High cholesterol levels are associated with increased incidences of cardiovascular disease. This is not news. However, many authorities believe the current federal guidelines on what are considered healthy cholesterol levels may be too low. Cholesterol serves several important functions within our bodies; lowering it too much can actually be harmful. Furthermore, the guidelines have led to the over-prescription of statin medications, which may lead to potentially dangerous side-effects.
Moderate levels of cholesterol are not the enemy we’ve been told they are. Benefits of cholesterol include being the precursor for many hormones, serving as “insulation” around nerves, forming bile acids (which help us digest fats and absorb fat-soluble vitamins), and being an important component of every cell’s membrane.
Decker Weiss, N.D., is a naturopathic physician, board-certified cardiologist, and author of The Weiss Method: A Natural Program for Reversing Heart Disease and Preventing Heart Attacks, who has developed an eight-week program for cardiovascular health. The accompanying table outlines what he believes to be healthy and unhealthy ranges of LDL (bad) and HDL (good) cholesterol.
Emerging research shows low cholesterol levels may account for many symptoms of diseases. In women, it can lead to hormonal imbalances, negatively affecting the menstrual cycle. Low cholesterol levels have also been associated with mental disorders, such as depression and violence. I’ve frequently seen depression begin in an individual with a total cholesterol level of 150-160 (mg/dL). Their depression cleared when their cholesterol level increased.
So, we must walk a middle road. Using statin medications, however, may not always be the best approach. Statins deplete Co-Q10 levels and may damage the liver. There are natural ways to reduce cholesterol levels without dangerous side effects. One of the most promising natural ingredients are phytosterols. The research is so compelling and abundant that, in a rare move, the FDA granted permission for a health claim to be used on phytosterols regarding their effectiveness in lowering cholesterol levels.
HUMAN CLINICAL RESEARCH HAS FOUND THAT PHYTOSTEROLS:
- re effective in lowering moderately high cholesterol levels
- Lower LDL (bad) cholesterol by 10 to 15% in 4 to 8 weeks
- Lower total cholesterol about 10% on average
- Can be taken by people with familial hypercholesterolemia (genetically high cholesterol) and can be safely used in conjunction with statins in those with extremely high cholesterol levels
- Can be safely used by children with familial hypercholesterolemia
- Have no significant side effects
- May work by decreasing cholesterol absorption from the diet
On average, Americans consume about 180 mg of plant sterols daily, a far cry from the necessary 800 mg required to lower cholesterol levels. The NEEDS Wellness team found phytosterols to be so effective in lowering cholesterol levels, that we decided to create a formulation under our own brand called Advanced Cholesterol Support. In addition to phytosterols, NutriNeeds’ Advanced Cholesterol Support contains guggul, an extract from the Ayurvedic herb, Commiphora mukul. Guggul has been shown clinically and historically to help lower total cholesterol and triglycerides. Advanced Cholesterol Support also contains vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid—nutrients necessary to limit the body’s production of homocysteine. Homocysteine is an inflammatory compound that increases risk of atherosclerosis, as well as subsequent stroke and cardiovascular disease.
Having healthy, balanced cholesterol levels is one way that we can help prevent cardiovascular disease. As demonstrated, a rethinking of our current guidelines for what constitutes healthy levels is in order. And while statin medications may be appropriate for someone with very high cholesterol and many other risk factors of cardiovascular disease, the judicious prescribing of statin drugs could stand review. Advanced Cholesterol Support is a natural alternative proven to be both a safe and effective way to lower cholesterol levels when combined with a healthy diet and exercise.
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