First off, what is cholesterol?  Most MDs are only familiar with:

  • HDL (high density lipids)
  • LDL (low density lipids)
  • TGs (triglecirides)

But there are many different types of HDL and LDL.  This article will briefly look at:

  • why we need cholesterol
  • the different types of cholesterol
  • the drugs prescribed for high cholesterol and their devastating side effects
  • the foods that lower cholesterol

First off, cholesterol is a fat that is incredibly important to the body and is the required for:

  1. outer rim of the cell – required to regulate what goes in and out of the cell
  2. bile – breaks down the fats that you digest; and allows you to absorb the good fats
  3. hormones – all the steroid hormones:  testosterone, estrogen, cortisol, aldosterone
  4. Vitamin D – required to make Vitamin D
  5. insulation – the neurons in the brain require proper insulation to work and they need fat
  6. absorption of fat based vitamins:  A, D,E, K
  7. acts as an anti-oxidant
  8. contributes to bone formation – they would be hollow & brittle without it
  9. cholesterol plaque is there to protect damaged arteries: a bandaged artery is better than a ruptured/bleeding one
  10. oxidation of cholesterol is the 1st step by which cholesterol transforms into vitamin D3
  11. cholesterol sulfate deficiency leads to glucose intolerance

Sounds like cholesterol is pretty important!  The liver makes about 80% of our cholesterol and for obvious good reason.

Now let’s look at the different types of HDL and LDL

  1. HDL 2a & 2b – want to be high – extracts fats from arterial walls & prevents fats from adhering to the walls
  2. HDL 3 – want to be lower than HDL 2
  3. LDL A – large & buoyant LDL – this is what you want
  4. LDL B – predominantly small & dense LDL – you don’t want this-> diabetes, hi bld pressure, artheriosclerosis
  5. LDL mixed
  6. LDL R – associated with a bad diet
  7. LDL a – a good inflammatory marker – why not deal with the inflammation – and by George we can do that with food too!
  8. IDL – similar to an LDL but without the TG, transports TG fats & cholesterols; & can promote growth of atheroma
  9. Lp(a) Lipoprotein consists of an LDL-like particle & controlled genetically; kidney function impt for clearing it
  10. VLDL 1,2 – very large & transports TGs to adipose and muscle

So in this brief exercise we learn that we need both HDL and LDL and there are both good and bad types of each!  In fact…

Is all HDL good?  NO.  

While you have probably heard that your levels should be above 40, what you probably didn’t hear was that you want to make sure it is the HDL 2 that is predominant and not the HDL 3.

Is all LDL bad?  NO. 

Likewise not all LDL is the same. LDL can clump up with other particles and cause plaque & block blood BUT  LDL A is a good non oxidized cholesterol whereas LDL B is not good, it is an oxidized cholesterol – thus a good oxidative stress indicator.  LDL mixed or C is usually the score physicians give and does not tell us what we really need to know.

  • LDL R – or real LDL is associated with a bad diet and becomes a risk factor when it is above 100.
  • IDL – inherited independent factor that is strongly associated with coronary disease
  • LDLa – along with IDL is a good inflammatory marker
  • VLDL 1,2 – main carrier for another type of fat:  Triglyecerids (a blood fat) and if too high can be a risk factor
  • TESTS:  NMR LipoProfile measure LDL-P (particle count) (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance)

Cholesterol and drugs

The most common type of prescription for high cholesterol are the statin drugs.  The biggest issue with the statin drugs in North America is that they not only prevent you from making cholesterol, but they also prevent you from making CoQ10.  This molecule is hugely important and is involved in a number of functions, including being a required compound to make the fuel for every cell in the body!!

If you don’t have CoQ10 – you don’t have fuel – you loose cellular function!!

In fact, for years now in Europe, you cannot make a statin without sufficient CoQ10 to compensate for the loss due to the drug.  But those rules were never passed in North America.  If the cells cannot make fuel, they cannot break down, maintain or build up.  Consequently, virtually every function in the body is at risk!!!

Can food counteract high cholesterol without causing the harm of statin drugs?  YES

Did you know that only a couple of decades ago, JAMA (Journal of American Medical Association) actually published an article that said that diet did not impact on our health?!

Subsequent to that article another one was published that claimed that:  due to overwhelming evidence we have to conclude that diet impacts on our health!!  No Kidding!!  What do you think our body utilizes to make:

  • enzymes (over 10,000)
  • red blood cells (millions per day)
  • white blood cells (over 50 different types of immune cells)
  • hormones (over a 100 known)
  • neurotransmitters (over 50 known)
  • collagen (29 differenty types)

and the list goes on…these things have to be made constantly and require nutrient and fuel to do so!!!  Mankind has known this for 1000s of years…but apparently the medial profession only just found out?

