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“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

Joseph Goebbels
Reich Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda

Don’t believe the hype. Cholesterol is not the villan portrayed in the pharmaceutical ads. Cholesterol is actually a vital substance that EVERY cell in our body needs. It is required in order for the body to produce bile acids in the stomach, provitamin D3 and both the male and female sex hormones. It is also needed to construct the membranes of our cell walls.

So, if cholesterol is such a vital substance, why in God’s name have we been told we need to maintain very low cholesterol levels at all costs? The story begins with the evolution of the Lipid Hypothesis by Dr. Rudolf Virchow in 1856 but it was Ancil Keys who popularized the findings in his book, “Eat well and Stay Well” in 1953.

What is the Lipid Hypothesis you ask? In a nutshell the Lipid Hypothesis states the following:

  1. Dietary cholesterol and/or saturated fat leads to fat and cholesterol in the blood.
  2. High levels of fat and/or cholesterol in the blood causes plaque build up on the artery walls which leads to heart disease and therefore,
  3. dietary fat/and cholesterol causes heart disease.

Seems a logical and well formed medical assumption. A leads to B, B leads to C therefore A leads to C. Case closed right? Not so fast. The problem is since the popularization of this theory and the USDA, FDA and ADA dietary recommendations to lower dietary fat and cholesterol in order to lower blood cholesterol levels and thus reduce heart disease has turned out to a complete and total abject FAILURE!!

Let’s think about this. If we reduce our fat intake, then somewhere in our diet we naturally end up increasing  one of the other 2 macro nutrients, protein or carbohydrate. Take a wild guess as to which of these has BY FAR been increased the most in the american diet over the past 50+ years? Come on….I know you know the answer….you bet, carbohydrates. Unfortunately we are not loading up the boat on fresh veggies and fruit. We are loading up on all sorts of snack bars, baked goods, cereals, breads, pasta, and potatoes, all shrouded in a cloak of low fat, high fiber, whole grain etc. We have been duped into believing these foods are helping us fight the war on heart disease and the metabolic syndrome.

The problem is, it is not working! Statin drug prescriptions are on the rise despite the fact that overall saturated fat consumption has fallen. To make matters worse despite the increase in statin drug use and a reduced fat diet, the rate of these diseases has risen and the age of onset has come down.

“Your body produces three to four times more cholesterol than you eat. The production of cholesterol increases when you eat little cholesterol and decreases when you eat much.This explains why the ”prudent” diet cannot lower cholesterol more than on average a few per cent.”

The only effective way to lower cholesterol is with drugs, but neither heart mortality or total mortality have been improved with drugs the effect of which is cholesterol-lowering only. On the contrary, these drugs are dangerous to your health and may shorten your life.”

The new cholesterol-lowering drugs, the statins, do prevent cardio-vascular disease, but this is due to other mechanisms than cholesterol-lowering. Unfortunately, they also stimulate cancer in rodents, disturb the functions of the muscles, the heart and the brain and pregnant women taking statins may give birth to children with malformations more severe than those seen after thalidomide.”

~ Dr Uffe Ranskov, MD, PHD 

This is all well documented in research study after research study. It has become more widely acknowledged that there is definitely something wrong with the standard american diet. The solution has been to provide dietary guidelines in the form of the USDA’s  food pyramid and more recently their updated and admittedly improved “My Plate”. One tremendous problem is that the cat is already out of the proverbial bag! She is meowing really loud and scratching at us from the inside to eat more carbs.  At this point millions of us have developed a full-on, all-consuming addiction to carbohydrates.  As mentioned above with the reduction in fat consumption came an increase in carb consumption and it is a tough habit to break. It is up there with cocaine and tobacco addiction as far as the strength of the grapple hold it has on many of us.

If the increase in carbohydrate consumption weren’t so damaging this wouldn’t be such a big problem. But unfortunately it has been proven that it is carbohydrate (which is metabolized as sugar) consumption and trans-fat consumption (rampant in processed foods) that causes the rise in Triglycerides and LDL (bad cholesterol) levels, not saturated fat or overall fat consumption.

Laura, if this is all true, then why hasn’t somebody, somewhere done something about it? Hellloooo!!!! We are! There is article after article, book after book, diet after diet available that reduces if not eliminates processed food, reduces or eliminates the sugar and starchy carbs. There are blogs and websites all dedicated to getting this message out, mine being just one of many. The problem is Big Agriculture and Big Pharma are much larger and much louder. They spend billions of dollars on advertising, marketing and packaging not to mention the size and power of their lobbyists. They have millions to spend on legal teams ready to sue anyone who gets too loud, defames their products and causes loss of profit. If you haven’t already read my post, “We’ve got to get control of the beast” or seen the movies “Food, Inc”, “Fat Head” or “Forks over Knives” or the books “Fast Food Nation” or “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”, I strongly encourage you to pick one or all and dig in.  Big Ag and Big Pharma have their very sharp, very strong and potentially deadly talons dug into the very fabric of the government agencies regulating all this.

There is literally billions and billions of dollars riding on perpetuating this lie. Now, that is not to say this started out as a lie. It started as a hypothesis that sounded entirely legitimate but when subjected to real life testing has been proven time and time again to wrong.  The problem is the size of the investment in this crap is enormous! Who is going to admit they made a mistake? Who is going to take the rap for the fact that the government subsidies in corn and soybeans has only made matters worse? The Democrats? Republicans? Why are politicians even involved in this anyway? I don’t know about you but the last thing I am interested in is politically correct food options.  Who is going to tell Big Ag the subsidies must stop? Who is going to tell Big Pharma they will make less money because we are going to fix the health problem in the US through dietary and lifestyle changes? I know you can think of even more questions that make this problem seemingly insurmountable.

Here’s the good news, as consumers, we are even more powerful. We are smart. We are demanding. We want what we want and when we want it. We can get “it” if we ask for “it”. We just need to ask for the right “it”. How do you ask for something this big? Through your buying behavior. Believe me, the food companies and marketing organizations track every dollar spent! They know the direction a trend is heading and they all jockey for position to get ahead of it and make the biggest profit. Let’s make whole, healthy unadulterated foods profitable! We have made it very easy for them to process foods cheaply and dangerously. These are very resourceful companies. They will find a way to provide what we want and what we really need if we demand it! “We” are billions strong. We carry a lot of weight. Let’s throw it around!

Until Next Time,

Laura, Mom Gone Paleo

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3 Responses to “The Truth about Cholesterol.”

  1. When I was 15 I was visiting my grandpa and he had a book about the Inuit Culture on his coffee table. I picked it up and started reading and was fascinated to learn that the Inuit’s regularly have total blood cholesterol levels of well over 2,000! Their average age is 104. When they kill an animal, they literally eat the fat first, organs second, and give the “muscle meat” (think T-bone steak here) to their dogs!

    I have never thought about food or modern medicine the same since. Thank you Grandpa!

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