Entries in cholesterol (6)


Green Tea and Me

If you had asked me 2 months ago if I drink green tea I would have replied:  I only drink black tea and avidly drink a pot a day.  Although I know green tea was better for your health, it was not as appealing to me.

All that changed recently when I got a bad allergy attack with sinus issues.  For some odd reason my black tea did not interest me.  We had a few packets of green tea from the Naturals Food Expo so I tried them and felt better.  In fact, I felt so much better I went out and bought a few boxes of green tea and haven’t looked back.

What are the studies showing regarding green tea?  It contains important polyphenols called Catechins.  Polyphenols are antioxidants that are known for reducing heart disease and cancer since they can lower cholesterol levels and inflammation in the body.

Green tea also contains a bonus polyphenol called EGCG which has been associated with reduced risk of prostate, stomach and colon cancer.

A few studies show a slightly elevated metabolism from drinking green tea although this benefit is still under investigation and questionable.  I’m not questioning the studies since my clothes are fitting looser.

This week I posed the question on twitter:  what is your favorite green tea? Of all 730 people I received one response- proof that not many people are drinking it.

So far the brands I preferred are Tazo Zen, Allegro Organic Decaf and Pomegranate and Matcha green tea which is supposedly the cream of the crop type in Japan and considerably more expensive.  A usual box of green tea is 3-5 dollars and the Matcha was 20 dollars although it came it a beautiful tin and I savored each cup.

Give green tea a try – hopefully you won’t have to be sick to be willing.  The benefits are compelling.  And if you want a few months of black tea give me a call – I have a stock of it I won’t be consuming anytime soon.


Healthy Carbohydates in the Womb

Since it is Mother’s Day how does a Mother’s diet affect the genetics of what happens in the womb?  Is it really all that significant?  Recent research shows processed foods can do more harm than once realized.

Processed refined carbohydrates are those that are altered from their original form.  Most things you buy in a package fit the definition of a processed carbohydrate – chips, crackers, cookies you buy in the grocery store.

These are “foods” manufacturers alter to make a profit.   Companies add sweeteners, additives, and other ingredients to allow the high markup.

Almost all processed foods come with a price of added sugars, trans fat and other things your body would rather avoid.  These foods are not healthy for anyone, especially not pregnant women.

Recent studies show the blood triglyceride level (fat in the blood) of a pregnant woman is closely tied to the birth weight and body fat of the infant.  Infants born to women with high triglyceride levels have double the body fat of a normal infant.

Even more alarming is high maternal cholesterol and triglyceride levels are associated with a greater risk of fatty streak formation in infant’s arteries, and a high risk of heart disease during childhood.

Eating a balanced diet of healthy protein and fats and unprocessed carbohydrates can keep your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Healthy carbohydrate-containing foods are those that are in their natural forms – fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, avocado, yams, etc.

What better Mother’s Day gift to give to yourself and your future child than the gift of health?


Omega-3 Fats versus Statin Drugs?

You may have heard those four dreaded words from your physician:  “Your cholesterol is elevated." Then the next feared sentence – “I would like you to consider going on a statin drug.”  Statin drugs are ones like Mevacor, Lipitor, and Crestor.  The drug companies prefer most people to be on one.  A few years back the guidelines magically changed for the optimal value for LDL (the lousy cholesterol as I like to call it).  It is now recommended that the LDL value be below 70 versus the old recommendation of 100 mg/dl.

It is almost impossible to have an LDL value below 70 WITHOUT being on a statin drug – presto!  However, are there alternatives to statin drugs and what is the research showing?

A 2008 study published in The Lancet looked at the difference between statin drugs versus supplements of omega-3 fatty acids on heart failure.  After almost four years of follow-up, the group taking the omega-3 supplements reduced the risk of mortality by 9 percent and admission to the hospital for any cardiovascular cause by 8 percent.

There were no differences seen in lowered risk of mortality or hospital admissions in the group on statin therapy.  Therefore, the omega 3 supplements were more effective than the statin drugs.  What are omega 3 fatty acids and how do they work?

There are 3 types of omega 3 fats:  ALA, DHA and EPA.  I will spare you the long names but will share with you where they are found and how to incorporate them into your diet.  ALA is found in the highest concentration in ground flax seed.  If you incorporate 1 tablespoon per day into your diet you will meet you needs for ALA. 

DHA and EPA are found in fish and fish oils.  If you consume fatty fish on a regular basis (2-3 times per week) you can easily meet your needs.  If you are not a fish lover, there are liquid fish oils that are easy to incorporate into a smoothie, yogurt and just take by themselves.

