Cholesterol - Friend or Foe

When talking about heart disease and its causes, we always focus on cholesterol as the main causative agent. Traditional medicine practitioners - cardiologists especially - focus their entire lives on lowering serum cholesterol. But are they misguided? What are the facts?

The fact is that cholesterol has a very important role in the body, namely that of the final antioxidant. Without cholesterol, we would not be able to survive the oxidative stress of our daily world, such as nitrogen oxides and ozone in pollution, heated fat from the local fast food restaurant, etc., yet medicine focuses all of its energy on trying to lower it.

Let's look at some of the facts. The HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors (this is the enzyme that is first step in the manufacture of cholesterol and is inhibited to block its synthesis), also referred to as statins, block the manufacture of cholesterol in all tissues, yet only about 9 percent of the cholesterol is in the blood. If you've seen the warnings on Zocor and Lipitor, they include "telling your doctor if you develop muscle weakness," which is a serious side effect of these drugs. That is because most of the other 91 percent of the cholesterol is involved in nerve insulation. When you block the manufacturing of cholesterol in the nerves, they can't properly insulate themselves and they sort of biologically short circuit, resulting in less satisfactory firing of the muscles and, you guessed it, weakness. Additionally, there are several steps in the manufacture of cholesterol and needed biological substances (like CoQ-10) and specialized neuroregulatory compounds are produced in this process and their manufacture is also inhibited.

So then, what is the answer, or what should be done nutritionally? If you look at the diagram in this section, you will see that cholesterol is divided into the GOOD or HDL portion and the BAD, also known as the LDL portion. Now the LDL is not all bad. It only becomes bad when oxidized. How is it oxidized? When one eats fried foods, the fat in the food oxidizes (i.e. becomes rancid) and these oxidized fats contain very dangerous free radicals generators called lipid peroxides. These would normally cause cell death if we didn't have a super antioxidant present to protect the tissues. The super antioxidant is, oddly enough, cholesterol. But what happens is that the LDL cholesterol becomes oxidized, forming Toxic LDL which is a precursor to coronary disease. In essence, cholesterol protects us from immediate death but sets us up for a long drawn out slow death from vascular disease.

How do we have our cake and eat it too? We interrupt the formation of toxic LDL from LDL in all tissues so that the body is protected from oxidative stress, yet we don't rely on the final antioxidant namely cholesterol. Hence, we supplement the patients with Vitamin E, Vitamin C, selenium, CoQ 10, lipoic acid, pycnogenols, and polyphenolic and proanthocyanodin antioxidants (note that the last three are in our Vasomacs product and are the colored pigments in fruits and vegetables).

Another supplement that has been reformulated to help with the problem of increase cholesterol is Lipo-Macs. The formula was changed a few years ago to make it more effective in lowering cholesterol. The main ingredients is an old Chinese formulation of red yeast and rice. The Chinese found that when rice is fermented with a special strain of red yeast, it produces chemical substances that naturally lower the level of cholesterol in the blood. We have also added L-carnitine to help the formulation, which helps lower triglycerides.

Now back to the question, should I take the Lipitor and Zocor prescribed by my cardiologist? I am not going to answer that because this is an area of classical conflict between traditional and alternative medicine. All I chose to do was tell both sides of the story and will leave the choice, now an educated choice, up to you, the patient. Regardless of that choice stay on the antioxidants.


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