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Feast on natural food for healthy eyes
November 15, 2016 05:04 PM
There are lots of natural foods that may help keep your eyesight in tip top condition. Eggs, green leafy vegetables, some fruits, nuts and beans all contain antioxidants and components that fight disease and protect the eyes from damage as we age. Some meats, like pork. Oysters and some fish may also help with eye health.
"So, there is more to eye nutrition beyond carrots."
The Holiday Sugar Trap; All There is to Know
The festive season can be a tempting affair to any healthy eater. Hopping from one party and family gathering to another might easily see you indulging in unhealthy dishes and drinks. It is quite difficult to hold back on the wide varieties of delicious treats unless your will is exceptional. Counting the calories in the food you eat when in the middle of a conversation with a long lost friend or family members isn't easy. What you regard as 'just a once off affair' might ruin the rest of the year for you. There is a lot of hidden sugar in holiday treats such as; syrup, cakes, flavored pop corn, cookies, soda, juices, lemonades and ice cream.
Reasons to Avoid Sugar During the Festive Season
Sugar plays a harmful role in tooth decay. Plaque, a harmful bacteria responsible for tooth decay, uses sugar as a form of energy. This way, the plaque multiplies and becomes thick hence making it difficult for it to be washed away by saliva. Sugar is also used as a form of glue for the bacteria to firmly stick to the teeth.
Added sugar for instance fructose corn syrup contains a lot of empty calories with zero nutrients.These calories do not contain any protein, minerals, vitamins nor any essential fats. It is purely energy which is converted into fats in the body hence weight gain.
Did you know that indulging in all that sweetness at the Christmas table might be the beginning of your sugar addiction? Sugar shuttles tryptophan in the brain which further converts to serotonin hence having a physiological addictive effect.
When the refined sugar intake is high, the body might be forced to produce more leptin and insulin. This is due to the high carbohydrate and processed food diet. When these two rise, blood pressure might go up leading to leptin and insulin resistance. Insulin is responsible for the storage of magnesium meant for the relaxation of muscles in the body. When the insulin is interfered with, the lack of magnesium in the cells may lead to the inability of your your hearts' vessels to fully relax hence narrowing them. This overworks your heart hence increased blood pressure.
Refined sugar has been proven to cause diabetes, obesity as well as other conditions that put your heart at risk. New studies have linked sugar with unhealthy cholesterol and increased triglyceride levels. When you consume a lot of refined sugar, the excess is stored in the liver as tryglecirides (a form of fat that sticks to your arteries). This fat travels through the blood stream and may clog it up.
That extra can of soda might leave you struggling with life altering health conditions. It is important to consider healthy alternatives to refined sugars. A perfect example in this case would be unsweetened or stevia calorie free sweetners. Sweet leaf and Truvia are made of stevia which is a natural herbs that are commonly found in South and Central America. Stevia is 40 times sweeter than sugar yet contains no empty calories which makes it a suitable alternative. These sweeteners are easily available in local stores and can be used in almost anything; tea, coffee, cereal, yogurt and even fruit.
Why Should We Take A Multi-Strain Probiotic?
Most people taking a probiotic supplement or drink do so for the purpose of supporting digestive health. Probiotics increase the colonization of beneficial bacteria in the intestines and limit the proliferation of pathogenic or disease-causing bacteria. A healthy intestinal microflora is believed to not only enhance digestion, but also promote general health and boost immunity.
Probiotics Offer More than Digestive Health Support
Probiotics offer medical advantages that go past the extent of supporting digestive wellbeing. Recent studies demonstrate that particular strains of probiotics may be utilized to treat particular conditions. Here's a rundown of advantages of taking probiotics supplement or drink:
Blend of Probiotics with Other Ingredients
Products that contain probiotics and a blend of different fixings are picking up prevalence since they offer more extensive advantages for wellbeing.
