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Cholesterol: What Matters, and What Does Not

Please provide ways to lower cholesterol (LDL) through diet and other means (not medication). I must lower this number by 5 points within the next few months. Thank you.

The total cholesterol in your blood is the aggregate of many subtypes of cholesterol, of which LDL (low density lipoprotein) and HDL (high density lipoprotein) are the 2 major components. Although conventional medicine places heavy emphasis on total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, there is no correlation between total cholesterol levels and heart disease. Let me repeat that–there is no correlation between total cholesterol levels and heart or vascular disease, heart attacks or strokes.

Besides that, cholesterol is an important precursor for our natural corticosteroids, testosterone, estrogens, aldosterone (to regulate salt and water in the body); even vitamin D comes from cholesterol. In fact, cholesterol is an excellent anti-oxidant, and offers significant anti-oxidant protection at the cell membrane level. It is the potential for the LDL component of cholesterol to oxidize that gives it its bad name. But, if your other antioxidants are at good levels, there is no concern.

Those points having been made, if you do want to raise your HDL levels and lower your LDL levels, there are safe ways to do that:

1. Red yeast rice

2. Green tea extract

3. Niacin (in the inositol hexaniacinate form). These can be obtained from your local health food stores.

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Cholesterol Issues

Crestor: My cholesterol has been 210. My doctor put me on crestor. I read your article in Utah’s Senior Review and was impressed. I’ve always wondered if we have over reacted to cholesterol, but I’m nervous about stopping the crestor, as you recommended. My doctor says his main concern is not heart trouble, but stroke prevention. Could you email me back and tell me whether I can safely stop crestor and be safe from stroke. Is there a link between high cholesterol and stroke? I exercise regularly. Thank you

You will want to prayerfully consider your options and review them with your doctor before making decisions.  All I can do is offer you my perspective.

Strokes and cardiovascular disease are caused by plaque and clots forming in the arterial walls of the blood vessels. These plaques are caused by inflammation, and not by cholesterol. Therefore, your best protection is by reducing those things that cause inflammation, and ingesting those things that decrease oxidation (free radicals) in your body.

1. Stop the intake of pro-inflammatory substances like sugar, caffeine, trans fatty acids (and hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils), and aspartame.

2.  Eat real (organic, whole, fresh) food.

3. Take a potent multivitamin that includes plenty of anti-oxidants–vitamins C and E, selenium, zinc. Additional ones include glutathione, alpha-lipoic acid. Cholesterol is one of the most important anti-oxidants in the cell wall of every cell in the body.

4. Consider nattokinase, which interferes with the conversion of fibrinogen to fibrin, one of many mechanisms that contribute to clot formation in the body.

Crestor is a statin medication. Statins interfere with the production of CoQ10 in the body, which is the major energy producing system in every cell in your body.  When the cells do not have energy, they do not function correctly. Keep up the exercise.

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I, too, took several statins – and then rheumatism symptoms caused an internist and my regular doc to put their heads together and decide it might be the statins.  It was; took quite a few months but slowly as the statins dissipated and left my body, the aches went away, the rheumatism factor went down, and the cholesterol count went up.  However, niacin, garlic, losing weight [also slowly], exercise, less salt, fewer fats, and other things have helped.  My same two fingers have begun to show rheumatism symptoms [weakness, pain & swelling]; but so far, so good, they are still straight; no statins going in, just Zetia.  I wonder if Zetia has any statin reaction to it???

Zetia and statins work in different ways. Statins interfere with the production of cholesterol synthesis, and at the same time interfere with the production CoEnzyme Q10, which is very important for our energy systems in our body. That is why you have the leg aches–there is not enough energy being produced for the muscles to function.

Zetia blocks the absorption of cholesterol and ‘related phytosterols.’ Since I think the higher levels of cholesterol is healthier for us, I do not recommend anything that lowers cholesterol levels, except good diet.

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Cholesterol and Liver Questions

I have a concern. I know I can trust you to give me a straight answer. I had blood work done yesterday. My ALT Serum was 16 in June 2010. Yesterday it was up to 36. I understand it should be below 33. The only difference was the Dr. put me on SloNiacin 500mg 2x/day. She did this for my cholesterol (which I don’t believe in and after taking Lipitor 2 times and having bad reaction to it I will not touch Statin drugs.)

My cholesterol went from 282, June 2010 to 219. Chol density lipoprotein went from 5.2 to 4.8, HDL from 44 to 46, LDL from 160 to 158 and triglicerides from 121 to 75. So the niacin appears to be doing its job there , but I am concerned about my liver.
I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all you do.

I consider liver enzyme levels below 26 as being healthy. The normals typically go up into the 30s and 40s, which demonstrates the difference between alternative medicine interpretation and conventional medicine.

