I so confused about dietary fats and a healthy omega 3:omega ratio....help please! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 20 Old 04-20-2013, 09:26 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My husband just found out that he has high bad cholesterol (LDL).  I'm trying to help him figure out how to eat healthier to lower his level of LDL.  A few years ago (as a vegan), he was having problems with blood sugar levels (due to eating large quantities of pasta, sweets and lots of sodas and juice.)  His LDL levels at that time were fine.  Now he has taken care of the blood sugar problem, but his LDL has gone up significantly.  He cleaned up his diet and now eats eggs as well as plant foods. 

 

So, my understanding of healthy fats is as following:  monounsaturated fats and saturated fats are healthy.  One should mostly avoid polyunsaturated fats, and not eat trans fats at all.  Omega 3:Omega 6 ratio should be as high as possible.  Dietary cholesterol is not harmful.  Eating this way is supposed to lower one's bad cholesterol and raise one's good cholesterol.   

 

But I must be missing something.  For one, Omega 3 and Omega 6 are polyunsaturated fatty acids, so Omega 3 is found in foods which have lots of polyunsaturated fats, like flaxseed and walnuts.  If you eat Omega 3 from whole food sources, that automatically ups your polyunsaturated fat intake which is supposedly bad.  Also, foods like avocados, almonds and sunflower seeds are very high in Omega 6, so if you eat them, the Omega 6 side of your ratio goes way up.  But they are healthy foods and it seems unreasonable to exclude them from one's diet. 

 

Then I was also reading that many foods which have a high Omega 3: Omega 6 ratio are actually not so high in Omega 3 as one would think, since the body converts Omega 3 to ALA and DHA imperfectly.  So for example, the Omega 3 in canola oil is not efficiently used by the body, so the ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 should actually be thought of as 1:8 rather than 1:2.....So without specifically supplementing with DHA, or eating fish products (which I am not willing to do), one is not able to get enough DHA.

 

But then, even more interesting - vegans have a higher level of DHA than either fish eaters, vegetarians, or non fish eating meat eaters... (According to an article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition).

 

 

Group                                 EPA in plasma         DHA in plasma (umol/L)
                                          (micromoles per litre)
fish-eaters                           64.7                      271
non-fish eating meat eaters  57.1                      241.3
vegetarians                            55.1                      223.5
vegans                                   50                       286.4

 

I'm so confused.  Does anybody else have a better understanding of this?    

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#2 of 20 Old 04-20-2013, 10:13 AM
 
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Subbing. I've been flirting with paleo lately, and this stuff seems to come up a lot in the forums. Not enough for me to get a complete understanding, though. It's pretty complex.
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#3 of 20 Old 04-20-2013, 02:49 PM
 
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I thought that saturated fats were the baddies, and polyunsaturates the best ones we could eat?

Thus nuts are so healthy, because they contain polyunsaturated fats.

I also follow the general recommendation (for vegans) which as I understand it is to take a tablespoon of ground flax seed per day and use canola or olive oil rather than sunflower oil or corn oil. (also watching out for processed foods which can contain a lot of sunflower or corn oil). Or, better yet, don't use oil at all.

I am not convinced that eggs are healthy.

Also, was the change in LDL significant?  People get different readings on different days.  Did the dr mention it particularly?

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#4 of 20 Old 04-21-2013, 06:08 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Yeah.  The Dr. was a little concerned about it I think.  I didn't know that LDL could change from day to day like that....So if you ate something less than healthy the previous day, and then took the test, your LDL might be high, even if your diet is normally very healthy?  That's reassuring.

 

I guess I thought that saturated fats were healthy because coconut oil is supposedly so healthy, and it has almost no polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats in it.  And then, a lot of non-vegetarian people I know are really into butter and lard and such nowadays.  But maybe the saturated fat health thing is more of a fad, and not substantiated by nutritional data?  Is that true?  I really don't know. 

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#5 of 20 Old 04-21-2013, 06:29 PM
 
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So polyunsaturated fats reduce both your HDL (good) and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Saturated fats may raise your LDL, but they also don't reduce your HDL levels, and may even raise them. Monounsaturated fats are thought to lower LDL levels while leaving HDL alone, or even increasing them None of these are necessarily bad in a balanced system, unlike trans fats, which are just bad period.