The symbiotic blend of probiotics with prebiotics multiplies the development of solid microflora. Prebiotics are insoluble fiber, for example, Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) and inulin, which achieve the colon in a genuinely undigested state. It is in the colon that probiotics Feast upon prebiotics through a maturation prepare that happens in the colon. Amid this procedure, by-items called transient unsaturated fats (SFA) are delivered. SFAs help to keep up fundamental elements of the body and produce certain B vitamins.
Probiotics can be consolidated with proteins that help separate sustenance substances into easier structures to improve supplement absorption.
Consolidating probiotics with a multi-vitamin is famous yet stances challenges in assembling because of the touchy way of probiotics. Probiotics are delicate to light, dampness, heat, oxygen.
How Probiotics Manufacturers Can Provide Retailers with Reliable Probiotics Supplements
The greatest test that probiotics producers face is keeping the microorganisms alive amid the mixing procedure while guaranteeing strength amid timeframe of realistic usability. At the point when joined with different fixings that are similarly touchy, for example, proteins, compelling consideration ought to be taken to guarantee that the assembling and bundling procedure happen in a dry situation. Any dampness may initiate the proteins and wreck the probiotics.
Microencapsulation is a genuinely late innovation that guarantees the survival of probiotics amid surrounding so as to assemble and stockpiling it with an external covering. Microencapsulating shields probiotics from ecological defilement and forestalls unplanned blending of probiotics with different fixings in the recipe that may bargain its solidness.
Guaranteeing the Right Strain and Count
The wellbeing presenting advantages of probiotics are strain-particular. Diverse strains have particular capacities in the body and not all strains are valuable to wellbeing. Probiotic formulators must be knowledgeable in probiotic strains and the utilization of proper strains for the sought condition-particular capacities. Slight variety in the hereditary profile of strains could create undesirable results.
Ginger And Its Use To Help In Stomach Upset
June 29, 2012 01:39 PM
Ginger is the root of an herbal plant that is usually consumed as medicine or used in food as a spice to help in digestion system in your stomach. The rhizomes are usually very juicy, fleshy and with mild taste when young. These can be pickled in vinegar as a snack or sometimes be cooked as an ingredient in a variety of food. It can also be added to boiling water to come up with ginger flavored tea. The same is also used to make candy. When it matures, it appears dry and its juice is extremely potent. It is still used as a spice in most foods. The uses are unlimited but in this article, we are going to discuss how it helps with stomach upset.
History of Ginger
Throughout history, ginger has been used for stomach upset in many places around the world. After a very heavy Feast, ancient Romans would consume it to help soothe their full stomachs. Chinese and other ancient mariners used it to sustain seasickness. Indians used it as a universal medicine as they believed it treated everything.
Current Uses of the herb
Currently, research has shown that ginger truly does help ease an upset stomach. There are many ways through which it can be used to relieve an upset stomach. A good example is by taking it before meals. It enhances a good environment for digestion before the food gets to the stomach. This will ensure that digestion kicks off immediately after the food is consumed and hence prevents stomach upset. People with motion sickness can take ginger to help suppress the symptoms.
How it works
Ginger has two component; gingerol and shogaol. These are the components that enhance the function of digestive juices like saliva, bile and other gastric secretions. When these juices are stimulated to work efficiently, they enhance digestion in an individual starting from as early as when the food is still in the mouth. This ensures that all digestion steps are undergone effectively without skipping. When whole and dry food get to the stomach, it becomes hard to digest as the stomach has no teeth to help break it down and lubricate it for swift movement. Ginger is also known to help the stomach muscles in effective movement of food. If the tract muscles do not give enough room for movement, indigestion may occur. That is what leads to nausea in an individual. The herb curbs the serotonin receptors to ensure there is no vomit message sent to the brain. Ginger also helps in the immediate emptying of the stomach contents to the small intestine.
Ginger works to help reduce stomach upset which can arise as a result of operation, overeating, sea and motion sickness. The effectiveness of this medicinal herb should not be undermined as it has helped many to get the desired relief from the uncomfortable feeling of stomach upset. Use it when you feel nauseas or even to help relieve you of gas from the stomach.
