THE CHOLESTEROL MYTH

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For decades people have been urged to lower fat and especially cholesterol content in their diets, warning them that they are very bad for health. Saturated fat and cholesterol were blamed for cardiovascular diseases. The particular nutritional trend has developed in eighties and since then low fat diets have become the synonym for healthy eating. Food industry has bombarded consumers with all kind of low fat products. It was a sudden explosion of low fat diary products, like low fat milk, cheese, yoghurt, low fat ice cream. But the story didn’t end up there; almost everything had its own low fat version: low fat breads, muffins, biscuits, chocolates, low fat meats, sausages, burgers etc. And revolution of good health, due to low fat diet, was expected to happen!

But, surprisingly, things didn’t go very well according to statistics… Since low fat, high carbohydrate diet replaced high protein, high fat, low carbohydrate diet, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and even some cancers have sky rocketed in the UK. With over 30 million people obese or overweighed in UK now, of which 67% of men and 57% of women (source: Lancet medical journal), 3 million people who live with the hart diseases and rising, and over 100 000 deaths each year from the heart diseases (source: National Health Statistics), we must have done something terribly wrong!

Three decades ago only 5% of population were obese. The dramatic change in the diet has obviously turned the tide. 30 years ago people have eaten double the amount of red meat than we eat today while butter, full fat cheese, ham and eggs were regular parts of a daily diet. Since amount of fat and protein was considerably higher in our diet in the past, amount of carbohydrates was much lower. Potatoes and wholemeal bread were the main source of carbohydrates.

And then, the modern, ‘healthy’ low fat diet arrived. Instead of the red meat, eggs, cheese, butter and ham that were dominating the diet in the past, cereals, pasta, rice and white bread have taken over. Vegetable oils have been proclaimed as ‘new healthy’ fats, and low fat meats and fish (in smaller amounts) have taken over ‘bed foods’ of the past such as eggs, red meat, full fat cheese, butter… The new diet, lower in fat and cholesterol as well as in protein and high in carbohydrates has changed dramatically our lives. We have become fatter and sicker.

Cholesterol is not your enemy! It is an essential waxy fat-like substance produced by the body on a daily basis. It is so essential, that every cell in our body produces it! In response to dietary cholesterol, our body produces more or less of it every day. Cholesterol is essential for maintaining the fluidity in cell membranes, and especially of the cells in the liver, adrenal glands, skin, arteries, testes and intestines. Vitamin D as well as hormones like testosterone, progesterone and oestrogen are made from cholesterol. Cholesterol is transported in the blood stream with lipoproteins. LDL (low density lipoprotein) is known as the ‘bad cholesterol’, while HDL (high density lipoprotein) is known as the ‘good cholesterol’. The right balance of HDL and LDL is crucial for good health. Foods high in sugar, carbohydrates, hydrogenated oil, as well as over consumption of alcohol, stress and inactivity, (NOT DIETARY CHOLESTEROL) all contribute greatly to higher levels of LDL, creating the higher risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Fitness and bodybuilding expert Nash Jocic

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