Omega 3 fats are extremely effective at lowering all kinds of inflammation in the body including cholesterol and heart disease.  Combined with a balanced healthy diet of lean protein sources, fruits, vegetables, and exercise there are many alternatives to going on statin drugs.

So if you ever hear those 4 dreaded words from your physician know you have a choice and omega 3 fats may be one of the answers.  Or better yet, be prepared in advance and make the necessary changes before you have to have a cholesterol conversation with your physician.   And remember – it is prevention not prescription!


Cracking the Myths on Eggs and Cholesterol

For many years we’ve been told to avoid eggs if we want to keep our cholesterol levels under control. Since eggs contain cholesterol they must increase cholesterol levels in the blood, right?

Since research did not exist at the time this recommendation was made, committees were formed from the American Heart Association, American Dietetics Association and so forth to come up with guidelines for healthy eating. One of the guidelines stated that American should limit their eggs to 3 per week.

Since that time solid research is now available that dispelled the myth of needing to limit eggs. Following are excerpts from my upcoming nutrition book: A Recipe for Life by the Doctor's Dietitian explaining the current studies.

Myth: Eating eggs in your diet will increase your blood cholesterol levels.

Fact: Dr. Stephen B. Kritchevsky from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine and J. Paul Sticht Center on Aging states in his 2004 review on eggs:

“Data from free-living populations show that egg consumption is not associated with higher cholesterol levels. Furthermore, as a whole, the epidemiological literature does not support the data that egg consumption is a risk for coronary disease.”

Very few studies exist linking any connection between cholesterol levels in the diet and cholesterol levels in the blood. When the guidelines were made up by the various health boards recommending a limit to cholesterol levels, it was based more on common sense than on research. It does make sense that if a food contains cholesterol, it must increase the blood cholesterol value. However, this analogy never really panned out.

Eggs are an excellent source of protein, and most of the fat contained in the egg is polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat. It is an excellent source of the antioxidant lutein which can lower certain inflammatory responses in the body. Eating an egg daily or 2 eggs several times a week easily fits in with a healthy lifestyle and is even beneficial. If you are diabetic it might be prudent to limit your intake to less than 7 eggs per week, taking into consideration all the studies on eggs. So don’t be afraid of eggs, or limit yourself to egg whites. Enjoy an omelet and get on with life.

Dr. Bruce Griffin, a researcher from the University of Surrey stated in Nutrition Bulletin in February 2009:

The link between egg consumption and raised cholesterol levels, which ultimately could lead to cardiovascular disease, was based on out-of-date information. The egg is a nutrient-dense food, a valuable source of high quality protein and essential nutrients that is not high in saturated fat or energy…it is high time we dispelled the mythology surrounding eggs and heart disease and restored them to their rightful place on our menus where they can make a valuable contribution to healthy balanced diets.

We’ve now cracked the myth of eggs and cholesterol.


High Fructose Corn Syrup, Leptin and Weight: Avoiding the Slippery Slope

Recent media ads informing you HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) is safe might lead you to believe consuming a soft drink made with HFCS poses no health risks. When you look at the current research, nothing could be further from the truth.

To understand the truth, we need to look a little at the chemistry of different sugars and hormone interactions. HFCS was developed in the 70’s from cornstarch that is made from genetically modified corn. This process results in a product that is less expensive than sugar, and is used by the major food companies to sweeten their products – anything from sodas to jams, ketchup, juices, and processed packaged foods.

Table sugar is composed of 2 sugars – glucose and fructose. All the cells of our body can readily metabolize glucose, but fructose is only metabolized via the liver. Large amounts of fructose going to the liver causes fatty liver leading to high cholesterol and triglycerides.

Since HFCS contains more fructose than sugar, the fructose is more readily available since it is not bound up with glucose, as is the case with natural sugar. Therefore it has a straight shot to the liver.

Now enter the hormone leptin. Leptin is one of the main hormones regulating appetite. I like to state that leptin lowers your appetite. Several recent studies revealed a diet high in HFCS increased the level of triglycerides, which blocked the brain’s response to leptin.

Therefore, if your body becomes insensitive to leptin, and in fact, develops a leptin resistance, the brain will continue to signal your body it needs more food and continue to store fat.

Judith Altarejos, Ph.D. a researcher at Scripps states “obesity results when the brain becomes ‘deaf’ to the leptin signals.” If your brain is continuing to tell you to eat, you will have a hard time losing weight.

Turning this situation around is not as hard as you might think. Consuming protein at each meal and snack, along with healthy sources of carbohydrate like fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds and healthy fats will do wonders for turning on the leptin switch. Keeping refined processed sources of carbohydrate out of your diet is essential and necessary to keeping or restoring balance to the body.

So look for HFCS on labels and stay clear of the slippery slope. Your body and arteries will thank you.