Cholesterol and Heart Disease

Did you know that you can prevent and control heart disease? With proper nutrition and exercise, you can manage the health of your heart.

Let’s start with food: The question about eggs and cholesterol is popular, but largely answered after years of misinformation. In short, eggs seem to be an excellent food choice for protein, the brain nutrient, choline, and the super eye antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.

But the larger question relates to dietary cholesterol vs. blood cholesterol. Specifically, does our intake of dietary cholesterol-eggs having about 200 mg per unit- have a huge impact on our body’s cholesterol level?

First, please note that cholesterol isn’t an evil substance. We all need it! It contributes to brain function and healthy hormone levels. It’s so important that the body is estimated to produce 3-4x more cholesterol than you consume in your diet! Researcher and medical doctor Uffe Ravnskov shows that low cholesterol is associated with an increased risk of susceptibility to infections, as well as dying from diseases of the stomach, intestines and lungs. Dr Ravnskov who has written extensively about cholesterol over the years in several peer-reviewed journals has demonstrated from the literature that there is no clear correlation to dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol.

Furthermore, he contends that there’s no evidence that consuming cholesterol-containing foods actually contributes to heart attacks. He cites several cultures that consume nearly all of their calories from high cholesterol-containing animal foods. In nearly every case, their blood cholesterol is about half that of the American’s average cholesterol levels.

So if eggs/cholesterol aren’t the culprit, what is? It’s sugar, not fat, that causes heart attacks. . So the past 50 years of doctors’ advice and government eating guidelines have been wrong. We’ve been told to swap eggs for Cheerios. But that recommendation is dead wrong. In fact, it’s very likely that this bad advice has killed millions of Americans. (something to ponder)

A recent study shows that those with the highest sugar intake had a four-fold increase in their risk of heart attacks compared to those with the lowest intakes. That’s 400%! Just one 20-ounce soda increases your risk of a heart attack by about 30%.

This study of more than 40,000 people, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, accounted for all other potential risk factors including total calories, overall diet quality, smoking, cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity and alcohol.

This follows on how decades of research have been mostly ignored by the medical establishment and policy makers. In fact, the Institute of Medicine recommends getting no more than 25% of your total calories from added sugar. Surprisingly, this study showed that your risk of heart attacks doubles if sugar makes up 20% of your calories.

Yet more than 70% of Americans consume 10% of their daily calories from sugar. And about 10% of Americans consume one in every four (25%) of their calories from sugar.

Now here’s a shocker: U.S. Dietary Guidelines provide no limit for added sugar, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still lists sugar as a “generally regarded as safe” (GRAS) substance. That classification lets the food industry add unlimited amounts of sugar to our food. At least the American Heart Association recommends that our daily diet contain no more than 5% to 7.5% added sugar. Yet most of us are eating a lot more. I’ll bet you don’t know that a serving of tomato sauce has more sugar than a serving of Oreo cookies, or that fruit yogurt has more sugar than a Coke, or that most breakfast cereals – even those made with whole grain – are 75% sugar. That’s not breakfast, it’s dessert!

For years, we’ve been brainwashed into thinking that fat causes heart attacks and raises cholesterol, and that sugar is harmless except as a source of empty calories. They are not empty calories. As it turns out, sugar calories are deadly calories. Sugar causes heart attacks, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer and dementia, and is the leading cause of liver failure in America.

The biggest offender is sugar-sweetened beverages including sodas, juices, sports drinks, teas and coffees. They are by far the single biggest source of sugar calories in our diet. In fact, more than 37% of our sugar calories come from soda. The average teenage boy consumes 34 teaspoons of sugar a day, or about 544 calories from sugar. What’s worse? These kids are at risk for heart attacks at some later date in their lives. This is why this may be the first generation to NOT outlive their parents!

This new research is right in line with decades of data on how sugar causes insulin resistance, high triglycerides, lower HDL (good) cholesterol and dangerous small LDL (bad) cholesterol. It also triggers the inflammation we now know is at the root of heart disease.

And fats, including saturated fats, have been unfairly blamed. With the exception of trans fats, fats are actually protective. This includes omega-3 fats, nuts, avocado, lentils and olive oil, will help reduce heart attack risk by more than 30% .

Here’s the simple fact: Sugar calories are worse than other calories. All calories are not created equal. A recent study of more than 175 countries found that increasing overall calories didn’t increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, but increasing sugar calories did – dramatically.

The average American consumes about 152 pounds of sugar and 146 pounds of flour a year. It’s imperative that we revamp our outdated and dangerous national dietary guidelines. And we need clear strategies and medical programs to help people understand and address the health risks and addictive nature of sugar and refined carbohydrates.

That’s how we can prevent heart attacks, obesity and chronic disease.

Thanks to Dr. Elena Morreale (one of our DABCI attendees) who wrote this post.

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