Anise Seed Is Anti-Fungal Herb And Much More!
February 23, 2011 01:44 PM
Anise Seed And Your Health
Anise seed, or simply aniseed, refers to the seed pods of the herbaceous plant native to the Mediterranean and Southwest Asia. It is famed for its moderate flavor, which is similar to fennel, licorice, and tarragon. The plant species, Pimpinella anisum, has been part of many cuisines on both the West and the East, incorporated in aromatic, sweet-tasting dishes. There is a wide array of uses for anise in the food industry, especially in recent years because of its health benefits. For centuries, it has been utilized to treat digestive problems, and the recent discovery of its high phytochemical levels has been reported to show antibacterial and antifungal properties.
The first undisputed mention of anise seed was in Naturalis Historia by Pliny the Elder, which recorded its widespread use as a breath freshener, a therapeutic remedy for insomnia, and a cure for insomnia. Some translations of biblical accounts also recorded the use of the seeds in ancient Israel and surrounding areas. By the time of Roman antiquity, it had become a popular spice added to seafood dishes, valued for of its sweet fragrance. In the Indian subcontinent and nearby regions, anise has up to now been used as a digestive, taken after meals to avoid indigestion, especially after Feasts.
The English herbalist John Gerard noted in his encyclopedia Generall Historie of Plantes the carminative effects of anise seed, which means it decreases pressure in the lower esophagus, thereby removing related digestive ailments such as excessive flatulence. It has become quite commonplace in Europe, not only due to its presence in traditional medicine, but also its increasing visibility in the food and beverage industry. It is used in soups and stews, in confectionery, adding a very strong sweet flavor. Anethole, an organic compound extracted from aniseed is added to liquor to produce a cloudy appearance.
Phytochemical Content or Anise Seed
Anise seed is known to contain many different phytochemicals that are polyphenolic and phytoestrogenic. It has high levels of phenylpropenes, a class of polyphenols that are present in essential oils, the reason why aniseed is one of the most common ingredients used in aromatherapy. These organic compounds have shown to lower the body temperature, act on the nervous system to relieve pain, and have a positive effect on epileptic seizures. In addition, it creates strong phytoestrogen-like activities in the human body, relieving cramps during menstrual period.
Anethole is widely believed to be responsible for the antimicrobial activities of anise seed, acting against bacteria, yeast, and other types of fungi. It is a bacteriostatic antibiotic and a bactericide, which means it inhibits the growth of bacteria by interfering with bacterial cellular metabolism responsible for their replication and, at the same time, actively kill them. This explains why anise seed is effective as a breath freshener in the old days, and removes digestive ailments related to bacteria. Interestingly, aniseed is also anthelmintic; it expels parasitic worms from the body.
That being said, keep in mind that the benefits of anise seed are largely therapeutic.
Anise Seed is one of those herbs you want to keep in the medicine cabinet for quick use when needed.
Butcher's Broom Extract
May 02, 2008 11:04 AM
Butcher’s broom (Ruscus aculeatus) is a member of the lily family, and looks a bit like a holly bush with barbed evergreen leaves and bright red berries in the fall. At one time they were collected, tied together and sold to butchers as brooms to sweep out their shops.
The stiff leaves were particularly suitable for cleaning out offal and other waste products from butchered animals and also for scrubbing butcher’s blocks. It was also used as a deterrent to rodents with their eyes on the meat! Alternative names are sweet broom, kneeholy and Jew’s myrtle, so named because it was used during the Feast of the Tabernacles as one of the ‘four species’ used in the lulav.
The herb was commonly used in Ancient Greece and Rome, the Greeks using it to reduce swellings of various kinds and the Romans using it to treat varicose veins. It has the same uses today, only the mechanisms are understood better. It has been used for centuries in the Mediterranean area for the treatment of inflammations and problems with the circulation, and the Romans used to mash up the leaves and berries to add to wine, and they also used the roots and rhizome as a medicine by soaking them in wine. Today, it is illegal to use holly as a decoration in Italy, so butcher’s broom is used instead.