So let’s look at our diet.   Well most of us know that the typical North American diet sucks big time!!!  But a good healthy diet is not simply one that eliminates:

  • harmful fats (we need all kinds of fats in the body for : transport, structure, fuel, etc; but it has to be good fats)
  • harmful sugars (we actually need sugar to make the fuel for our cells and a number of necessary compounds; but it hast to be good sugars)
  • fast foods
  • pasteurized foods
  • microwaved foods
  • processed foods

A good healthy diet is a diet full of:

  • Vitamins and minerals (hard to get with our depleted soils)
  • Proteins, complex carbs and healthy fats
  • Phytonutrients (polyphenols, bioflavoinoids, alkaloids, tannins, etc)
  • Omega 3s (all those anti-inflammatory fats but predominantly the DHAs and EPAs)
  • Fibers (historically, alternative medicine has recognized 2 types of fiber:  soluble and non-soluble.  Now there is question about a third category of fiber.  But we will look just at these two for now:
Soluble Fiber Insoluble Fiber
beans whole grains
oat bran whole grains
fruits vegetables
vegetables beans

So when we are looking at cholesterol and diet…

  • Soluble fiber can help lower cholesterol levels substantially.  Let’s look at a few:
  • – Oat bran is well recognized:  1–2 ounces a day should reduce your cholesterol by 10%–15%
  • – also:
    • apples
    • appricots
    • barley
    • beans
    • broccoli%
    • brussel sprouts
    • citrus fruit
    • grains, ie., psyllium, Metamucil, perdiem fiber (on average, 3 tsp / day will drop cholesterol by 15% in 4 months
    • prunes

Soy protein will accomplish a similar impact to grains BUT:

  • it takes more to do so
  • most soy is now GMO
  • soy has a high estrogen content – not wanted

Plant stanols/sterols (a type of phytonutrient) can also be utilized.  Although structured like a cholesterol, they prevent the body from absorbing the cholesterols found in foods.  They are found in small amounts in the following foods:

  • vegetable oil
  • nuts
  • legumes
  • whole grains
  • fruits
  • vegetables

Now, we can take this even further and provide herbal tinctures – work more efficiently and more effectively.  Herbal tinctures are powerful and typically one tablespoon is approximate to 4-6 pills – but they taste awful.  A good herbalist will look at what is causing the issues you have; and create a good combination of tincture remedy just for your body.

In addition, we have other plant compounds like:

  • fibrates
  • resins
  • Vitamin B3

that can also help in lowering LDLs and increasing HDLs.  The pharmaceutical companies have also tried mimicking these compounds in an attempt to create synthetic versions of nature that they can patent and charge for.

When it comes to lower cholesterol, would you rather take synthetic drugs that come at huge cost to both your pocket book and your health…or healthy foods that provide your body with a huge amount of other benefits and that you have to eat anyways.

The bottom line goes back to what Hippocrates said:

“Food is thy medicine and medicine is thy food.”

Do you want real medicine or the synthetic artificial stuff?  Studies repeatedly show that the more man gets involved…the more detrimental the product is.  The choice is yours!

The following chart was taken from:  http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09333.html

Table 3: Dietary fiber content of foods.
Serving size Fiber(grams)
Breads, cereals, grains
White bread 1 slice 0.6
Whole grain bread 1 slice 1.7
100% All Bran 1/2 cup 8.8
Corn Flakes 1 cup 0.7
Shredded Wheat 2 biscuits 5.5
Oatmeal, cooked 1 cup 4.0
Rice, brown, cooked 1 cup 3.5
Rice, white, cooked 1/3 cup 0.6
Fruit (fresh unless otherwise noted)
Apple, with skin 1 large 3.3
Apricots 1 0.7
Banana 1 3.1
Blackberries 1 cup 7.6
Dates 5 3.3
Grapes 10 n/a
Grapefruit, pink and red 1/2 2.0
Grapefruit, white 1/2 1.3
Melon, cantaloupe 1 cup 1.4
Nectarine 1 2.3
Orange 1 small 3.1
Peach 1 1.5
Pear 1 medium 5.1
Pineapple 1 cup 2.2
Plums 1 small 0.9
Prunes, dried 5 3.0
Raisins 1 cup 5.4
Strawberries 1 cup 3.3
Vegetables
Beans, baked, canned, plain 1 cup 10.4
Beans, green, cooked 1 cup 4.0
Beets, canned 1 cup 2.9
Broccoli, raw 1 cup 2.3
Cabbage, raw 1 cup 1.6
Carrots, raw 1 cup 3.1
Cauliflower, raw 1 cup 2.5
Celery, raw 1 cup 1.9
Corn, yellow, cooked 1 cup 3.9
Lentils, cooked 1 cup 15.6
Lettuce, romaine, raw 1 cup 1.2
Lettuce, iceberg, raw 1 cup 0.7
Peas, boiled 1 cup 4.5
Peas, split 1 cup 16.3
Potato, baked, fresh 1/2 potato 2.3
Sweet potato, cooked without skin 1/2 potato 3.9
Tomato, red, ripe 1 tomato 1.5
Winter squash, cooked 1 cup 5.7
Zucchini squash 1/2 cup n/a
Other foods
Meat, milk, eggs 0
Almonds (24 nuts) 1 oz. 3.3
Peanuts, dry roasted (approx. 28) 1 oz. 2.3
Walnuts, English (14 halves) 1 oz. 1.9

1J. Anderson, Colorado State University Extension foods and nutrition specialist and professor; S. Perryman, Extension foods and nutrition specialist; and L. Young, former foods and nutrition graduate student.12/98. Reviewed amd revised by K. Topham, CSU food science and human nutrition graduate student. 12/10.

Be responsible, do your research, find a good health practitioner.

Here’s to your health!

For more information, contact: Dr Holly at holly@choicesunlimited.ca

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