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The Great Cholesterol Deception
The Great Cholesterol Deception: The Report That Started It All
The belief that a diet high in animal fat and cholesterol leads to heart attacks has been a mainstay of the American medical community ever since the publication of the Seven Countries study in the 1970s. Added to that were the findings of the ongoing Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial (MRFIT.) This is a part of the great cholesterol deception.
MRFIT involved over 360,000 men. Based on this trial, researchers concluded that a diagnosis of high blood cholesteol greatly increases heart attack risk. And there were many other smaller studies which seemed to reenforce the diet-heart hypothesis--that a high cholesterol diet is the basis for high blood cholesterol, and that high blood cholesterol causes heart disease. This is part of the great cholesterol deception.
Dr. Ancel Keys was one of the authors of the Seven Countries study. This study is highly flawed because a total of 22 countries were evaluated, but only 7 were included in the analysis.
Based on the 7 countries that were included, there is a direct correlation between the risk of a fatal heart attack and fat consumption. The lower the fat consumption, the smaller the number of people who died from heart attacks, and vice versa.
The Great Cholesterol Deception: The Truth Behind the Seven Countries Study Revealed
A Swedish physician revealed the Seven Countries study for what is was--a veiled attempt at perpetrating a desired result. The physician, Dr. Uffe Ravnskov, M.D., Ph.D., exposed the cholesterol myth, or, as I like to call it, the great cholesterol deception, in his book The Cholesterol Myths.
The graphs created by Dr. Keys and associates which pointed out the alledged correlation between animal fat consumption and heart attack seemed correct beyond a shadow of a doubt when 7 countries were taken into account. The graphs curved consistently upward. However, if all 22 countries were plotted, the graph would have resembled a scattering of dots--dispelling the diet-heart hypotheses.
Dr. Ravnskov also discusses the MRFIT trial in his book. That trial found patients with the highest blood cholesterol levels (over 265 mg/dL) had an astounding 433 percent greater risk of fatalities than those with the lowest (under 170 mg/dL.) On the surface, the numbers seem to close the debate on cholesterol and animal fat.
However upon digging deeper, another story emerges. The 433 percent greater risk was computed from the fact that 1.3 percent of the subjects with the highest cholesterol levels died during the study's six years and 0.3 percent with the lowest cholesterol levels died during that same period.
Viewed from another perspective, the results aren't as dramatic as the authors would have the public believe. The percentage of the highest cholesterol level group who did not die from a heart attack was 98.7! And the percentage who did not die from a heart attack from the lowest cholesterol level group was 99.7! From this angle, there is only a 1 percent difference between the two groups!
As can be seen, the evidence that contradicts the diet-heart hypothesis is a lot stronger than the evidence that supports it.
The Framington study which encompassed thousands of people in Framington, Massachusetts similarly provides evidence contrary to the diet-heart hypothesis. This study is ongoing for several chronic diseases. Results concerning cholesterol were that people who experienced heart attacks were just as likely to have low cholesterol levels as high.
Other cholesterol studies imply that high cholesterol is protective against heart disease mortality in elderly men and women and that very low levels can be dangerous in women.
And then there is the indisputable evidence of the Masai people of Africa. The Masai are cattle-herders who subsist almost entirely on animal meat. They have some of the lowest blood cholesterol levels and heart disease rates on earth.
Generally speaking, a majority of individuals who suffer heart attacks have blood cholesterol levels that fall within the range of normal, while many with high cholesterol never suffer a heart attack.
The Great Cholesterol Deception: What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fatlike material found in the brain, nerves, blood, bile, and liver. It is essential in the production of steroid hormones and in nerve function as well as other necessary body processes. There is no evidence whatsoever that normal cholesterol floating around in the blood is harmful. It only becomes harmful when it is excessive and oxidized.
Cholesterol is the building block for for all of your steroid hormones, which includes all sex hormones and the cortisones. Even slightly low levels of cholesterol are associated with depression, suicide, and lung cancer in older women. A British study found that low cholesterol levels can cause schizophrenia.
A persistant myth says that eating foods with a high cholesterol content raises cholesterol levels in the body. This is true for only 30 percent of the American population. The others experience no such rise.
Your body produces about 75 percent of its own cholesterol from the foods you eat. The balance comes from what you consume. If more cholesterol is eaten than your body requires, production is reduced. Or it may be broken down by the liver and excreted.
People who eat so much cholesterol that the body can't keep up with the elimination process, or whose livers are not working properly, may develop high cholesterol. But this is an exception, not the rule.
The Great Cholesterol Deception: Oxidized Cholesterol Is Bad
A diet which is full of antioxidants doesn't permit oxidized cholesterol to cause damage. Fruits and vegetables are high in free-radical destroying antioxidants. People who eat lots of vegetables have healthy hearts.
But you should eat according to your nutritional type. A protein type like myself will thrive on a high protein/fat diet. But it is important that the source be organic and free-ranged. Conventional meat sources are full of pesticides, omega-6 fatty acids, antibiotics, and hormones-- all of which contribute to oxidized cholesterol through free radicals.
Low glutathione levels is a risk factor for heart disease. Glutathione is a small molecule made up of three amino acids which exists in almost every cell of the body. Too little glutathione hinders the body from clearing out harmful types of cholesterol and toxins that damage arteries.
High homocysteine levels will harm artery walls. A deficiency of B vitamins will cause homocysteine levels to skyrocket.
Other threats to a healthy heart are rancid, unsaturated vegetable oils and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. These substances create inflammation which leads to free radical generation.
Your body uses cholesterol to repair damaged artery walls. If that cholesterol is oxidized, your body yet believes the artery wall is damaged and sends more cholesterol to fix it. The inflammatory process that kicks in to try to repair artery damage only accelerates the expansion of the wall, contributing to the chain reaction of cholesterol accumulation and causing further cholesterol oxidation.
Inflammation causes free radical formation to increase. Nutritional deficiencies and toxins allow cholesterol to become oxidized. And in a catch-22 like fashion, they interfere with the ability of the liver and other organs to do their clean-up work to eliminate harmful fatty acids in the blood.
The Great Cholesterol Deception: Cholesterol Count Myth
Pharmaceutical companies would like you buy into the myth that if your cholesterol count is over 200 mg/dL you should probably be on cholesterol-lowering drugs. That's understandable. Cholesterol-lowering drugs are their biggest money-makers. Don't buy into the great cholesterol deception.
But like everything else, every individual is different. Our individual biochemistry allows for a wide range of cholesterol levels. Relative levels of HDL (good cholesterol) and LDL (so-called bad) cholesterol are more important than your total cholesterol.
A very high level of LDL cholesterol probably indicates that your body is not efficiently removing cholesterol from your blood, but that inefficiency, and the heart disease that may accompany it, is most likely caused by poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle.
More importantly, your HDL cholesterol should be high and your LDL cholesterol should be low relative to each other. A recent study performed in China found that people with low counts of LDL cholesterol and low counts of HDL still have a high coronary risk.Healthy living > Healthy heart > Cholesterol deception