Friday, June 13, 2008

Cholesterol - the villian that it's not

A few months ago, I had my regular eye exam. During the exam the doctor was peering into my pupils and said, "Huh, do you have a family history of high cholesterol?" Uh, no. Last time I checked, my cholesterol numbers were normal...however, that was a few years ago. Apparently, the doctor could see cholesterol "deposits" in my eyeballs which is frequently due to high cholesterol levels in the blood. I was shocked! I've been doing this low-carb diet for several months which is supposed to decrease your total cholesterol levels (if elevated to begin with), raise the "good" cholesterol, as well as reduce triglycerides (which is more indicative of heart disease than cholesterol). For a split second, I questioned the healthfulness of this diet. But then I decided to do some detective work with my trusty assistant: Google. As it turns out the act of breastfeeding itself raises one's cholesterol levels. Sometimes to very high levels like 300 or above! (~200 is "normal") Huh, who knew? Doctors will often discourage lactating moms from getting cholesterol levels checked during this time. The "good" cholesterol (HDL) is especially elevated making this phenomenon beneficial to both momma and baby.
Some people are just TERRIFIED of cholesterol. Cholesterol is a nutrient, not an anti-nutrient like white sugar. Babies need cholesterol for proper brain development, just to name one. So, why would something so essential for a baby be villianized in the same way as man-made artificial trans-fats? How can something so critical for growing children suddenly become the anti-christ once you are an adult?
As I've said above, cholesterol is not an indicator of heart disease. Your triglyceride/HDL ratio are much more important. And a low-carb diet favorably influences this ratio.

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