It is time to clear up the confusion once and for all.
If suddenly all of the cholesterol in your body disappeared, you would literally melt into the floor like the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz. You would melt because the “structural framework” of the cell is made almost entirely of cholesterol, and without the structural framework the cell would collapse, This waxy-alcohol is so important to so many life processes, that besides it being available in animal-based foods, your body makes it in two specific ways.
First, every day your liver makes cholesterol and sends it streaming into your blood where, ideally, it is absorbed into the cells where it is needed. Anything not taken into the cell for use is transported back to the liver where it is recycled or simply eliminated. It is important to note that every cell in your body has the ability to make what it needs internally, and every cell in your body has the ability to grab in out of the the blood and bring it into the cell for use.
Your total cholesterol is determined primarily by whether your cells make it internally, or instead, gather what is needed directly from the blood.
Consuming cholesterol containing foods is NOT a factor in determining if the cells make it internally or gather it from the blood. Numerous studies document the fact that even massive changes in egg, meat, and any animal-source food consumption, up or down, have only a minor effect on total level measured by your doctor. .
Two Ways Your Cells Get What They Need
- Cells make it internally, which means it is not gathered from the blood, and/or;
- The cells do not make it internally and instead, send cell receptors, (kind of like a catchers mitt), from deep inside the cell to the surface of the cell to grab what is needed from the blood and bring it back inside the cell.
The only reason your liver makes cholesterol is to send it cruising through your blood so the cells can grab what they need. Too bad the liver and the cells don’t communicate because the liver makes it every day regardless of whether or not the cells harvest it from the blood.
- If your cells make it internally, then no cell receptors, (remember the catchers mitt) are sent to gather cholesterol from the blood, and blood levels increase.
- If instead of making it internally, the cell gather what’s needed from the blood, then blood levels typically remain low.
The cells don’t care how they get what they need BUT YOU SHOULD because there is a correlation between elevated levels and heart health.
Much of the confusion on this topic has to do with the fact that consuming cholesterol-rich foods has only a very small effect on determining total blood levels. Your liver manufacturers about 2000 mg. of cholesterol every day. If you enjoy foods that contain it, the liver simply does not make as much.
If you get 1000 mg. in your diet, the liver only makes 1000 mg., giving you a total of 2000 mg for the day. If you consume zero for 24 hours, your liver makes 2000 mg for the day, if you consume 1500 mg. in food, your liver only makes 500 mg. more for the day. You get the idea. If you don’t get cholesterol in food, your liver makes it. If you do get it in food, your liver makes 2000 mg, minus the amount you consumed that day.
The bottom line is, food accounts for a maximum of 20% of your total at any given time, which means 80% of the reason for a high, low or normal total HAS NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO WITH WHETHER OR NOT YOU CONSUME CHOLESTEROL CONTAINING FOODS, which means trying to control your total level by rigorously avoiding animal-based food products is a misguided and highly inefficient approach.
The key to healthy numbers is to get the cell to gather what it needs out of the blood and NOT produce cholesterol internally.
By gathering from the blood, total blood levels typically stays well within a healthy range, and the important HDL to LDL ratios also stay in the healthy range.
A specific enzyme with a long, complicated name controls the manufacture of cholesterol inside the cells. When this enzyme IS ACTIVE then LDL is made inside the cell and little or none is scavenged from the blood. If the enzyme IS NOT ACTIVE, then little if any is made inside the cell and what is needed is harvested directly out of the blood, which of course lowers the total blood level.
Better yet, low density lipoprotein, (LDL), often considered bad, is what the cell gathers from the blood which means the total lowers and the so called bad, lowers the most.
Popular prescription drug work the same way, except with horrific side effects. The drugs work by inhibiting the enzyme that activates cellular production, because if there is no internal production, the cell will gathers what it needs directly from the blood, naturally lowering blood levels.
The secret to establish and maintain normal, healthy levels is to ACTIVATE cells to sweep it out of the blood and NATURALLY DEACTIVATE the enzyme that causes cells to make it internally.
The “secret” is really no secret at all; in fact any medical physiology textbook clearly explains that the metabolic hormones insulin and glucagon are the two hormones that regulate the rate of cholesterol synthesis inside the cells.
Insulin activates the enzyme that causes cells to make cholesterol internally. This means that if blood-insulin levels become elevated for any reason, the cells immediately begin to make it internally and stop gathering from the blood, which leads to higher numbers.
