Many people become concerned when they are told that they need to lower their cholesterol levels and if lucky, are often advised to address via their diet. Or if not so lucky, they are recommended to start taking statins. Statin medication is big business and worth approximately 29 billion dollars a year. The problem with statins is that they don’t offer the answer to solving high cholesterol issues. A peer reviewed Journal called, The Cochrane Summaries, questioned the validity of using statins within primary care and also stated the study that validated the use of statins, The Jupiter study, as flawed. One of the main problems of lowering cholesterol via medication is that it fails to take into account one key question, Why is the cholesterol level high? Understanding why your cholesterol level is high is key to lowering cholesterol, should it indeed need lowering in the first place.
In my opinion there are three main reasons why cholesterol in the form of total and LDL (termed the so called bad cholesterol but is really just cholesterol leaving the liver, HDL or the so called good cholesterol levels can also be problematic) can be elevated.
- Genetically high cholesterol (but is it?)
The thyroid: It has been shown clinically for many years that when the thyroid gland does not function correctly and is indeed hypothyroid, cholesterol levels will increase. Hypothyroidism is usually confirmed by the readings of TSH or thyroid stimulating hormone and its effect on T4 and subsequent T3 levels. Reverse T3 and thyroid antibodies are other blood tests that are useful in determining thyroid function. Perhaps the most useful of tests that clinicians fail to use is the basal metabolic temperature tests and Achilles reflex test . In summary those with a body temperature close to 37 degrees will have a better metabolism than those with lower body temperature. I have seen this clinically in hundreds of clients.
Inflammation: The body is exposed on a daily basis to toxological insult. Our air, water and food supply is tainted with chemicals such as DDT, PCBs and xenoestrogens that have calamitous effects on the biology of our body. Foods such as vegetable oils that are often genetically modified also contain high levels of PUFA’s or polyunsaturated vegetable oils that when oxidised cause inflammation and damage to our DNA. Perfumes, creams, cleaning products, car fumes, solvents, varnishes all add to the load that increase the chronic inflammatory process on our body elevating cholesterol levels. This is where the perception of cholesterol needs to shift. Imagine if you cut yourself, what would you do? Apply a plaster perhaps? Cholesterol is like a plaster and is the building block for new tissues and structure to cells and necessary to build new tissue. You will also see from the diagram below that cholesterol is the precursor to the major hormones which include cortisol, DHEA, progesterone etc. If we clarify the source of inflammation, we may just be able to lower cholesterol levels by removing the source of inflammation.
Genetic Cholesterol levels: It is true that people often do have genetically high cholesterol levels but what if someone’s parents were hypothyroid? The years of taking damaging cholesterol medication could have been avoided by simply addressing poor thyroid function.
Statins block the conversion of HMG CoA to mevalonate, via HMG CoA reductase an enzyme responsible for converting cholesterol that also synthesizes a powerful heart antioxidant called CO Q10. What happens when you reduce anti-oxidant levels particularly in the heart? You get oxidation and inflammation potentially damaging the heart. Muscle aches and pains are often reported as a side effect of statins.
An interesting point is that magnesium often acts on the same pathways as a statin and it’s no surprise that in heart related disease including hypertension and heart attacks, magnesium is often low.
So how do you lower cholesterol without medication?
- Determine if you have a thyroid issue with blood and temperature test
- Clarify the source of any chronic inflammatory process. Diet, chemicals stress?
- Use diet or supplements such as magnesium, Vitamin C, E and B6 and other antioxidants if necessary.
Davis. R. Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Course. 2008
Peat R. Nutrition for Women. 1993.
Rosanoff A, Seelig MS. Comparison Of Mechanism And Functional Effects Of Magnesium And Statin: J Am Coll Nutr. 2004 Oct;23(5):501S-505S