Sugar May Be The Main Culprit Behind High Cholesterol
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D., Founder
Like many people, you may not know much about cholesterol other than you don’t want to have high cholesterol. But there is so much more to cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a very necessary waxy, fat-like substance that is found in every single one of our cells. It’s a crucial building block in cell membranes, and every person needs cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D and substances that help with the digestion of certain foods. And our bodies, mostly the liver, makes cholesterol.
“In fact, cholesterol production is so important that your liver and intestines make about 80% of the cholesterol you need to stay healthy. Only about 20% comes from the foods you eat,” according to Harvard Medical School.
Having too much cholesterol, which as I mentioned you probably already know, can put us in dangerous health territory.
“When there is too much cholesterol circulating in the blood, it can create sticky deposits (called plaque) along the artery walls. Plaque can eventually narrow or block the flow of blood to the brain, heart, and other organs. Blood cells that get caught on the plaque form clots, which can break loose and completely block blood flow through an artery, causing heart attack or stroke,” according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Your cholesterol can also be too low. There is also good and bad cholesterol.
So now that you know the cholesterol basics, know that millions of Americans have high cholesterol (also called hypercholesterolemia). In most cases, this is due to a poor diet rich in bad fats and sugar, a lack of exercise and obesity.
And there is also familial hypercholesterolemia.
“Familial hypercholesterolemia is a genetic disorder that causes people to have cholesterol levels 2-4 times higher than the average person,” according to a recent Medical Xpress report.
“Organizations, including the American Heart Association, have suggested they avoid eating food from animal sources, such as meat, eggs and cheese, and to avoid coconut oil.”These foods are rich in saturated fat.
“Saturated fat is a bad fat because it raises your LDL (bad cholesterol) level more than anything else in your diet. It is found in some meats, dairy products, chocolate, baked goods, and deep-fried and processed foods,” reports the National Institutes of Health.
This isn’t to say that you have to completely abstain from meat and dairy, but people with high levels of bad cholesterol are usually told that they need to cut back on their intake of saturated fat.
On the other hand, the Medical Xpress report referenced earlier discusses how a team of experts on heart disease and diet, including five cardiologists, reviewed dietary guidelines for people with familial hypercholesterolemia and they “...couldn't find any justification for health experts to recommend a low saturated fat diet.”
Sugar may be the bigger culprit.
"Our study showed that a more 'heart healthy' diet is one low in sugar, not saturated fat," said one of the experts.
Sugar and cholesterol.
“Consuming a diet high in sugar for just a few weeks has been shown to cause numerous abnormalities found in patients with CHD [coronary heart disease], such as high total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL, oxidized LDL, uric acid, insulin resistance and abnormal glucose tolerance, low HDL, and altered platelet function,” according to a recent study published by ScienceDaily.
(LDL is the bad cholesterol, HDL is the good cholesterol).
“The overall effect of consuming a diet high in sugar on these numerous health markers is likely more detrimental to overall health compared to increased consumption of saturated fat, which can increase LDL but at the same time raise HDL.”
So, researchers are seeing that sugar is not just bad for glucose levels and diabetes. It may also be very detrimental to healthy cholesterol levels and contribute to the development of heart disease.
Americans, overall, consume a lot of sugar. And keep in mind, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both American men and women.
This isn’t all to say that a diet high in saturated fat is not potentially dangerous. It may all really depend on the person. Diet really needs to be tailored to the individual, especially if this individual already has existing health issues.
With that said, a good general rule of thumb to keep your cholesterol in check is to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and avoid ultra-processed foods. Drink plenty of water and exercise regularly.
Finally, many people may have high cholesterol and not even know it. A simple blood test will determine if your bad cholesterol level is too high. Check out this pH Labs blog to see more details about how you can prevent high cholesterol and other often preventable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and more.
Enjoy your healthy life!
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