The metabolic hormone glucagon has exactly the opposite affect; glucagon inhibits the enzyme that causes production inside the cell. If the cell does not make it internally, cell receptors go to the surface of the cell and gather directly from the blood, which means your total will, in all probability, be normal.
This is not new information and is well known cellular biochemistry, in fact it is the EXACT biochemistry that expensive side-effect laden drugs are based on.
Lowering Cholesterol Naturally With Dietary Change
Eat in a way that avoids the production of excess insulin and odds are your everything your doctor measures in a blood test will improve; there will in all probability be less of anything your doctor considers bad and more of everything your doctor considers good, and except for eating eating a little differently, it will seem effortless on your part.
This is not opinion, this is metabolic fact clearly explained in medical physiology textbooks since mid 1950. With this knowledge it is crystal clear that dietary cholesterol consumption plays a VERY SMALL ROLE in determining total levels and is essentially a non-issue for most people including millions who have been scared into taking drugs to get lower numbers.
Understanding HDL and LDL
There are two more pieces to the puzzle, the first piece has to do with understanding the ratio between the “good” and the “bad”” cholesterol, the second piece of the puzzle has to do with understanding the effect diet has on the total.
First the ratios: Ratios are simple. As soon as you understand the difference between LDL and HDL you’ll understand practically everything.
Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is a protein that transports cholesterol from the liver into the blood, making it available for absorption into the cells. Low-density lipoproteins are like wheel barrows or trucks, loaded with cholesterol, bringing it into the blood stream just in case the cells need it.
Unfortunately, if you eat in a way that causes the constant presence of excess insulin in your system, these LDL truckloads are not needed because the cells are making all everything they need internally.
If the cells make everything internally, the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) sent through the blood from the liver are unnecessary, which means the excess is subject to build up in the blood, tissues and arteries, setting the stage for serious health problems.
High density lipoprotein, or HDL, help eliminate excess LDL by collecting it from the tissues and arteries and transporting it out of the blood and back to the liver where it is recycled or disposed of.
HDL particles are like the LDL clean-up crew. HDL particles are the empty trucks sent into the blood stream to load up all the excess, extra sticky LDL that spills out and collects in the tissues and arteries and then transport it out of the blood. Clearly, cleaning up excess LDL lowers the total.
LDL is recognized as “bad” because LDL transports cholesterol INTO the blood. HDL is considered “good” because HDL gathers up excess LDL and transports it OUT of the blood. With this in mind, it’s easy to understand the importance of having the proper ratio of HDL to LDL. If the ratio of LDL to HDL is too high that means your blood is being loaded with extra sticky LDL faster than the HDL clean-up crew can remove it, which means the stuff is building up inside the tissues and arteries, and that’s bad.
Doctors have determined that having the proper ratio between HDL and LDL is a more important predictor of health than the total number. In other words, the person with a total of 260 mg/dl and a good HDL to LDL ratio is in better shape health-wise than someone with a 175 mg/dl total reading whose LDL level is too high compared to their HDL level.
Two ratio standards are commonly accepted by most doctors and researchers:
- Total divided by HDL should be below 4; and,
- LDL divided by HDL should be below 3.
There is near universal agreement in the medical and scientific community that the further your ratios are from these standards the greater the risk of developing heart disease.
It is INCORRECT to assume that a lower and ever lower total somehow translates into better health.
Research clearly shows the “ideal healthy range” is in the 180-to 200 mg/dl range, and most importantly, with the proper HDL to LDL ratios.
Historically, total levels over 200 correlate positively with increased risk of heart disease, and levels lower than 180 correlate positively with almost every serious disease known except heart disease.
We know insulin stimulates the cell to produce cholesterol internally. Given this, it should be clear that the key to maintaining a normal, healthy level is to eat in a way that does not stimulate an insulin response.
We know that LDL carries cholesterol into the blood and HDL carries unused LDL particles out of the blood, which s why HDL is recognized as being good. The next piece of the puzzle explains the affect food consumption has on your total level.
There is a great deal of confusion over which foods affect the blood levels the most.
It is a popular misconception that the best way to lower numbers naturally is to avoid all cholesterol containing foods and consume primarily a low fat diet. This is fundamentally wrong. A rigidly enforced, low fat, no-animal-product diet can result in a lower total, but that kind of diet has only a minor affect at best, and causes a disproportionate drop in the good HDL in relationship to the extra sticky LDL, and that increases the risk of heart disease.