All parts of the plant are used, including the rhizome, and although it is used as a diuretic, and to control a loss of blood pressure experience by some people on standing up, it is its effect on blood vessels where its main medical benefits lie. Butcher’s Broom can strengthen certain portions of blood vessels, and change the flexibility properties of the cell walls.
The result of this is that the vessels are tightened up, which helps to maintain the flow of blood throughout the body, but also renders the cell walls less likely to leak or crack under stress. The result is a reduction in blood leakage from stretched and weakened blood vessels such as those that result in hemorrhoids, and also of conditions caused by weakened valves in the veins such as varicose veins and spider veins.
The blood pressure in the veins is very weak since they are so far away from the heart, the blood having passed through the arteries, through the capillaries and into the veins on its way back to the heart before being pumped to the lungs. When the valves become weakened, particularly in the large veins in the leg, there is little to prevent the blood from coming under the influence of gravity and pooling back down the vein, causing distention and occasional ruptures.
A ruptured varicose vein can be very serious and cause significant blood loss. Weakened valves can also lead to the formation of blood clots, which is itself a very serious condition that eventually blocks the heart or causes a stroke. Not only can butcher’s broom strengthen the vein walls and prevent leakage, and also enable them to more easily resist the pressure that can cause them to rupture, but it can also be used to break down blood clots. In fact the herb is used in many European hospitals to prevent the formation of blood clots after surgery.
The active ingredients in the rhizome are saponins that contain the aglycones ruscogenin and neuroscogenin and the associated spirostanol and furostanol glycosides. The receptors that cause vasocontraction are known as adrenoreceptors, these receptors can be selectively stimulated by butcher’s broom extract to tighten the veins and improve the return of blood. When introduced intravenously, butcher’s broom was noted to constrict venules (small veins that feed the main veins but not arterioles (the small arteries than feed the capillaries). Hence blood vessels can be selectively treated, and the effect on isolated blood vessels was enhanced by heating. Many supplements include calcium that helps to strengthen the blood vessel walls.
It is possible, therefore, to target the blood vessels that require constrictive treatment in order that they are strong enough to return blood to the heart rather than leak or distend. However, that is not the only health benefit that butcher’s broom provides. It can also be used as a diuretic. It is not a strong diuretic, but is used to relief the swelling of bruises and PMS, the reason given being that since leakage from the blood vessels is lessened, then more fluid is available to pass through the kidneys. There might be other reasons.
It is also use for the treatment of ortho static hypotension, the reduction in blood pressure that some people experience. It is believed that butcher’s broom can control this condition without increasing blood pressure, as most other remedies do, and which is almost as undesirable as the condition they are treating.
There are few problems associated with the herb, although few studies have been carried out its use by pregnant women. Although the one test that was carried indicated no effect, it would be wise for pregnant or nursing women not to use it until further studies have been carried out. Due to its effect in tightening blood vessels, its use is not recommended by anybody suffering from high blood pressure (hypertension). Many hypertension treatments are designed to render the blood vessels more elastic rather than constrict them.
In one very small study of pregnant women who used a topical cream containing butcher's broom, no side effects were seen for either the mother or the baby. However, very little information is available on how oral butcher's broom might affect a developing fetus, an infant, or a small child. Therefore, its use is not recommended during pregnancy, while breast-feeding, or during early childhood.
Because it tightens blood vessels, butcher's broom may worsen high blood pressure or benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH). Individuals with either of these conditions should not use any form of butcher's broom without first consulting a doctor. The known side effects have already been stated, and they are fairly mild, but few studies have been made on the herb other than in Europe, and the side effects have not been fully explored. It is unlikely; however, that there are any as yet unknown serious side effects since butcher’s broom has been used now for a long time, particularly in Europe.
