Cholesterol is an important lipid present as a structural component of all cell membranes and is also a precursor of steroid hormones and bile acids
In excess it accumulates in deposits of atherosclerotic plaque on the walls of the blood vessels leading to restrictions and interruptions of the circulation that can result in angina, heart attacks, stroke, claudication and other vascular complications.
We have long accepted that raised Cholesterol is a serious risk factor for death due to heart disease. Cholesterol is transported in the blood by lipoproteins. These carrier proteins fall into three main categories – very low lipoprotein, (VLDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high density lipoprotein (HDL). VLDL and LDL are responsible for transporting fats (primarily triglycerides and Cholesterol) from the liver to the bodies cells while HDL is responsible for returning fats to the liver.
It therefore follows that not only the score of cholesterol is important but also the ratio of these two lipoproteins. VLDL or LDL are associated with increased risk of Cardio Vascular Disease while a high HDL score can be seen as protective.
It had currently been recommended that the total blood cholesterol level be less than 5mmol/L with the LDL being under 3mmol/L. The total cholesterol to HDL ratio should be no higher than 4.2 and the LDL to HDL: ratio should be no higher than 2.5.
The risk of heart disease can be reduced dramatically by altering these scores in the right direction. For every 1% drop in the LDL cholesterol level the risk for heart attack drops by 2 %. Conversely, for every 1% increase in HDL levels, the risk for a heart attack drops 3-4%.
Although, in most cases, elevation of blood cholesterol and/or tryglyceride levels are due to dietary and lifestyle factors, elevation can also be due to hereditary factors that affect approximately 1 in 500 people. Reduced thyroid function, diabetes and aging can also be responsible for the liver producing more cholesterol than is necessary causing a raise in levels that is not reflective of diet and lifestyle.
The most important approach to lowering a high cholesterol levels remains a Healthful diet and lifestyle:
- Eat less saturated fat and cholesterol by reducing or eliminating the amount of animal products in the diet
- Eat more fibre rich plant foods (fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes).
- Loose weight if necessary.
- Get regular aerobic exercise
- Don’t smoke.
- Reduce or eliminate consumption of coffee (both with caffeine and decaffeinated).
Conventional Drug Therapy
Statins have become immensely popular due to some very aggressive marketing. Most cholesterol is synthesised in the liver with the body synthesising up to 1 gram of cholesterol a day while only 20 – 40mg per day is absorbed from food. Statins work primarily by inhibiting an enzyme involved in its synthesis. Some animal studies have shown liver toxicity and carcinogenicity and questions are being asked about the promotion and sale of these drugs at many chemists without any follow up liver tests or advice.
The Mail on Sunday investigation team sent a 63-year-old woman to five Boots stores for cholesterol tests. Her results ranged from 4.3 to 6.1mmol/L and the advice included lifestyle changes, taking fish oil capsules, and over the counter Simvastatin.
Some people find that even when taking Statins they do not get the expected benefits in endothelial function. The endothelium is one layer thick and lines all blood vessels. It releases bio-chemicals that protect and regulate vascular smooth muscle and vasodilatation. Research has shown that Statins will not improve the endothelial function if ADMA (Avemetrical Dimethyl Arginine) is high because it is an inhibitor of the enzyme involved in nitric oxide production. Adequate levels of nitric oxide in the endothelium reduces platelet aggregation and platelet and monocyte adhesiveness together with raising vessel dilation and decreasing inflammation. Giving L-Arginine such as the Thorne’s Perfusia SR helps TO raise levels OF nitric oxide. Clinical studies have shown giving Statins WITH Arginine worked best.
Alternative methods for lowering Cholesterol
Pantethine is the active form of B5 or pantothenic acid. Pantethine is the most important component of Coenzyme A (CoA). This enzyme is involved in the transport of fats to and from cells, as well as to the energy producing compartments within the cells. Pantethine (not Pantothenic acid) at doses or 900mg per day in divided doses. has been shown to significantly reduce serum tryglyceride levels by 32%, total cholesterol levels by 19% and LDL cholesterol by 21% while increasing HDL levels by 23%. Pantethine acts by inhibiting cholesterol syntheses and accelerating the utilisation of fat as an energy source. There appears to be no toxicity or side effects from taking Pantethine. Thorne produce Pantethine in 250mg capsules and Jarrow Formula produce Pantethine 300mg softgel.
Dozens of population-based and clinical studies have shown that vitamin C levels correspond with total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol levels, i.e. the higher the vitamin C levels the proportionally lower the total cholesterol and triglycerides and the higher the HDL levels.
Garlic needs to be raw to have a powerful physiological effect. Because of the social problems of a huge intake of raw garlic research suggest the best commercial garlic product should provide a daily does of at least 10mg alliin or a total allicin potential of 4000mcg. However as there are other components of garlic thought to exert beneficial effects the best product would be one rich in all the garlic compound that resembles fresh garlic. Jarrow formulas are responsible for several good garlic formulas that are appropriate to reducing cholesterol
Other products to be considered include:
Super EPA improves endothelial function and blood viscosity.
The Nutritional Consultancy
Tel 01379 740 747
Areas of Expertise Digestive Disorders, Hormone Health, Food Allergies & Intolerances, Mental Health, General
With clinics in Norwich, Eye, Scole and Stowmarket, Rachel has worked as a full time Nutritionist for the last 10 years. Before this Rachel worked in the mental health and learning disability areas of both the NHS and private sector. Rachel enjoys a varied caseload and specialises in the use of functional tests including hair mineral analysis, stools analysis, hormone analysis and various factor assessment tests. Rachel has also trained in iridology.