Research proves beyond doubt that a higher total with a good HDL to LDL ratio is overall MUCH healthier than lower total with a poor HDL to LDL ratio. This means that while low fat diets may result in slightly lower total numbers, following these diets may actually INCREASE the risk of heart disease. Even though total cholesterol drops, disease risk increases because the level of the “good” HDL, that transports sticky LDL out of the blood drops, too low compared to the reduction in the sticky LDL.
- When HDL is too low in relationship to LDL, the blood flows thick with extra sticky LDL that builds up inside the tissues and arteries.
- We know that a diet high in carbohydrates stimulates excess insulin to flood into the blood stream and cause the cells to make cholesterol internally.
Given this reality of human biochemistry, you can see that a diet high in sugar or carbohydrate is the PRIMARY cause of cholesterol build up in the blood, and this happens regardless of much or how little animal-source foods you eat along the way.
To put it another way, if you went on a 100% cholesterol-free diet for one year, at the end of that year the maximum possible drop in your total would be 20%.Likewise, if you went on a 100% cholesterol-only diet for one year, at the end of the year the maximum possible increase in your total would be 20%. And while 20% is no small amount, but obviously, 80% is a lot more? A small change in the 80% is more meaningful than a large change in the 20%.
The problem with cutting animal-source foods from your diet is that you miss out on many healthy, delicious, nutritious foods that ultimately have very little affect on your total number and even less affect on the all-important HDL to LDL ratio.
If you never take another bite food containing cholesterol in your life and instead eat only bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, sweets and so on; there is 100% certainty your LDL number and triglycerides would go sky high. In other words, enjoy the steak and eggs or not, but either way if you load up on bread, rice, potatoes and desserts, you’re destined to have high LDL, an unhealthy HDL to LDL ratio, and are likely to be awarded a lifetime prescription for dangerous drugs loaded with bad side effects.
When food crosses your lips there are only two possible metabolic outcomes. Depending on your food choice either insulin OR glucagon becomes the dominant hormone in your system for the next several hours.
If insulin takes over, you make and store fat at a rapid rate and your cells make everything internally. If glucagon takes control you burn stored fat and your cells harvest cholesterol directly from your blood. Ultimately this is simple stuff!
Since glucagon gives you desirable metabolic results and insulin gives you undesirable ones, the question becomes; what kind diet puts glucagon in the metabolic drivers seat? Here are the facts so you can decide for yourself.
Research proves that a diet low in sugar and refined carbohydrates and higher in protein and naturally occurring fats, like the fat in milk, cheese, butter, and meat, not only lower total cholesterol, but result in much healthier HDL to LDL ratios than any other diet tested, and they have all been tested repeatedly.
Reducing foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates is vitally important because carbohydrates cause excess insulin and excess insulin causes most of the problems.
- If you cut back on food and drink high in sugar or carbohydrates, your blood-insulin level remains normal.
- If insulin is not high, that means the glucagon is the active metabolic hormone.
- And when glucagon is the active metabolic hormone, you burn stored fat for energy, and end up with lower triglycerides, lower your total cholesterol, and a healthier HDL to LDL ratio.
In other words, pull this off and you improve your health in a variety of important ways.
This is quite a turn of events. For years the experts said to only a low fat diet and pile on the foods high in carbohydrates, because they are low in fat and provide lots of energy. Clearly the ever-worsening tragedy of obesity, diabetes, and increasing heart disease has proven this advice to be astonishingly wrong and it’s wrong regardless of who gives it because the proven facts of human biochemistry are what they are and that is simply that.
The new advice is not based on “popular wisdom,” “common knowledge,” “common practice” or “opinion” and instead is based on a more complete understanding of medical physiology, cellular biology, and the human endocrine system
Now for the final question concerning metabolism. How do you put glucagon securely in the metabolic drivers seat and begin to enjoy the wonderful health benefits gained from establishing the proper insulin/glucagon balance in your body. And the answer in a word is PROTEIN
Protein provides significant nutrition without causing a rise in blood sugar, but the key is not just getting protein, the key is getting protein WITHOUT excess carbohydrates.
With or without protein, excess carbohydrates cause a sharp rise in blood sugar and that produces an insulin response, which leads to fat production and storage, high triglycerides, and increased cholesterol. When you enjoy a delicious protein meal with minimal carbohydrates coming primarily from fresh green vegetables or fresh seasonal fruit, you set up the IDEAL conditions to establish a perfect metabolic relationship between insulin and glucagon.
