The below provides a general overview on this topic and may not apply to everyone. Any treatment protocol should be discussed with a qualified healthcare practitioner ... Please refer to: Medical & Legal Disclaimer.
When the human blood cholesterol level is higher than that which can be used by the human body, the surplus cholesterol may eventually cause strokes, and or cardiovascular distress. Medications, such as statins prescribed to lower the blood cholesterol, are themselves known to affect our bodies negatively in the long term.
A healthy liver manufactures most of our daily essential cholesterol requirements. Additional cholesterol in the foods we eat is absorbed in the intestines and elevates the blood cholesterol.
- One way to lower the blood cholesterol is to include foods in our diet that are high in phytosterols. Phytosterols are cholesterol-like molecules found in all plant foods, with the highest concentrations occurring in vegetable oils. They inhibit the absorption of intestinal cholesterol
- Avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup: Some studies found that High Fructose Corn Syrup contributes to high cholesterol as it actually scars the internal walls of the arteries. This causes the body to then produce cholesterol to heal the walls of the arteries which is one reason that the plaque builds up on the arterial walls. As the walls are continually scarred this slowly shrinks the opening for blood to flow through making the heart work much harder and eventually wearing the heart out.
Mark A. Stengler, ND, a naturopathic physician and leading authority on the practice of alternative and integrated medicine - and the author of The Natural Physician's Healing Therapies (featured to the right) recommends the following treatment plan to lower dangerous LDL high cholesterol levels:
- Regular consumption of soluble fiber, including foods such as beans, barley, oats, peas, apples, oranges and pears. Soluble fiber reduces the absorption of cholesterol from the intestines into the bloodstream. Please note that barley contains gluten and must be avoided if you are a celiac patient or allergic to barley.
- At least two servings a week (optimally four or more) of fish such as anchovies, Atlantic herring, sardines, tilapia and ocean or canned salmon, specifically for their omega-3 fatty acids.
- A daily handful of nuts rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, such as almonds and walnuts. A Spanish study found that a walnut-rich diet reduced total cholesterol by as much as 7.4% and LDL cholesterol by as much as 10%.
- Ground flaxseeds -- up to a quarter-cup daily with 10 ounces of water or tossed into a salad or shake. This has been shown to reduce total and LDL cholesterol.
Dr. Stengler also recommends aerobic exercise sessions, starting from twice each week to at least four times. He prescribed plant sterols, shown to reduce LDL cholesterol by up to 14%, recommending Beta sitosterol, which works by inhibiting cholesterol absorption in the digestive tract by up to 50%, without disrupting the more beneficial HDL cholesterol. Dr. Stengler prescribed a 1.5 gram soft gel capsule to be taken with breakfast and dinner for a total of three grams daily.
According to Dr. Stengler, elevated cholesterol may have genetic roots in some patients; therefore, the above regiment needs to be continued for life.
Foods / Supplements for a Healthy Cholesterol:
Blueberries lower cholesterol as effectively as drugs, but without the negative side effects. A compound, known as pterostilbene, appears to have many of the same cholesterol-fighting properties found in the antioxidant resveratrol, which is found in grapes and products like red wine, and led to wide reports that red wine was heart-healthy. Resveratrol also shows up in blueberries, but Agnes Rimando, a research chemist with the USDA's Agricultural Research Service, found that the pterostilbene in certain types of blueberries had a much more notable effect. According to Rimando, Pterostilbene works in much the same manner as the popular anti-cholesterol drug ciprofibrate, sold commercially as Modalim. It binds to and activates a cell receptor known as PPAR-alpha, which research shows to be a key component in the body's ability to reducing cholesterol. Rimando reported her latest findings during this week's meeting of the American Chemical Society in Philadelphia. Blueberries have an oxygen radical absorption capacity value of 2,400 per 100 grams of antioxidant power and they are rich in anthocyanins, ellagic acid and phenolic acids. They help fight bacteria that can cause urinary tract infections, and blueberry extract may combat pain. Fresh and frozen (without added sugar) are comparable from a nutritional standpoint, but dried blueberries contain lower amounts of antioxidant anthocyanins.
- Pistachio Nuts & Sunflower Seeds: Researchers discovered that pistachio nuts and sunflower seeds contain unique phytosterols that can block cholesterol from being absorbed into your bloodstream. These phytosterols could also help prevent cancer and heart disease, treat enlarged prostate, and control blood sugar in diabetics.