The term ‘ruscogenin’ is used for the collective mixture of active saponins in butcher’s broom, and many of the supplements are formulated to include from 5 to 15 mg of these. However, check the label, since standardization is not yet required in the USA, and in theory a preparation can include much more or much less ruscogenin. It is frequently supplied with other active ingredients, such as vitamin C or calcium, and perhaps even horse chestnut that affect blood vessels in a similar way. Always follow the instructions on the package, since these are designed for the specific strength of supplement you are using.
An old Indian remedy gives your teeth a new gleam - NEEM
July 27, 2005 04:23 PM
Keen on Neem
An old Indian remedy gives your teeth a new gleam.
The search for clean teeth, healthy gums and fresh breath is not just a modern obsession, but an age-old fixation. Dental historians believe that ancient cavity rates ranged from 1% among Eskimos, with their highly carnivorous diet, to 80% among members of Egypt’s royalty, who Feasted on dainties that included many high-carb delights. So it’s no surprise that most ancient cultures had their favorite oral hygiene therapies.
In Indian, the tooth scrubber of popular choice was twigs taken from the neem tree. Small wonder: This tropical evergreen’s therapeutic versatility sports and impressive 4,000-year-old track record, earning it the nickname of “village pharmacy.” Indians who went abroad carried neem with them, and they put the entire tree-bark, fruit, leaf, root, seed-to health-enhancing use. One famous Indian emigrant, Mahatma Gandhi, was a keen neem enthusiast; after returning to his native land, Gandhi held prayer meetings under a neem tree.
Today, neem’s beautiful branches grace a vast swath of the Southern Hemisphere, including Australia (which may become the biggest neem-producing nation over the coming decades), Fiji, sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South America and the Caribbean. This remarkable plant’s Sanskrit name, arista, says it all-“perfect, complete and imperishable.”
Keeping Teeth Intact
Your dentist is actually the second one to drill your pearly whites. The first drillers are the germs that reside in your mouth-or, to be more accurate, the acids these wee beasties produce. Their handiwork: dental caries, or just plain cavities. These bacteria are also responsible for gum disease, which can lead to tooth loss if unchecked. What’s even worse, low-level inflammation caused by disordered gums may create the kind of blood-vessel havoc associated with heart problems.
Neem extracts act against a variety of detrimental microbes, which may explain its time-tested success in helping to keep teeth whole. Scientists at India’s Zydus Research Centre found that individuals who used a neem dental gel twice a day for six weeks enjoyed significant reductions in both plaque-the gummy, bacteria-harboring stuff that accumulates on teeth-and gum disease (International Dental Journal 8/04).
Neem’s fame is spreading among Northern Hemisphere consumers. It is becoming an herbally aware toothpaste ingredient valued for the fresh feeling its cool astringency imparts to the mouth. Neem is also a prized component of other health and beauty products, such as bath powders, lotions, shampoos and soaps.
In India, neem is a vital weapon in the arsenal of Ayurveda, that country’s system of traditional medicine. Practitioners there mash the leaves into a paste to alleviate chickenpox and warts, and brew them into tea to break malaria’s feverish grip. The leaves also make a soothing soak for fungus-infected feet.
Indian scientists are also hard at work studying neem. They’ve distilled the substances that account for neem’s ability to fight bacteria, fungi and parasites (including the pests that infest pets). Researchers have explored neem’s other traditional usages; in one study, a bark extract was able to ease ulcers (Life Sciences 10/29/04). What’s more, neem is esteemed for its contributions to Indian agriculture; the seedcake makes a nutritious feed supplement and bees that feed on neem are free of wax moths.
If you value keeping your teeth in gleaming condition, consider neem.
Cuddlin’ in the Kitchen
July 27, 2005 03:44 PM
Cuddlin’ in the Kitchen
You and your sweetie can turn up the heat by cooking together.
Since the beginning of time, the pleasures of the table have been intertwined with those of the boudoir. (Remember the scene in the film Tom Jomes in which Tom and his amorata-of-the-moment wolf down a meal while staring lustily into each other’s eyes?) But when most of your kitchen time is spent trying to get everyone fed and out of the house in time for the night’s soccer game/ PTA meeting/ballet lesson, it can be tough keeping the pilot light lit on your love.
