The shocking secret to lowering high cholesterol

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So in my last post I mentioned that cholesterol is not the life threatening substance we’ve been conditioned to believe.  And I left off with this question:

So what to do?

OK, ready to be shocked?

Eat more cholesterol!

Sounds crazy right?

The truth is that it’s very difficult to change your blood cholesterol levels through the dietary intake of cholesterol.  Cholesterol is so essential and so vital to so many roles in your body, that your body makes it on its own.  Consume more and your body makes less.  Consume less and your body makes more.

Except under one circumstance: the over consumption of carbohydrates, in particular, refined carbohydrates and sugar, which are essentially the same thing.  In this case, your body will over produce cholesterol.

Let’s understand why.

First, let’s consider just a few of the essential roles of cholesterol:

  • Vital component of hormones, in particular the sex hormones – testosterone, estrogen and progesterone.  Food for thought: Could our low cholesterol diets have something to do with the explosion in sales of Viagra?  Could they have something to do with the epidemic of menopausal symptoms in women?  Could they have something to do with our infertility epidemic?
  • Necessary in the synthesis of vitamin D.  Food for thought:  I met a doctor a while ago who told me he doesn’t even test for vitamin D anymore.  He said everyone is so deficient he just automatically puts everyone on a vitamin D supplement.  Perhaps low cholesterol diets contribute to this?
  • Low levels alter hormones in the brain. Total cholesterol levels below 150 are positively associated with depression, violent behavior and early death.
  • Essential component of mother’s milk. Fat and cholesterol are an essential part of a child’s proper development.
  • Acts as an anti-oxidant.

That last one is key to understand.  Something every doctor knows is that your cholesterol skyrockets after surgery or even after a dental procedure.  Why?  Because cholesterol is an anti-oxidant!  It’s a key component of the inflammation process which is necessary for healing damaged tissues.

High cholesterol is almost always a direct response to inflammation, in particular from pro-inflammatory foods.

The standard American diet is a pro-inflammatory diet.  Refined carbohydrates and sugar will damage your body.  Guess what your body does in response?  It protects you.  But it can only do it for so long.

Keep eating sugar and your body will continually store it as fat.  Weight gain and obesity develops.

Keep eating sugar and eventually you wear out your body’s ability to get it out of your blood.  Blood sugar rises.  Type II diabetes results.

Keep eating sugar and it can damage the lining of your arteries.  Your body will from a clot made of fat and cholesterol to protect you.  Heart disease develops.

Sugar will degrade the functioning of every system in your body.  It will depress immune function, demineralize the bones, upset the gastrointestinal environment, etc.  Get the idea?

Am I saying to never eat sugar again?  Of course not.  Who doesn’t have a sweet tooth?  We can enjoy a sugary treat here and there.   Your body can handle it in small amounts.

But there’s no doubt that we have to reduce the unbelievable amounts we consume.  1 in 3 children born in the US will contract type II diabetes if the current trends continue.  That’s scary.  Folks, type II diabetes is a disease of chronically high blood sugar.  This is directly related to the 150 plus pounds of sugar that the average American consumes per year.

I have no doubt that someday the sugar industry will be looked at in the same light as the tobacco industry.  There is no longer a shadow of a doubt that smoking causes lung cancer. But hard as it is to imagine now, there was a time when the research was controversial.  Over time, it became clear.

The same thing is happening with sugar.  People still blame fat.  They still blame cholesterol.  They blame meat.  They blame eggs, whole milk, butter.  But as the dust settles, as our epidemics grow and as the low fat and low cholesterol approach continues to fail, one obvious culprit remains: sugar.  Am I oversimplifying it?  I don’t think so.  Yes, there are other reasons for our collective health problems – stress and toxins, in particular.  But in my opinion, sugar is at the top of that list.

On my last blog post, here’s what one person commented: I used to have high cholesterol. Then I stopped eating sugar and processed food. I also eat a goodly amount of (healthy) meat, eggs, dairy, and fat– probably a good amount more than before. Guess what happened– yes, blood work was done, cholesterol was waaay down, doctor was frankly astonished. He (the doc) had been contemplating prescribing a statin. I’m so glad to have avoided taking statins.”

Statins reduce the production of cholesterol.  But as we’ve seen, the body is not stupid.  It’s over producing cholesterol on purpose.  Remember the analogy I used in my previous blog?  Statins prevent the fire department (cholesterol) from getting to the scene of the fire (inflammation).

Not very smart.

I see this time and time again.   When people come to see me I almost always have to educate them about sugar.  I show them all the hidden forms it takes in cereals, fruit juices, refined grains, sweetened yogurt, etc.  I show them that they’re consuming a larger amount that they’re aware of.  It’s almost universal.  And then I show them how to take it out.  And when they do, weight comes off, cholesterol comes down, energy goes up and many other health issues start to improve as well.

It’s not rocket science.

So the question is, how much sugar do you eat?  Stay tuned for my next blog where I’ll show you a simple test you can do at home to see if you have too much of a sweet tooth. I’ll then give you some essential tips for getting sugar out of your diet.

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  1. Tara Bartley says:

    Great post Craig, I look forward to the follow up. I am well aware of my “sweet tooth” and am looking to make better choices for myself & my family.

  2. Loved the article. Thank you so much.!

  3. Craig, Great article as always but I have a question. What do all of these cholesterol lowering drugs do? Where should we want our cholesterol level to be.

    • Hey Eric. Thanks for the questions. Statins lower cholesterol by shutting off an enzyme in the liver known as HMG-CoA reductase. From the conventional viewpoint, total cholesterol under 200 is low risk, over 200 is a moderate risk and over 250 is a high risk. These numbers are becoming more and more controversial though. 50-75% of people die of heart attacks with normal cholesterol. A better way to gauge one’s risk is to take the total cholesterol and divide by the total HDL. A ratio under 4.5 is considered low risk, 4..5-5.5 moderate risk and over 5.5 a high risk. More doctors are starting to use this number instead of the total number. They’re also using tests for things like homocysteine, an amino acid, and C-Reactive protein which give can give a more accurate indication of underlying inflammation. Personally, I don’t really pay attention to cholesterol numbers, unless they’re extremely high. In that case, it’s almost always related to too many carbohydrates in the diet. Regardless, getting sugars out of the diet is vital for long term health.

      • Lardlad says:

        What would you consider extremely high? I had blood work done a week ago and my chol/hdl ratio is 6. I have been eating less than 20g of carbs a day for probably 13-14 weeks so I am confident it’s not because of carbs or sugar. Could these numbers be elevated because of weight loss (about 25lbs in that timeframe), too soon to measure?

        Total – 353
        hdl – 59
        trig – 105

        • Hi Chris,

          Yes, that ratio is high. Remember, cholesterol is part of the inflammatory response so it’s possible there could be another reason outside of diet that’s causing inflammation. There are certainly other lifestyle factors or possible environmental exposures that may be responsible. Ask your doctor to test for something called C-Reactive protein and/or homocysteine which correlate to inflammation in the body.

          Best of luck,

  4. Hi Craig, Hydration is a problem for me, recently my cholesterol skyrocketed. I went from less than 100 to 270 in 6 mos. my CRP was high as well. and I had a sudden lack of hormones resulting in full menopause despite not even being peri menopausal 6 mos before. Could my hydration issue cause this? Any direction you could steer me? The dr recommended statins and I’ve had every contraindication. I’m off of those forever.

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