- Pomegranates: Pomegranate is one of the most potent sources of antioxidants and scientists found that the antioxidants in pomegranates can slow down the oxidation of your cholesterol. That means it helps to prevent your "bad" cholesterol (LDL) from hardening (oxidizing); and that helps keep our arteries healthy and clear.
- Fish Oil
Interest in the heart-health benefits of fish oil dates back about two decades, beginning with a 1980 study showing that Eskimos in Greenland — who eat nearly a pound of fish a day — have low rates of death from heart disease. In subsequent years, there has been substantial research on the effects of fish oil on the heart and arteries. Laboratory studies have shown that fish oil, which contains what are known as n-3 or omega-3 fatty acids, makes blood platelets less sticky, helps protect the linings of arteries, and may also lower blood pressure. - click here to find the best and the worst fish to eat
- Click here to find the best and the worst fish to eat.
- Supplements, such a good quality Cod Liver Oil, are also an option. There are some lemon-flavored version that are not unpleasant to eat (click on the link for more info).
Population studies from several countries have shown lower rates of heart disease in people who eat fish regularly. In 1998, data from the Physicians’ Health Study showed that eating fish once a week versus less than once monthly halved the likelihood of dying suddenly from a heart attack. Total heart attack rates were not affected by fish consumption or the amount of omega-3 fatty acids ingested. One year later, a report in Lancet described a randomized trial in which men who’d had a heart attack received either a fish oil supplement, 300 mg of vitamin E, both, or neither. The groups who received the fish oil supplement had significantly lower rates of heart attack, stroke, and death during the next three and a half years. Rates of sudden death dropped by 45%.
Additional support for fish oils comes from a report on nearly 80,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study. Published in 2001 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, this 14-year study found that eating fish at least twice a week versus less than once a month cut in half the risk of strokes caused by clots blocking an artery to the brain. The Nurses’ Health Study also found that eating one to three servings of fish per month cut the risk of heart disease by 20%, while eating at least five servings a week lowered risk by 40%.
Anyone hoping to benefit from fish oil would probably be better off sticking with dietary sources, primarily from cold-water fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines, and herring. Forgoing meat for cold-water fish, or any fish for that matter, may lower cholesterol and heart disease risk simply by reducing the amount of saturated fat in your diet.
Three groups of people may benefit from fish oil supplements:
- People with arrhythmias, or disordered heart rhythms. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil can stabilize wayward electrical activity in the heart and calm arrhythmias.
- People with high levels of triglycerides, especially those who can’t control the problem through diet and exercise, because fish oil supplements have been shown to help lower triglycerides.
- People with coronary heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends that these people eat one serving of fatty fish a day; recognizing that this may be more fish than most people will eat, the association notes that a supplement can be substituted.
- CoQ10 (100 - 200 mg): found in beef, sardines, broccoli, chicken, trout - note: CoQ10 may worsen low blood pressure
- Almonds / Unsalted
- Grapes / Moderate alcohol consumption may help prevent heart problems. Research has shown that people who drink in moderation (usually defined as one alcoholic drink a day for women, and one or two for men) have a lower rate of coronary artery disease than either teetotalers or heavy drinkers. A Harvard study on the benefits of modifying various risk factors found that, compared with abstaining, consuming one drink per day lowers heart attack risk by 25%–45%. Such benefits must be weighed against the known hazards of alcohol consumption. Alcohol can worsen high blood pressure and diabetes. Heavy use of alcohol can cause cirrhosis of the liver, is linked to several forms of cancer. It can also lead to alcoholism. Heavy consumption negates any heart-healthy benefits. In a large Danish study, those who had 22–35 drinks a week had the same death rate as those who didn’t drink at all. People who had more than 35 drinks a week had the highest death rate of all.
- A better choice would be to drink as much red or purple grape juice as desired.
- Bell Peppers: Peppers contain vitamin B6 and folic acid, which are important for reducing high levels of homocysteine, a substance produced during the methylation cycle. High homocysteine levels have been shown to cause damage to blood vessels and are associated with a greatly increased risk of heart attack and stroke. In addition to providing the vitamins that convert homocysteine into other beneficial molecules, bell peppers also provide fiber that can help lower high cholesterol levels, another risk factor for heart attack and stroke.
- Extra-virgin Olive Oil lowers harmful cholesterol levels while raising the good.
- Unsalted pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds and cashews. Research shows that these magnesium-rich foods bring a variety of cardiovascular benefits. They can reduce high blood pressure, lower blood fats known as triglycerides and lower "bad" LDL cholesterol. Tip: Instead of reaching for chips or candy, snack on a daily handful of healthful seeds or nuts.