That’s why one of the best ways to spice up your sex life is to prepare a sensuous meal together sans offspring (thank heavens for doting grandparents with spare rooms!). A little fourhanded cooking- preferably while sharing some suggestive banter- can create chemistry that allows your playful, non-parenting side s to emerge, enhancing intimacy and setting the stage for the seductive Feast to follow.
Just as the frenzied pace of modern living can often foster a sense of separation, cooking together as a couple can promote a sense of union. “Eventually you get a feel for your partner’s rhythms and adjust yours accordingly,” says food TV personality Jacqui Malouf, author of Booty Food (Bloomsbury). “Before you know it you’re passing the coriander, peeling the potatoes and stirring the risotto at precisely the right moments.”
With time, you can learn what each of you does best: Who has a flair for combining spices in just the right proportions? Who can chop carrots into perfect little matchsticks without taking all night? Since nothing kills the mood more than arguing over who misplaced the baker’s chocolate or the pasta platter, buy your ingredients earlier in the day and have all the necessary utensils out and at the ready. (Safety note: while two in a tiny kitchen can be steamily cozy, do be careful with hot pots and sharp knives.)
Four hands can also be better than two, so why not make the most of it? Malouf suggests approaching your combined efforts with a sense of adventure: “Use more than three ingredients in a salad dressing! Be daring with your desserts! Try concocting something with squab or squid or quince or quail- the sky’s the limit.”
One advantage of using exotic ingredients (or at least foods not normally found on your weekly shopping list) is that they can help you and your partner break through the limits of everyday experience by reawakening long-dormant senses. Go ahead- run your fingertips over the rough rind of a pomegranate before feeling the smooth, full seeds within. Inhale the sweet, perfumed scent of a dead-ripe apricot, and appreciate its downy skin. Admire the cool green beauty of a cut avocado, and share a spoonful with your sweetie.
Avocado, in fact, is one of the foods known for inflaming passion based on its suggestive shape, along with artichoke and asparagus- and that’s just the AS! (Chocoholics rejoice: Chocolate, full of the same feel-good chemical released by the brain when one falls in love, also makes the ecstasy encouraging grade, even when obtained in standard shapes.) “coincidentally, many foods long considered aphrodisiacs are low in fat (avocado and chocolate are delectably healthy exceptions) and are high in vitamins and minerals,” write Martha Hopkins and Randall Lockridge in Intercourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook (Terrace Publishing). “A diet heavy in these foods, then, yields a healthy blood healthy body with the energy, blood flow and nutrients needed for a peak sexual experience.” (The way these foods feed the imagination- the ultimate smorgasbord of pleasure- is a bountiful bonus.) Other foods, such as honey, have been treasured for supplying the energy needed to fan love’s flames far into the night; no wonder the sweet, sticky stuff shows up in a number of naughty-night concoctions.
Just as Venus, the Roman goddess of love, emerged fully formed from the sea, so do the foods that best encourage those under her spell. In addition to being chockfull of healthy protein, “seafood is elegant, clean and light enough to keep your sleek loving machine fully fueled but never weighed down,” says Jacqui Malouf. Oysters are famous- or infamous- for their amorous effects (Cassanova was fond of them) but aren’t for everyone; other romantic dining favorites include shrimp or scallops.
Time to Eat
Once you’ve worked your kitchen magic together, it’s time to move the action into the dining room. Again, a little preparation can keep the evening at a slow, sensuous boil. Use the best china you have, along with matching silverware, cloth napkins and nice glasses (sippy cups don’t count). The warm glow of candlelight can both set off your tantalizing table and set your hearts aflame, along with a rose or two in the most decorative vase you own. Music (from Mozart to Motown, depending on your taste) is another surefire mojo mover. But please guys- catch up with CNN or ESPN some other time.
