Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cholesterol is no more a villain, so say the experts now!-Can we believe it?

After fat in the food was exonerated from its villainous role in CVD, Obesity and other life style disorders, it is now the turn of the Cholesterol to be liberated from the plethora of indictments in the past implicating it in heart disease. It was a gospel truth till recently that Cholesterol containing foods like meat and egg must be consumed very moderately and if possible must be avoided all together if one has to maintain good health. Same is true with dairy products like butter and cheese also avoided altogether or consumed less frequently for fear of Cholesterol build up and the consequent presumed arterial plaque development. It was only recently that health experts came out with a clear cut stand that butter and cheese need not be considered as unhealthy food and therefore can be consumed regularly by normal healthy consumers. The Cholesterol story also follows essentially the same logic and scientists seem to have realized rather late that after all Cholesterol is a biological nutrient present in the cells required for making Vitamin D by the sun light. Here is a commentary on this new twist in the nutrition science making people more comfortable with foods like egg without any guilty feeling.    . 

"(TRFW News) For over decades the nation's top nutrition advisory panel has debated the health benefits of cholesterol. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), a group that provides dietary guidelines based on scientific findings, has portrayed cholesterol as the worst food one can consume, but several other studies have conflicted their notion. The guidelines for cholesterol have been recommended to keep it as low as possible in order to avoid potential consequences. However, recently the DGAC reconvened for their meetings to examine the recommendations on cholesterol and they reported that cholesterol should no longer be considered as a "nutrient of concern for overconsumption," which is a stark contrast from five years ago. (1) Eggs may no longer have to be feared Ever since 1961, cholesterol has been established in the dietary warnings developed by the American Heart Association. Years later, the federal government adopted the guidelines a,h these guidelines, a single yolk of an egg contains 200 milligrams leaving only a small amount to spare. (1,2) As a result, eating habits among Americans have shifted. Per capita egg consumption dropped about 30% and the egg farmers' business suffered. In addition, through various studies, the scientific community still remains divided due to differential research conclusions. (1) It is still unclear what the final decision for the new guidelines that will be due by the end of this year. According to Reuters, Dr. Robert Eckel, a past president of the American Heart Association and a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado in Denver, stated that there is not enough evidence to make a good recommendation yet, however, "no evidence doesn't mean the evidence is no." (2) For a long while, fats were feared and the guidelines established with cholesterol levels came as a result. It is unfortunate that the myths of cholesterol is actually harming people's health since biologically cholesterol is one of the most important molecules in the human body. It's vital for building of cells, and producing vitamin D, stress, and sex hormones. (3,4) Over the years, the recommendation for low-fat, low-cholesterol, and cholesterol lowering medications including statins, has been doing more harm than good. (3) When viewing cholesterol, one must consider the following:
    1. Vital for health. Cholesterol is found the body cells, which helps produce cell membranes, hormones, and bile acids, as well as in the bloodstreams. It helps the skin convert sun into vitamin D. It also insulates the nerve cells and protects brain health.
    2. No such thing as "good" or "bad" cholesterol. Cholesterol is divided into two parts HDL and LDL, containing lipoproteins, which are fats combined with proteins. Rather, there are "good" or "bad" lipoproteins and large LDL particles can be harmful causing damage and inflammation. It's good to focus on raising HDL levels.
    3. Focus on food quality. Replace processed foods with whole, plant-based foods. Stop obsessing on low-fat or no-fat foods and increase healthy consumption of fats. Optimize your vitamin D levels with sun exposure or good quality supplements. Consume plenty of fermented foods to keep your gut healthy. Get plenty of exercise (a good way to get more sun exposure is to go outdoors). Avoid statin drugs. And if you must, consume meat and eggs that come from organic, grass-fed sources. (5)"

Though this 180 degree turn by the health pundits can cause some outrage among consumers, it is better late than never. The erstwhile "guidelines" seem to have helped the pharmaceutical industry which have been hawking its Statin formulations to unsuspecting consumers based on certain maximum levels fixed arbitrarily by safety agencies few years ago.Between 1994 and 2006 massive promotion of statin drugs brought down the high cholesterol population (65-74 age bracket) from 87% to 54% in the US but did it bring down the number of people dying because of CVD? Absolutely not! It remained almost the same! However the statin industry world over increased their business reaching $ 29 billion per year at present. Probably most people taking statin drugs regularly may not need them at all but massive promotions, motivated or well financed scientific "findings" put out by the industry and unwary physicians have contributed this euphoria or mysteries about cholesterol! Will the 200 mg maximum limit under the present guidelines continue to be held as "sacred" as before? Probably we will have to wait to achieve unanimity on this issue before throwing our much revered statin drugs from the medicine chest at home.


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