"Bad" Cholesterol Proving Beneficial

As reported by ScienceDaily (5/11) 'Bad' Cholesterol Not as Bad as People Think, Study Shows 
The so-called "bad cholesterol" -- low-density lipoprotein commonly called LDL -- may not be so bad after all, shows a Texas A&M University study that casts new light on the cholesterol debate, particularly among adults who exercise.

Steve Riechman, a researcher in the Department of Health and Kinesiology, says the study reveals that LDL is not the evil Darth Vader of health it has been made out to be in recent years and that new attitudes need to be adopted in regards to the substance. His work, with help from colleagues from the University of Pittsburgh, Kent State University, the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center and the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, is published in the Journal of Gerontology.

Riechman and colleagues examined 52 adults from ages to 60 to 69 who were in generally good health but not physically active, and none of them were participating in a training program. The study showed that after fairly vigorous workouts, participants who had gained the most muscle mass also had the highest levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, "a very unexpected result and one that surprised us. "It shows that you do need a certain amount of LDL to gain more muscle mass. There's no doubt you need both -- the LDL and the HDL -- and the truth is, it (cholesterol) is all good. You simply can't remove all the 'bad' cholesterol from your body without serious problems occurring.

Cholesterol is found in all humans and is a type of fat around the body. A person's total cholesterol level comprises LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. LDL is almost always referred to as the "bad" cholesterol because it tends to build up in the walls of arteries, causing a slowing of the blood flow which often leads to heart disease and heart attacks. HDL, usually called the "good cholesterol," often helps remove cholesterol from arteries. "But here is where people tend to get things wrong," Riechman says. "LDL serves a very useful purpose. It acts as a warning sign that something is wrong and it signals the body to these warning signs. It does its job the way it is supposed to. "People often say, 'I want to get rid of all my bad (LDL) cholesterol,' but the fact is, if you did so, you would die," the Texas A&M professor adds. "Everyone needs a certain amount of both LDL and HDL in their bodies. We need to change this idea of LDL always being the evil thing -- we all need it, and we need it to do its job."

According to the American Heart Association, about 36 million American adults have high cholesterol levels. "Our tissues need cholesterol, and LDL delivers it," he notes. "HDL, the good cholesterol, cleans up after the repair is done. And the more LDL you have in your blood, the better you are able to build muscle during resistance training." Riechman says the study could be helpful in looking at a condition called sarcopenia, which is muscle loss due to aging. Previous studies show muscle is usually lost at a rate of 5 percent per decade after the age of 40, a huge concern since muscle mass is the major determinant of physical strength. After the age of 60, the prevalence of moderate to severe sarcopenia is found in about 65 percent of all men and about 30 percent of all women, and it accounts for more than $18 billion of health care costs in the United States. "The bottom line is that LDL -- the bad cholesterol -- serves as a reminder that something is wrong and we need to find out what it is," Riechman says. "It gives us warning signs. Is smoking the problem, is it diet, is it lack of exercise that a person's cholesterol is too high? It plays a very useful role, does the job it was intended to do, and we need to back off by always calling it 'bad' cholesterol because it is not totally bad."

High Cholesterol and Heart Attacks

As reported from NHIOnDemand Health & Wellness trade site by Dr. Joseph Pizzorno, ND Chair, Scientific Advisory Board:

According to IMS Health, the most widely dispensed class of medications on a volume basis in 2008 was cholesterol-lowering drugs. (In fact, four of the top 10 most widely prescribed classes of drugs were for cardiovascular disease.) We have all seen the many ads for statin drugs, low-fat foods, cholesterol-free foods, etc., all proclaiming they lower cholesterol, which is supposed to be good for our hearts. This must mean then that cholesterol is bad for us, right? Cholesterol is so important for our health that the body produces more of it each day than most of us consume in our diet. It is used to make cell walls, insulate nerves, carry fats in the blood, make steroidal hormones and vitamin D, and repair injuries"the list is long.

Over half (52 percent) of the people suffering a heart attack have normal cholesterol levels. The problem is more with inflammation than with cholesterol. C-reactive protein (hsCRP), a marker of systemic inflammation, is a stronger predictor of cardiovascular events than LDL-cholesterol. While those with the highest level of LDL-cholesterol have a 1.5 percent increased risk of heart attack compared to those with the lowest levels, those with the highest level of hsCRP have an increased risk factor of 2.3 compared to the lowest. A person with high levels of LDL-cholesterol but low levels of hsCRP has a lower risk of a heart attack than a person with low levels of LDL-cholesterol but high levels of hsCRP.

The primary reason LDL-cholesterol correlates with cardiovascular disease is that it is more easily oxidized. In fact, patients suffering a heart attack have oxidized LDL-cholesterol (oxLDL) twice as high as patients with angina but no heart attack, and four times as high as healthy controls. With most people, their elevated cholesterol is almost all the more easily oxidized LDL form, hence the apparent correlation of heart disease with cholesterol. Interestingly, the reason statin drugs lower heart attack risk appears to be due more to their anti-inflammatory activity than their lowering of LDL-cholesterol.
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