By naturopath Margaret Jasinska
For decades, the public has been told to limit their intake of cholesterol-rich foods like eggs because they’re a risk to the heart. A large body of research has shown this is simply not true.
A recent study was conducted at the University of Eastern Finland and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It showed that even people genetically predisposed to an increased risk of heart attacks are not harmed by consuming cholesterol in their diet. This is because the great majority of the cholesterol in your body is manufactured in your liver. If you consume more foods high in cholesterol, such as eggs, butter, prawns and red meat, your liver should reduce its production. That happens if your liver is healthy. If you have a fatty liver or sluggish liver, it may not regulate your blood cholesterol level as well, and you’ll be prone to high triglyceride levels. High triglycerides are a heart attack and stroke risk factor.
A lot of the cholesterol that’s found in food can’t be absorbed by your body, and most of the cholesterol in your gut was first synthesised in your body’s cells and ended up in your gut via the liver and gall bladder. Cholesterol feeding studies (where volunteers eat 2 to 4 eggs a day and measure their cholesterol) reveal that dietary cholesterol has very little impact on blood cholesterol levels in approximately 75 percent of the population. The other 25 percent are referred to as hyper responders. In them, dietary cholesterol does modestly increase both LDL and HDL, but it does not affect the ratio of LDL to HDL or increase the risk of heart disease.
It is also important to remember that the biggest driver of cholesterol production in your liver is carbohydrate. If you consume a lot of sugar, soda, alcohol and carbohydrate rich foods like pasta, biscuits and breakfast cereals, your cholesterol level will probably rise. In some people, this doesn’t happen until they get older. Carbohydrate rich foods not only raise cholesterol, they make the LDL cholesterol particles small and dense. (These are the type of particles that can infiltrate arteries and promote atherosclerosis). A high carb diet also promotes a rise in triglycerides, which make the bloodstream thick and sticky and prone to clots.