Dr. Oz Speaks Out on Cholesterol

The good doctor has had it with misunderstandings about cholesterol and cholesterol treatment. That is why he is promoting a new book by doctors Bowden and Sinatra called The Great Cholesterol Myth. He has selected a few of the most egregious misunderstandings for particular scorn.

Many people focus on their cholesterol levels to the exclusion of all else. This can be dangerous because it ignores far more serious threats to our health, like inflammation, stress and too much sugar in our diet. Heart health is important, but trying to deliver heart health through cholesterol control is a losing proposition.

Cholesterol is not an evil substance. It is the building block for many critical ingredients for life, including estrogen, testosterone and progesterone. Without cholesterol we couldn’t fight infection or remember where we put our car keys.

Cholesterol got a bad name in the 70’s when it was associated with heart disease.  Bowden and Sinatra point out that half of the people under treatment for cardiovascular disease have great cholesterol levels and lots of people with “bad” cholesterol levels lead perfectly healthy lives.

Inflammation causes heart disease, not cholesterol. Tiny spots on artery walls become damaged and inflamed. These sites attract other damaged molecules (yes, including damaged cholesterol) and can turn into plaque. This plaque is what heart disease is all about. Without inflammation, all the cholesterol in the world will not cause heart disease.

Once people give up on controlling their cholesterol levels with diet (and who doesn’t give up eventually?), they are typically prescribed statin drugs. The doctors point to several recent studies that show little positive impact from statins and some pretty ugly side effects. Bowden and Sinatra are not fans of statins. In fact, they recommend statins ONLY for middle-aged men who have already had at least one heart attack.

They also take on our fear of saturated fat. At least where heart health is concerned, they point to several medical studies that determined that saturated fat did not increase the occurrence of heart disease. Boom. No increase at all. Pass the French fries.

Bowden and Sinatra are not supporters of the popular high-carb diets for heart health, though. They believe a study that found that diets high in high-glycemic index foods led to a 33% increase in heart attacks. A full third more heart attacks? I’ll skip the simple sugars, thank you.

So, moderation in all things is the key. A sky-high cholesterol level is never a good thing. The authors do point out, though, that people with a cholesterol level below 189 are actually more likely to die than people with higher levels. Watch your sugar intake, moderate your carbs and get some exercise. You will be happier and healthier!

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