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Cholesterol Calamities

Excerpt from "Cirque du Cardiovasculaire", by Katie Agin, WholeFoods, February 2010.

Cholesterol has dominated the heart health category as it can be one indicator of cardiovascular disease-but, it's not an absolute.

[Steve] Holtby says, "It is important to note that many individuals with heart disease do not have elevated cholesterol or other common markers for heart disease risk.  Also important is that some individuals with elevated markers for disease have no disease present."

No consensus about cholesterol has been reached, but it is recognized that more important than cholesterol level is the type.  As the size of cholesterol particles decreases, cardiovascular risks may increase.  For example, the small, dense particles in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol can more easily penetrate arterial walls to cause damage.

[Bradley] West [N.D.] says, "The real issue is whether cholesterol being used in the body is becoming damaged by diet and lifestyle choices and whether it is being used for repair in the heart from inflammatory conditions.  Checking blood levels of C-reactive protein, homocysteine, triglyceride levels and hemoglobin ATC are more accurate markers of health and are a reflection of how healthy one's diet has been over time"

Studies are also showing that dietary cholesterol may not be linked to blood cholesterol at all.  In a recent WholeFoods Vitamin Connection two-part article, [Richard] Passwater [Ph.D] interviewed Sheldon Zerdon, author of the new book, The Cholesterol Paradigm: The Greatest Health Scam of the Century.  The interview refutes the long-standing conviction that food cholesterol results in arterial deposits of cholesterol, and implies that such beliefs were based upon imperfect pharmaceutical clinical trials (see WholeFoods Dec. 2009, pp. 30 and Jan. 2010, pp. 42) that have affected the entire heart health industry ever since.

West agrees, "Cholesterol does repair injuries and tears in the heart's vasculature, and can build up, but eating less of it does not prevent this from happening."

Statin controversy.  While some maintain that statin drugs are still appropriate in extreme cases, there is a growing belief that statin drugs are over-prescribed.  There is speculation that the gradually decreasing LDL level required to begin statin treatment has been triggered by concern for wealth, not health.  Ron Udell, president of Optipure Brand/Kenko International, Inc., Los Angeles, CA, says, "Exercise and eating right are always the most effective bastions for heart health, but the pharmaceutical industry's push to market drugs that specifically target certain symptoms has proven more lucrative and thus takes precedence in most advertising."

While the controversy and speculation will undoubtedly continue, the side effects associated with statins are real.  West says, "Lipitor and Mevacor are taken by over 13 million Americans today.  The side effects associated with these drugs are liver damage, muscle pain, weakness and fatigue.  Even heart failure itself can result with long-term use.  Repeated use of statins over time can deplete CoQ10, resulting in a weakened heart muscle and leaving one vulnerable to damage."

Another side effect, says [Michael T.] Murray [N.D.], is that statins can reduce the amounts of dolichols (compounds that help direct proteins to targeted cells) in blood, which can produce significant chaos in our body processes.  The effect, he says, would be comparable to "a large city with no street signs or addresses; mail would never be delivered."

Additionally, many people are up in arms about a 2008 AHA and American Pediatric Association guideline suggesting that children as young as eight with high LDL levels be given statin drugs.  The effects of long-term statin use in children are not known, and many believe more emphasis should be placed on nutrition and exercise, rather than a quick fix for medical problems or lax parenting.  Imagine the results of this faux safety net:  kids could have their cake and eat it too; parents could take the whole family on a one-stop trip through the drive-through straight to the couch.

[Trisha] Sugarek notes that cholesterol is required as a precursor to five major classes of sterol hormones: progesterone, glucocorticoids, mineralocorticoids, androgens and estrogens.  It is also used with vitamin D3 and bile salts that aid in digestion-all pretty important elements for growing bodies, on which statins' effects in children are not known.

Adding to this, Udell says, "There is a higher risk of dependence with pharmaceutical heart medications because they tend to be more effective at masking the symptoms and thus lull the consumer into contentment with the status quo, rather than providing an impetus to make valuable and lasting changes in one's lifestyle that can improve heart health."

And, that is dangerous to people of all ages.

Read the entire article online at www.wfcgreenbook.com to learn what you should be doing to become heart healthy!