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Scientist confirms dietary causes of bad cholesterol

Category: Heart Health and Cholesterol

Many people harbor the misconception that all cholesterol is bad for the heart, when in fact it is not. While individuals should regularly receive cholesterol testing, it's not to make sure they have low levels of all types of this substance in their body, just the bad kind. Now, Fred Kummerow, an emeritus professor of comparative biosciences at the University of Illinois, has released a study arguing that, contrary to popular belief, dietary cholesterol actually can be good for the heart.

According to the researcher, dietary cholesterol can benefit the heart, as long as it is not unnaturally oxidized.

What's the difference?
Kummerow explained that there are many ways to unnaturally oxidize cholesterol, such as frying foods in reused oil. He has spent more than six decades studying what foods can contribute to heart disease. Now, he's saying that oxidized cholesterol is one of the main dietary factors that causes heart disease and may be the primary part of a person's diet that affects their cardiovascular health.

"Oxidized lipids contribute to heart disease both by increasing deposition of calcium on the arterial wall, a major hallmark of atherosclerosis, and by interrupting blood flow, a major contributor to heart attack and sudden death," Kummerow said in a statement.

He came to his conclusions by focusing on the changes that happen in the arteries of people with heart disease. Bad cholesterol, also known as low-density lipoprotein, clogs the arteries and prevents proper blood flow to the heart, while high-density lipoprotein works to remove this bad type from the arteries.

Boost your HDL
Ideally, men and women should have 60 milligrams of HDL cholesterol per deciliter of blood or more. People who need to increase their HDL levels and lower their LDL should remember not to give up fat all together, because it is a necessary part of a healthy diet. However, they do need to make sure that they are eating the right kinds of fat. For example, the saturated fats that are present in fried and processed foods, such French fries and hamburgers, are bad for body, but monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can be beneficial.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the best sources of these fats are nuts, fish and olive oils. One simple way to begin to incorporate beneficial fats into a diet is to stop using butter or margarine when cooking and instead use olive oil whenever possible. For example, individuals who love to eat pasta with a cream- or butter-based sauce should go for pasta with sauces made with tomatoes and olive oil instead. This is one small way to potentially make a healthy difference.

Along with changing diet, people should get regular exercise to improve their cholesterol. The Mayo Clinic states that within two months of starting an exercise program, it's not uncommon for people to see an increase in HDL levels of about 5 percent. Individuals who are new to exercise should start by briskly walking for 30 minutes five times a week. However, anything that increases heart rate works, such as cycling, swimming or even shoveling snow and raking leaves.

Finally, quitting smoking and avoiding drinking too much alcohol has been shown to help raise HDL levels, which is why people who engage in these unhealthy habits, particularly people who have a history of heart disease in their families, should quit these unhealthy habits.

It's important for people to know what their cholesterol levels are so they can make lifestyle changes accordingly. Individuals who are unsure of what their numbers are should get their cholesterol tested more often.

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