Because any number of toxins may make the levels rise, the best way to find out is to stop the Niacin, see the levels drop, re-initiate the Niacin and watch the levels rise again. There is a form of Niacin that will never cause liver abnormalities, but that form may not do what you need it to do. Since from my perspective there is no need for cholesterol levels in the 200s to go down, I don’t see the need to use anything that lowers the total cholesterol level. However, other options to lower cholesterol include gugolipids, red yeast rice, fiber.

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Lowering Cholesterol, More on Statins

I do most everything possible to lower cholesterol – but cannot take statins. Am on Zetia but a new Dr* says I should try a statin again. Hesitant to do it -they got me to the point of looking at the clock to see when I could take the next handful of ibuprofin for muscle pain. Any ideas?

First of all you need to understand there is no relationship between total cholesterol levels and heart disease, and since the only reason you want your cholesterol levels lower is because you have been told that will reduce your risk of heart disease or make you healthy (neither of which is true), there is no reason to take statins.  To learn more, type “cholesterol” or “statins” in the search box on the upper right hand side of this page to read past articles about this.

In fact, lower cholesterol levels increase your risk of dying earlier, and statins make that even worse. An excellent study was done on women in their 60s and 70s to determine the ideal cholesterol level for longevity. They found a level of 272 was ideal, and women lived the longest who had that level.

Statins interfere with the production of CoQ10, which is at the core of the major energy-producing system in your body, the electron transport chain. When the energy goes down in your body, your muscles will feel it first, as they demand high amounts of energy. If you feel obligated to ‘try to get your levels down,’ try the following:

  • red yeast rice,
  • gugulipids,
  • policosinol,

as they do reduce the level.

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Can you please explain about gugulipids: interdrug reaction between gugulipids and metroprolol XL j25 mg? One JAMA study indicates decreases bioavailability of propanolol hydrochloride.

Gugulipids is a gum from an Indian mukul tree that has quite a number of positive properties, although I do not use it on a regular basis. It is most used to reduce LDL cholesterol levels, which also then reduce total cholesterol levels.

Since this is not a high priority in my practice (since there is no relationship between total cholesterol levels and heart disease), I don’t use any of the cholesterol-lowering herbs or products for that purpose. You can read additional information regarding my thoughts on cholesterol, statins, and the whole issue here.

However, gugulipids have many other positive properties, including anti-inflammatory, boosting of metabolism and even help with some of the hormone function, including thyroid and progesterone and estrogen at menopause.

Gugulipids do interfere with the bioavailability of metopranol, a commonly used blood pressure medication. There are other products that do what gugulipids do, and there are other blood pressure medications with which gugulipids do not interfere. Niacin is the best product at lowering cholesterol levels that I am aware of, although some people have flushing that can be counteracted with quercetin.

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Niacin and Flushing

I was told to take Niacin for part of my heart condition. I get bad flushing when I take it. I was told the non-flushing kind of Niacin is not as good for you. My doctor told me the flushing doesn’t have anything to do with the way it works and to go ahead and use the non flushing kind. What is your take on the use of Niacin, and is Niacinamide the same thing?

Niacin, or vitamin B3, lowers total cholesterol and raises HDL cholesterol. It also dilates blood vessels, which is the cause of flushing. This is a nuisance but it is of no medical significance. Its dilatory effect on blood vessels makes it useful to decrease blood pressure and improve circulation.  This means it has a positive effect on migraines and Raynaud’s phenomenon.

Niacinamide is another form of vitamin B3, which does not cause flushing, but neither does it have any effect on cholesterol levels. As you know, I am not a proponent of lowering cholesterol levels, so I see no need for its use for that purpose, but that is probably the reason your doctor is using it. Niacin is best for you, and not Niacinamide.

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Niacin for Cholesterol: What We’ve Been Saying for Years

The Wall Street Journal reported a recent study, comparing the vitamin Niacin made into a drug, Niaspan, and Zetia, a cholesterol absorption blocking agent used to lower cholesterol levels in the blood.  Although there were only 208 patients, the vitamin showed a Continue reading Niacin for Cholesterol: What We’ve Been Saying for Years

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Calories Count? Or Carbs? Or What?

Calorie Counters Have it Right, Diet Study Says

Recently released information in the Wall Street Journal shows that calories do count—that it isn’t what you eat, but how much. Participants were put in one of four diet groups—2 low-fat groups and 2 high-fat groups, with a high-protein and normal-protein groups being the other parameter. All diets were Continue reading Calories Count? Or Carbs? Or What?

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In Cancer-Drug Study, More Isn’t Better

Fox News

In a well-designed research study done in hospitals in the Netherlands, scientists found that the addition of a second targeted anti-cancer drug increased the colon cancer and made patients more miserable. Both drugs attacked the cancer in Continue reading In Cancer-Drug Study, More Isn’t Better