When you do finally sit down to dinner don’t rush, even (especially) if fast-forward eating is the norm in your house. “Treat the food as if you are making love for the first time,” advises Kerry McCloskey in The Ultimate Sex Diet (True Courage Press). “Before putting any in your mouth, inhale its aroma to get your digestive juices flowing…Cut your food into small, bite-sized pieces, (which) will ensure that you enjoy each bite.” The idea is to enhance all of your senses, which will come in handy later on in the evening.
You can make your couple dining experience even more intimate by feeding each other; some foods. Like asparagus spears and shrimp, beg for finger-feeding. McCloskey recommends also trying chopsticks: “Because it will take longer to maneuver your food when using them, you will feel full sooner with less food.” That’s important since you don’t want to overeat- passing out right after dessert is not the way to impress your partner (they’ve seen you snoring away on the couch a hundred times before).
In the wee hours, happily exhausted, you can ponder this: No matter how hectic your lives get, you should always make time for each other. You already share a mortgage and kids. Cooking together is a great way to share sensuality, too.
June 10, 2005 02:35 PM
by Jane Lane Energy Times, February 7, 1999
The cholesterol story packs enough subplots to satisfy a soap opera. There's Cholesterol: The Good, the Bad and the Awful. Cholesterol: The Stalker Behind Every (Restaurant) Door. Cholesterol Steals Your Heart Away-to the Mediterranean.
The very image of cholesterol chills the imagination. Lurid and unsavory, it would seem to bob through the bloodstream like blobs of fat congealed on cold soup, slathering itself onto arteries.
Cholesterol is in fact a normal, natural substance in our bodies, found in the brain, nerves, liver, blood and bile. Cholesterol is so crucial that each cell is equipped with the means to synthesize its own membrane cholesterol, regulating the fluidity of those membranes when they are too loose or too stiff.
We manufacture steroid hormones-the female hormones estrogen and progesterone, and the male hormone testosterone-from cholesterol. Adrenal corticosteroid hormones, which regulate water balance through the kidneys, and the hormone cortisone, the vital anti-inflammatory that also governs our stress response, come from cholesterol. Other jobs of cholesterol: production of vitamin D and bile acid (for the digestive process); healing and protecting skin, and antioxidant compensation when vitamin and mineral stores are low.
How can mere mention of this invaluable component in our body chemistry make our blood run cold?
Guilt by Association
Cholesterol's reputation as a bad character actually originates in the crowd it runs with: the lipoproteins, protein molecules to which it binds in order to travel back and forth through the bloodstream to the liver, where it is manufactured.
Not really a nasty round glob of fat at all, cholesterol is a crystalline substance, technically a steroid, but soluble in fats rather than water, thus classified as a lipid, as fats are. Thousands of cholesterol molecules bind with lipoproteins, spherical fat molecules that transport them through the bloodstream.
Three different kinds of lipoproteins participate in this necessary process, not always with the same salutary effect. Here's how they work:
High-density lipoprotein (HDL): referred to as the "good cholesterol." Carries relatively little cholesterol. Travels through the bloodstream removing excess cholesterol from the blood and tissues. HDLs return the surplus to the liver, where it may once again be incorporated into low-density lipoproteins for redelivery to the cells.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): the so-called "bad cholesterol," heavily laden with cholesterol, hauling it from the liver to all cells in the body.
Ideally, this system should be in balance. But if there is too much cholesterol for the HDLs to pick up, or an inadequate supply of HDLs, cholesterol may aggregate into plaque groups that block arteries.
Lipoprotein(a), or Lp(a): the "really bad" cholesterol, can step in, providing the glue that actually sticks to the arterial wall. Lp(a) is an LDL particle with an extra adhesive protein wrapped around it, enabling it to attach fat globules to the walls of blood vessels. The potentially deadly results are atherosclerotic ("plaque") deposits. Simple LDL lacks adhesive power and presents little risk for cardiovascular disease.
Researchers confirmed the existence of Lp(a) in the August 1996 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, disclosing that high levels of Lp(a) in the blood can double a man's risk of heart attack before age 55. Doctors estimate that about 20% of all Americans carry elevated levels of Lp(a).
