Cholesterol has mistakenly been shown the main villain in heart disease whereas the fact is that one type is good for you!

In fact:

  • Studies show that foods high in cholesterol don’t raise the cholesterol level
  • An increase of the good type of cholesterol – HDL – is good for your heart
  • A diet high in vegetables and soy can lead to a reduction in cholesterol level
  • Niacin (vitamin B3) supplements can also lower the bad cholesterol level

The hype about cholesterol started after a scientist found that rabbits developed heart disease after being fed cholesterol. He didn’t realize that because rabbits are vegetarians they have no means of dealing with animal fat.

Recent controlled tests have shown that an increase in the consumption of shrimps and eggs, which are high in cholesterol, do not lead to an increase in levels.

However, this doesn’t mean you can go out and binge on cholesterol. The problem is that foods high in cholesterol are mostly high in saturated fats, which most definitely are bad for hearts and arteries.

A complication with cholesterol is that there are two types: HDL cholesterol (high density lipoprotein) and LDL cholesterol (low density lipoprotein).

If you have a high cholesterol level, and much of it is LDL cholesterol, you’re at high risk for heart disease. A relatively high level of HDL usually means low risk. If your HDL makes up one-fifth of your amount of cholesterol you have average risk of heart disease – this is a ratio of cholesterol to HDL of 5:1. With only one-eighth of HDL you’re at high risk. If HDL accounts for one-third you’re low risk (3:1).

However, having a very small amount of cholesterol in your body is not good news either! People with low levels have been found to lead to strokes and to cause anti-social behavior.

How do you lower a high level of cholesterol? A recent report showed that a diet high in soy products, beans and vegetables, and without meat or fish could lower the level as much as some medications.

Nutritional supplements lower cholesterol levels. Also, recent studies show that taking fairly large amounts of niacin (B3) can have more effect than the cholesterol-lowering drugs gemfribrozil and lovastatin in reducingl levels. They do this by increasing the HDL level, while reducing total cholesterol levels.

However, if you take 500-1,500mg niacin, which you need to reduce cholesterol levels,  you may find that you get flushed uncomfortably. You can overcome this by taking the supplement in smaller doses three times a day, or by taking ‘no-flush niacin’.

So, if you are at risk with high cholesterol make sure that it is LDL cholesterol that is relatively high, and take a niacin supplement. Of course, never abandon medications without the advice of a doctor. Niacin and cholesterol-lowering drugs have been found to work well together.

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