“There is a wealth of…evidence that increasing the concentration of HDL cholesterol through diet will lower the risk of coronary artery disease.” –R.P. Mensink, Maastricht University
In the last post we showed how Eating Fat Does Not Hurt Cholesterol & It’s Not About Lowering Cholesterol Anyway. Here’s where the confusion about cholesterol comes from in the first place. There are different types of cholesterol, and most of them are helpful or neutral. The two most commonly discussed are LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and HDL (high-density lipoprotein). They are required to produce new cells and hormones. Because of this critical role, even if we never ate any cholesterol, our liver or intestines would produce it.
What Are Healthy Cholesterol Numbers?
When it comes to predicting heart health, the American Heart Association, International Diabetes Federation, and World Health Organization agree that low HDL cholesterol—not high LDL cholesterol—is what matters. And that low HDL is bad. Looking at disease and death rates at various levels of LDL and HDL cholesterol, researchers have found that people with low HDL run a much greater risk of heart disease.
Relative Risk of Heart Disease Given Total Cholesterol
There are two things to note about this graphic. First, total cholesterol is irrelevant. If someone tells you their total cholesterol is 185, what is their risk of heart disease? Looking at the preceding table, it is either very low or high, depending on how much of that 185 consists of HDL cholesterol. Similarly, if someone tells you their total cholesterol is 245, they either have a herculean heart or a hemorrhaging heart, depending on their HDL levels.
Second, note how increasing HDL cholesterol is more important for heart health than decreasing LDL cholesterol. High HDL cholesterol protects us from heart problems more than dropping our LDL levels ever could. Heart-healthy diets are not about lowering total cholesterol. They are about raising HDL cholesterol.
“…low HDL-cholesterol levels increase coronary heart disease risk…[programs] resulting in an increase in HDL-cholesterol levels could decrease the incidence of ischemic heart disease.” – J.P. Despres, Laval University
How to Raise HDL Cholesterol
The most effective way to raise our HDL levels is to eat more natural fat and less unnatural starch. Fat raises HDL. Starch lowers HDL.
The Impact of Fat and Starch on HDL and LDL Cholesterol and Health
A Smarter Science of Heart Healthy Foods
Since lower HDL does more harm than lower LDL does good, any diet which tells us to replace SANE sources of fat with inSANE starch worsens our cholesterol. This is why D. Mozaffarian at Harvard University wrote: “[Focusing] on effects of total and saturated fat on…total and low-density lipoprotein [LDL] cholesterol may have failed to reduce coronary heart disease risk and inadvertently worsened…insulin resistance, and weight gain.” Researcher A. Garg wrote the following in the Journal of the American Medical Association: “High-carbohydrate diets…caused persistent deterioration of glycemic control and accentuation of hyperinsulinemia [caused clogs], as well as increased…very-low-density lipoprotein [bad] cholesterol levels.”
Regrettably, under the government’s guidelines, we are supposed to replace natural foods containing fat with low-fat-high-starch products to lower our total cholesterol. Why? Lower total cholesterol is meaningless, and lower HDL cholesterol is terrible for us. Researchers have demonstrated this for decades.
For example, the February 1989 issue of the Diabetes Care journal put out by the American Diabetes Association contained a study comparing the government’s diet with a more SANE way of eating. The study concluded: “VLDL [bad] cholesterol was significantly increased…High-density lipoprotein [good] cholesterol concentrations were significantly decreased after consumption of the 60% carbohydrate diet.”
Comparable results were found with the equally imbalanced U.K. dietary guidelines. In the words of University of Glasgow researcher S.R. Arefhosseini: “Following the U.K. dietary guidelines resulted in changes…more likely to favor an increased risk of coronary heart disease.”
What About Saturated Fat and Cholesterol?
Even saturated fats are not cholesterol criminals. The American Heart Association found:
“No adequately designed randomized controlled study in the general population has shown that…decreasing saturated fat…intake significantly decreases coronary heart disease mortality.”
Bottom Line: Ways to Improve Cholesterol
What is the bottom line? Studies show that any diet telling you to replace SANE sources of fat with inSANE starches is unhealthy and fattening. M.L. McCullough at Harvard University made this point: “Limiting unsaturated fats, which is usually done by increasing carbohydrates…is detrimental…. Low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets provide a higher glycemic load, aggravate hyperinsulinemia [clogging], and may thus increase the risk of diabetes and coronary artery disease.”
Want to improve your cholesterol naturally? Eat more, but smarter.
If you think this is troubling, wait until you see what happened when big business jumped on the government bandwagon. We’ll cover that next week.
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