yes, but with a different chemistry.  Bad are Saturated (fatty red meats, butter, palm oil); and Trans fat (anything termed “hydrogenated oils”, typically in packaged foods and fast foods, like French fries.
  3. Low fat = low calorie. Nope.  When the fat is taken out, often other high calorie stuff is put in, like sugar-type stuff.  Plus you might wind up eating more of the low fat, high sugar food and thus consume more calories.
  4. Olive oil has less calories than other oil. All oils have 9 calories per gram.
  5. No “trans fat” means the food is healthy. Maybe… what replaced it, saturated fat? Just minimize your consumption of manufactured, packaged food.
  6. Plant “sterols” will reduce cholesterol. Yes, if you eat about 100 pounds of the veggies, fruits and grains each day.
  7. The food label says, “Contains plant sterols” and this will lower cholesterol. Depends on the amount… you need 0.8 grams of plant sterols per day may reduce your risk of heart disease.  Look for the CoroWise logo on the label.
  8. Plant sterols reduces blood cholesterol by dissolving it in the intestines. Plant sterols work by reducing the absorption of cholesterol from your intestines, which in turn reduces the level of LDL (bad) cholesterol in your body. Cholesterol that is not absorbed is eliminated from your body.
  9. Plant sterols do not lower cholesterol. Wrong – studies show that plant sterols are effective at lowering LDL cholesterol if you consume between 0.8 and 3 grams per day.
  10. No plant sterol is need if you have normal cholesterol levels. May not be needed if your LDL number is good, but whether your cholesterol is high or “normal”, plant sterol will lower LDL.
  11. Children and pregnant women should avoid plant sterols. No, there’s no “should” here… consuming plant sterols for them may be unnecessary since children and pregnant women usually do not have high cholesterol, but doing so is not harmful.
  12. It’s a good thing to eliminate cholesterol completely from your diet. For most of us, it’s safe to have 300 mg of cholesterol daily, the recommended daily limit.

Well, there you have it.  If you have any thoughts or suggestions or experiences to share on the topic, please go to the Comments section below and weigh in.

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Share! Someone will thank you.
Joe Garma
 

I help people live with more vitality and strength. I'm a big believer in sustainability, and am a bit nutty about optimizing my diet, supplements, hormones and exercise. To get exclusive Updates, tips and free stuff, join my weekly newsletter.

  • wholisticMom

    Cholesterol is so necessary EVERY CELL MAKES IT. Dr. Diane Schwarzbein wrote in the Schwarzbein Principle that if you don't eat cholesterol, your body will make it non-stop. Price Pottinger Foundation has article “The Benefits of Cholesterol”.

    I think the No/Low Fat misinformation campaign has done more damage to the nations mental & physical health than any other Big Pharm misinformation.

    Low Cholesterol makes your brain structurally unsound. Susceptible to AD & PD.

    Dangerous lipids are man made & man altered. Delicate omega 3's are damaged by heat, light or oxygen

    Grass fed cows have healthy fat… grain feeding alters the fat.

    I could probably list 100 False Fat Facts. Margie K on Huff Po Aloha

  • http://www.garmaonhealth.com/ Joe

    Everything in balance, right… so need to know your cholesterol numbers and get some guidance from your doctor. But rather than take drugs to reduce cholesterol, try changing diet.

    Dr. Hyman points out that it's the size of the cholesterol particles that's as important as the size of the LDL number. He writes about this and ways to naturally reduce cholesterol here:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

    To your point, Hyman dissects who needs to be cholesterol conscious in this article:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

  • Pro183

    You do not need 25% of your calories as fat- many many people in the world today do just fine (or even better, in many ways) with fat at about 10-15% of their diet.  I am an MD, by the way, and would refer any reader to books like “The China Study” for more information.

  • http://www.ayurvediccure.com/shilajit.htm shilajit

    Regular exercise will convert some of your body’s LDL cholesterol it produces into HDL as well.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IGORABANOSRAUBM26VTDMVTYCM MeMet

     As much as I am aware of. . . red yeast rice is highly proficiently put into use nowadays for controlling the cholesterol levels within the human body.