To help clarify the effect food has on the insulin-glucagon relationship, consider the following facts.
- A normal healthy person has slightly less than one single teaspoon of glucose circulating in their entire blood stream at any single time.
- A carbohydrate is nothing more than several different kinds of sugar molecules linked together. Once eaten, these sugars are quickly broken down into glucose which instantly enters your blood and causes blood sugar to rise rapidly, just like eating candy does.
- Insulin production is the natural, healthy response to lower rapidly rising blood sugar, which is why consuming food or drink high sugar, or carbohydrates that quickly break down into sugar, will always result in a quick rise in insulin.
How many carbohydrates does it take to produce an insulin response?
To answer this, keep in mind that 5 grams of carbohydrate equals approximately 1 teaspoon of sugar, which is close to the normal amount of sugar found in the blood.
Now, a single can of one of the better-known brands of soft drinks lists 39 grams of carbohydrates in the nutrition information panel printed on the can.
Divide 39 total carbohydrate grams by 5 grams per teaspoon and you quickly discover that this single can of soda water contains nearly 8 teaspoons of sugar that will actually enter your blood.
Since 1 teaspoon of sugar is the normal healthy amount contained in the blood, 8 times that amount is clearly too much, which means if you drink that soft drink a quick rise in blood sugar and a quick insulin response to lower the rising blood sugar is absolutely guaranteed.
How high do insulin levels climb in order to reduce rising blood sugar?
According to the Textbook of Medical Physiology, insulin secreted to bring down rising blood sugar rises dramatically within 15 minutes and peaks 2-3 hours later in ranges that are from 10 to 25 times above normal, and insulin levels remain elevated for hours.
Now that you understand that once stimulated, insulin levels stay elevated for several hours, it is easy to understand how eating sugary foods or high carbohydrate meals and snacks throughout the day essentially insures that insulin stays abnormally high all day long and that glucagon is left entirely out of the metabolic picture.
The key to activating glucagon and putting it in the metabolic drivers seat is to eat meals with plenty of protein and, carbohydrates almost entirely from fresh vegetables. As long as you avoid the chemically altered fats that produce dangerous trans fatty acids, dietary fat consumption is essentially not an issue because, much like protein, natural fat is turned into structural raw material needed for cell growth and maintenance.
Keep in mind that your body contains something on the order of a hundred trillion cells and each and every one of them is made from and contains both protein and fat.Not one single cell in your body is made from carbohydrates. Protein and fat consumption is essential to life. Without a regular supply of protein and fat your health would fail.
Carbohydrate consumption is not essential to life. Of course some carbohydrates are healthy and very good for you, but if you never ate another carbohydrate in your life it would not make you sick and you could be as healthy as anyone who ever walked the planet.
There is not a single disease associated with a lack of carbohydrates. The reason for this is that dietary consumption of carbohydrates is simply not that important because your body can instantly make all the glucose it needs directly from protein and fat.
The important point is that to keep excess insulin to a minimum and insure you have enough glucagon in your system, you need meals that contain protein and are low in processed and starchy carbohydrates like bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, corn, sweet drinks, added sugar and so on.
Excess insulin is a serious threat to your health. Excess insulin is your enemy and excess insulin is produced in your body primarily as a direct result of your food choices. Excess insulin leads to higher triglycerides, higher cholesterol, poor HDL to LDL ratios, higher blood pressure, excess fat production and storage, obesity, insulin resistance, and dramatically increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
- Glucagon is your friend and enjoying protein meals with a minimum of processed carbohydrates activates glucagon in your system.
- Glucagon is the hormone that causes you to burn stored body fat for energy. When glucagon is in the metabolic drivers seat it is amazingly easy to establish and maintain your ideal healthy body weight ESPECIALLY when you are getting the essential nutrients.
There is increasing awareness in the medical community that total cholesterol level is no where near the significant predictor of heart disease as once believed as long as HDL and LDL are in proper relationship. Of course you would never believe that if you watch the drug commercials on television, but the facts remain, excluding the possibility of a malfunctioning liver or some rare genetic malady, NO ONE needs drugs to lower cholesterol because it can be easily controlled by reducing insulin-spiking, sugar and high carbohydrate foods in your diet.
Having great health is a choice you can make and it is an easy choice to make when you know how!