One troubling aspect of the report, part of the ongoing 40-year-old Framingham Study, concerned the fact that the men who suffered heart attacks entered the project with no signs of heart disease and only slightly elevated cholesterol.
But during the 15-year investigation, 129 men out of 2,191 developed premature heart disease.
The culprit? High levels of Lp(a)
Experts don't know for certain where Lp(a) comes from, or its normal function, although they suspect the body's quotient of Lp(a) is mostly due to your genes. According to the study, they also believe that aspirin, a blood thinner, and red wine (or its grapeseed and skin extracts) may mitigate the damage of Lp(a). That also would explain why the French, who tend to wash down their fat-rich diet with red wine, experience a relatively moderate incidence of cardiovascular disease
The Terrible Triglycerides
The body also transports fats via triglycerides (TGs), the main form of body fat and the storehouse for energy. Edible oils from seeds, egg yolk and animal fats also are composed chiefly of TGs. Although not as corrosive as LDL, excess TGs intensify heart disease potential when they oxidize and damage artery linings or induce blood cells to clump.
An "acceptable" level of triglycerides is thought to be 200 milligrams, although under 150 is probably healthier. And some researchers think your triglyceride reading should be below 100. High triglycerides and low HDL often occur together, increasing the risks of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, heart and kidney failure and other degenerative diseases.
What To Do About Your Cholesterol
Have it checked. High cholesterol alone shows no symptoms. Your health practitioner can perform a laboratory test to measure your levels. Thoroughly share your own medical history and as much as you know about your family members: heredity and related illnesses definitely are important influences. People with diabetes, for example, can have high levels of triglycerides, which also may lead to pancreatitis (painful inflammation of the pancreas) at extremely high levels.
According to the National Cholesterol Education Program, a reading of under 200 mg/dL is desirable; 200 to 239 is borderline high; 240 and above is high. Your LDL level should be 130 or under; HDL should not be lower than 35. A triglyceride level below 200 is considered desirable; readings above 400 are high.
Adjust your diet. Cholesterol levels are readily controllable, primarily through changes in your diet. Leslie C. Norins, MD, PhD, suggests all-out war in his Doctor's 30-Day Cholesterol Blitz (Advanced Health Institute) with saturated fats, which raise cholesterol more than any other component in your diet, as your number-one target. Out with saturated fats like butter, cheese, whole milk, ice cream, red meat and some vegetable fats found in tropical oils like coconut and palm; in with fruits, vegetables, brown rice, barley (a good source of soluble fiber, the kind that soaks up fats and cholesterol and escorts them out of the body), beans, potatoes and pasta, prepared or dressed with monounsaturated fats in olive and canola oils (the so-called Mediterranean diet concept). Feast on cold-water fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines and herring) rich in omega-3 fatty acids that help reduce serum lipids, among many other healthful advantages.
Exercise. Move it and lose it are the words to live by when it comes to cholesterol. Researchers from the Stanford Center for Research in Disease Prevention reported in the July 2, 1998 New England Journal of Medicine (vol. 339, pages 12-20) that a weight-loss diet like that of the National Cholesterol Education Program plus exercise significantly lowered LDL (bad) cholesterol levels for men and postmenopausal women. The diet alone failed to lower LDL in these folks with high-risk lipoprotein.
Educate yourself. In addition to your health practitioner, books and magazines can guide you in cholesterol management. A trove of information is the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP), launched in 1985 by the National Institute of Health. Their address is: National Cholesterol Education Program, Information Center, P.O. Box 30105, Bethesda, MD 20824-0105; telephone (301) 251-1222; they're on the web at /nhlbi/.
Recommended Reading: Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill (Alive, 1993), by Udo Erasmus.
Prescription for Nutritional Healing (Avery, 1997), by James F. Balch, MD, and Phyllis A. Balch, CNC.
The Healthy Heart Formula (Chronimed, 1997), by Frank Bary, MD.
Eradicating Heart Disease (Health Now, 1993), by Matthias Rath, MD.