- Barley: Barley is often used to improve athletic endurance, help maintain healthy cholesterol levels, control hunger, boost the immune system, and detoxify the blood. It has a very low glycemic index, allowing it be used in low-carbohydrate diets. This super food is rich in soluble fiber and beta-glucans, which explains its healthy effects on cholesterol, blood sugar balance, and the immune system. The pre-sprouting process that is used also to increase the grain’s content of beta-glucan a substance known to boost the immune system. Please note that barley contains gluten and must be avoided if you are a celiac patient or allergic to barley.
- Blueberries have an oxygen radical absorption capacity value of 2,400 per 100 grams of antioxidant power and they are rich in anthocyanins, ellagic acid and phenolic acids. They help fight bacteria that can cause urinary tract infections, and blueberry extract may combat pain. Fresh and frozen (without added sugar) are comparable from a nutritional standpoint, but dried blueberries contain lower amounts of antioxidant anthocyanins.
- Coconut Oil ... Celery ... Cranberries ... Grapefruit ... Lemons & Limes ... Oranges .... Prunes
- Spirulina: Tests have discovered that Spirulina supercharges the immune system for better disease resistance and increased fertility. Studies also indicated that it increases metabolic rate, promotes the beneficial types of digestive tract flora, has strong anti-cancer and anti-viral properties, reduces serum cholesterol, protects against kidney damage and has radio protective effects. The National Cancer Institute has announced that sulfolipids in spirulina are remarkably active against HIV. You can buy it in pill form or as a powder.
- Olive Oil / Sesame Oil
- Carrot Seed (Essential Oil): Among its uses are tonic, stimulant, liver regenerator, and control of cholesterol. Used in massage oils and baths as it is considered an excellent blood purifier due to its detoxifying effect on the liver. It is used to treat jaundice and other liver disorders
- Apples: Are said to significantly lower or normalize cholesterol and triglycerides. Contain anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory agents.
- Aloe vera has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties as well as lowering high cholesterol, and boosting oxygenation of the blood.
- Beans: High in fiber, reduces cholesterol and regulates blood sugar levels.
- Apple: Significantly lower or normalize cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Coconut Oil: New research suggests that virgin coconut oil may actually reduce harmful LDL cholesterol levels, despite its high saturated fat content.
- Sesame: May help lower blood pressure, reduce bad LDL cholesterol, and increase good HDL. Ideal for stir-fries or Asian-flavored dressings and marinades.
- Tomato Juice
- Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis): Goldenseal is prized for its beneficial effects on the mucous membranes of the body. Practitioners frequently recommend it for digestive problems (ranging from colitis to peptic ulcers), nasal congestion and even pinkeye. Applied topically, it's useful for acne, ear aches, eczema, itching, plus mouth and skin sores. A recent clinical trial finds that taking 1 gram of berberine, an alkaloid in goldenseal, helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, a risk factor in coronary heart disease. Earlier animal studies suggested that Goldenseal extract reduces LDL, triglycerides, and free fatty acids without lowering HDL (good) cholesterol. (Sources: "Goldenseal Root Extract May Reduce LDL Cholesterol Levels" by Marissa Oppel, MS, HerbClip 10/15/07; and Herbal Prescriptions after 50: Everything You Need to Know to Maintain Vibrant Health by David Hoffmann, Healing Arts, 2007).
Beneficial Dietary Supplements
- Sytrinol: A recent study in Alternative Therapies offers further proof that the supplement Sytrinol (a combination of extracts from citrus fruits and palm oil) can achieve significant results in as little as four weeks. The study found that men and women with total cholesterol levels above 230 mg/dl and LDL levels above 155 experienced a 22.5 percent reduction in total cholesterol and a 20 percent drop in LDL levels. They also saw their triglyceride levels slide 26 percent - an important result given the role triglycerides play in the production of bad cholesterol. In addition, total and LDL cholesterol levels dropped 30 to 27 percent, respectively, while triglycerides went down 34 percent in a group that took the supplement for 12 weeks, suggesting a cumulative benefit over time.
- Essential Fatty Acids reduce blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels.
- Selenium promotes the action of vitamin E.
- Germanium lowers cholesterol and improves oxygenation in cells.
- Citrin inhibits the growth of fats in the body.
- Green Tea lowers lipid and cholesterol levels.
- REFERENCES: Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 3rd Edition, Phyllis Balch, CNC; James F. Balch, M.D.
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