  • http://www.facebook.com/danny.j.albers Danny J Albers

    Sterols become plaque, not just cholesterol. I do not know why this blanket recommendation to eat plant sterols exists. It lowers lab numbers, makes the doctor feel good, but plant sterols become plaque just as readily as the cholesterol they replace, yet skate on cholesterol counts. In short, good labs with no net benefit.

    “The major new observation of the present study was that the higher the ratio of the dietary absorption sterol (cholestanol, campesterol, sitosterol and avenasterol) to serum cholesterol, the higher the ratio was also in the carotid artery wall,” the authors wrote

    http://www.news-medical.net/news/2005/06/09/10846.aspx

    Plant sterols are a completely unproven blanket recommendation and again we are the lab rats.

    As for cholesterol itself in the diet, and saturated fat. I eat a 95% animal diet, with 85% of calories from fat.

    My cholesterol is right here along with all my other lab results.

    http://primalnorth.blogspot.ca/2012/09/august-2012-lab-results.html

    We must stop using the public as a test case for unproven hypothesis. Sterol dogma does nothing for health and merely drives sales of processed foods like margarine.

    Nature put very limited sterols in plants for a reason, we have an inability to process them in bulk. Unlike cholesterol which our body actually produces and we have entire homestasis based systems to control.

    That is my opinion on plant sterols. There is no evidence base for this conclusion beyond correlation using cherry picked data.

  • http://www.facebook.com/danny.j.albers Danny J Albers

    You do not need any calories from carbs either. I get less than 3 percent calories from carbs and over 80% of my calories from fat. Am fit, losing weight, have great lab numbers despite what T. Colin Campbell says is possible. My labs are so good I put them public on the net, tired of argueing with those who say you cannot be healthy eating mostly animals.

  • http://www.facebook.com/danny.j.albers Danny J Albers

    Sadly with Ornish as now the medical editor, the Huffington Post has become anything if not biased towards plant based nutrition, fat phobio mongering, etc…

  • http://www.garmaonhealth.com/ Joe

    Well, Danny J., it’s pretty clear that you’ve become a student of this topic. Since I blog about health matters, I read a lot about diet/nutrition and readily admit that the more I know, the less I know.

    Yes, there’s evidence that high fat paleo type diets can produce healthy numbers, at least in the short-run, but the same can be said for vegan diets, particularly if they manage the protein right.

    I took a look at your cholesterol numbers. Wouldn’t expect them to be as good as they are given your 80% fat diet. But I’m not inclined to suggest that what works for a certain group of people will work for everyone.

    I’ve been experimenting with my diet by shifting the amount of macronutrients ingested. Right now, am eating about 40% fat, 35% carbs and 25% protein. When I recently had some blood work done, I was eating about 25% fat, 50% carbs and 25% protein.

    Almost all my protein comes from fish and supplements; fats from omega-3 and carbs are low glycemic.

    My cholesterol results:

    Cholesterol: 162
    HDL: 51
    LDL: 97
    HDL/LDL: 0.53
    Triglycerides/HDL: 1.4
    Cholesterol/HDL: 3.2

    So, this is one data point of how a very different diet than yours can also produce good cholesterol results.

  • http://www.facebook.com/danny.j.albers Danny J Albers

    And it just proves my point, the cholesterol in your diet has next to no relationship to the cholesterol levels in your blood when you can look at two very different diets both with good outcomes. Everything about the dietary cholesterol hypothesis falls apart under any level of scrutiny.

    The very existence of HDL and LDL and their strata inbetween is ample proof the body has a homestasis based system to determine the right cholesterol for our personal state of health, and will regulate it appropriately.

    However this is hear nor there, and your comment seems to have missed the entire point of mine. Sterols travels these same pathways and end up as plaque. Yet our body cannot produce plant sterols. In fact the only way to get them to become plaque is to eat them at some point.

    Why are sterols healthy, but choleSTEROL which is simply a sterol, not? I mean, its right there in the biopsies. Where is all the STEROL phobia? Why only cholesterol? Why only animal sourced (which coincidentally we produce ourselves independant of diet) feared when all types of sterols end up in plaque?

    The more you examine dietary cholesterol compared to serum the more you realise the whole chain of action does not hold up. Your own numbers simply prove it as do mine.