Tag Archives: diet

Cholesterol vs. Inflammation

fat-free-pudding

What you think you know about cholesterol could hurt you.

Twenty years ago, doctors told us to stay away from high-fat foods like eggs, bacon, and butter because they raised cholesterol and could lead to heart disease.

America responded and stopped eating fat. In its place, however, we ate more sugar and other carbohydrates.

How did that work out? Not great.

As a whole, Americans grew fatter and sicker than before. Scientists back then may have reached the wrong conclusion.

As more research uncovers the role diet plays in cardiovascular disease, it’s becoming obvious that fats aren’t the only villains in the picture. Increasingly, scientists are recognizing that you should also watch out for some carbohydrates—specifically, sugars and refined grains. “I believe that a diet containing moderate amounts of saturated fat is OK, and possibly better, than a low-saturated-fat diet that is rich in sugars and refined carbohydrates,” says Ronald Krauss, M.D., director of atherosclerosis research at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute.

Now a growing number of medical experts say weight gain, heart disease, and other illnesses are not caused by high cholesterol, but by something different: inflammation.

Dr. Beverly Teter, a lipid biochemist at the University of Maryland, said scientists wrongly blamed cholesterol for heart disease when they saw high levels of it at a damaged blood vessel. Teter believes the body put the cholesterol there to fix the problem, which was actually caused by inflammation.
“It’s the inflammation in the vessels that start the lesion,” she explained. “The body then sends the cholesterol like a scab to cover over it to protect the blood system and the vessel wall from further damage.”

Good things cholesterol does in your body:

– can protect against respiratory and gastrointestinal problems.
– helps create vitamin D.
– the brain contains more cholesterol than any other organ and needs it in order to send messages from one brain cell to another.

Foods that fight inflammation:

– that are high in Omega 3 fats
– olive oil
– avocados
– cold water fish
– coconut oil (fights colds and the flu and has even reversed the symptoms of Alzheimers, ALS and Parkinson’s Disease in some people.)
– walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans.
– pumpkin and sesame seeds
– natural saturated fats (maybe; science is still sorting this one out).

Foods which, in excess, cause inflammation:

– Omega 6 fats
– vegetable oils
– mayonnaise
– margarine
– anything containing high fructose corn syrup or other sugars
– white bread, white pasta, white rice

Foods which, in any amount, cause inflammation:

– trans fats (Which is a man-made fat, and for which the Harvard School of Public Health says there is no safe level to consume.)
– any packaged food containing the word “hydrogenated” on the label.

Condensed from an article by Lorie Johnson at CBN and an article by Rachel Johnson, Ph.D, M.P.H., R.D., at Eating Well.

I am not a health professional and this post is not intended to be professional medical advice.

photo credit: Nicola since 1972 via photopin cc

Yes, sugary drinks interact with weight-related genes (and how to kick the pop habit)

sugar-in-soda
This AP photo shows how many cubes of sugar are in popular soft drinks.
The Associated Press reports that “A huge, decades-long study involving more than 33,000 Americans has yielded the first clear proof that drinking sugary beverages interacts with genes that affect weight, amplifying a person’s risk of obesity beyond what it would be from heredity alone.” Full story here.
Are you hooked on pop? Here’s a “baby steps” approach to weaning yourself off the sweet stuff. Try taking one or two weeks to adjust to each step.
  1. Switch to diet pop, same amount. Update, 9/28/12: If you have a serious sugar addiction, you may need to do this step in phases. See this article for info about sugar withdrawal symptoms and how to manage them.
  2. Replace one pop a day with coffee, tea or juice. No added sugar or artificial creamers. You may use other sweeteners. Do some research and experimentation to find a sweetener that you feel is healthy, and that doesn’t cause any troubling side effects for you. 
  3. Continue replacing servings until you are off pop completely.
  4. Replace one drink a day with water or green tea. Flavor with real fruit or a splash of juice, if you want. (Note: if you’re going off of coffee or strong tea, you’ll need to do the replacement slowly to avoid caffeine withdrawal symptoms such as headaches and sluggishness.)
  5. Continue replacing until water is all you drink all day (with fruit, if you like). Or green tea till 3 pm; water after.