People with cholesterol issues may wish to adjust their fat type intake, people with gallbladder disease may need to limit saturated fat to manange symptoms. Dietary cholesterol does not necessarily impact blood cholesterol, though in some people it does seem to, and reducing dietary cholesterol may be worth a try. If you have liver damage, you may have trouble producing enough cholesterol, and a dietary source may be helpful (or increasing saturated fat and treating the liver issues can fix it instead).
Eating a diet high in soluble fiber (whole grains (OATS!), beans, fruits and veggies) can also have a positive impact on your cholesterol levers.
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#6 of 20 Old 04-21-2013, 06:31 PM
 
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And no, the level that fluctuates with recent food intake is VLDL, which is different than LDL.
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#7 of 20 Old 04-21-2013, 11:39 PM
 
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I use avocado oil and macadamia oil. Maybe this can provide some info:

 

http://theconsciouslife.com/omega-3-6-9-ratio-cooking-oils.htm


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#8 of 20 Old 04-22-2013, 12:23 AM
 
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Both omega-3 and omega-6 are essential fatty acids, but the omega-6 fats tend to predominate in our diets, and inflammation can result from this imbalance. Seeds, and nuts all have more omega-6 (linoleic) than omega-3 (linolenic). I believe that greens are the opposite. So, balancing out the types of foods is important. I don't think a ratio over 1:1 is good. In other words, you don't actually want more omega-3 than omega-6, and slightly less is fine; you just don't want it to be 1:25 for example.

 

One reason that the ratio is so important is that the omega-3 and omega-6 are used in the body to synthesize other fats, and they share the same enzymes for this. So, if you have too much omega-6, it will occupy the enzymes and prevent omega-3 from being synthesized into its desaturated and longer chain products such as DHA, and then EPA.

 

Looking at the numbers you posted from the article, I see some interesting things:

1. Fish eaters have more DHA than anyone except vegans.

2. Fish eaters have more EPA than any other group.

3. Vegans have lowest EPA of any group.

 

Some possibilities that come to mind are that vegans are poor converters of DHA to EPA, which is why they have more circulating than other groups. (An enzyme is needed for this job). Fish eaters don't have to synthesize all of their DHA or EPA, since they are preformed by the fish themselves, so they have high levels of both EFAs. All that is to say, we probably can't draw many firm conclusions from these types of studies.

 

It seems prudent to me to eat only whole foods, and although it's a hassle, I'm trying to avoid all pre-processed 'healthy' foods, since they almost always have some oil that's high in omega-6 (plus it's always a refined version of the oil). Also, a rule of thumb is to consider the seed oil in question. For example, is rapeseed (canola) a food? No, it's actually harmful in it's whole form. What about cottonseed? It's a by-product of the cotton industry, perhaps good for birdseed. Corn & soy are foods, but in their whole form you would get much less omega-6 fats, obviously! On the other hand, olive and coconut can be easily obtained unrefined, and they are not from seeds. Unrefined nut oils, sesame, and sunflower are nice, but in small quantities.

 

The types of cholesterol that are made in the body reflect the types of fats a person consumes, but the underlying reason for the excess cholesterol production is the one question nobody seems to even ask. I recommend reading "Put your heart in your mouth" by Natasha Campbell-McBride. She explains that cholesterol is created by the body in response to inflammation and oxidative stress.  It sounds like your husband has done something to remedy his blood sugar issues, but elevated blood glucose and elevated insulin in the blood are inflammatory. so perhaps that's something to look at?

 

Saturated fat is not bad, and there are many saturated fatty acids that we benefit from, such as lauric acid from coconut oil. Our bodies make saturated fat when we need more of it. In the past, various studies have grouped trans fats with saturated fats, which skewed the results and basically framed saturated fats as the villain when it's not. It is important to have the right balance of all the fats, including saturated fat from good sources. For example, when someone eats meat from a factory-raised animal, say beef, that person is not just getting saturated fat. There is a higher proportion of saturated fat to unsaturated, but the unsaturated fat is mostly polyunsaturated omega-6 from the corn that animal was fed. The fat profile of a conventionally raised chicken would be even worse, since it's fat would be mostly unsaturated to begin with. That's bad enough, but then there are the toxins the animals are dosed with which are diverted into their fat stores. So it's easy to see how those who eat the SAD can have problems, and of course sugar is a huge inflammation-causing part of that diet. So, red meat = saturated fat = bad for you doesn't hold up, and it certainly doesn't transfer to the entire category of saturated fats.

 

Wow, that was long! I agree that this is a very complex subject. I feel like I would have to be a lipidologist to fully grasp it all.smile.gif
 

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#9 of 20 Old 04-22-2013, 01:53 PM
 
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Thanks Cupressa, I actually shared that with a non-mdc friend.


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#10 of 20 Old 04-22-2013, 04:04 PM
 
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I think Cupressa said it well. One of the issues is that pretty much any packaged or processed food contains omega 6s which puts the ideal 1:1 ratio out of whack. For example, canola, soy, corn etc are all high in omega 6s. So most people consume large amounts of omega 6s without enough 3s to balance them out.

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#11 of 20 Old 04-22-2013, 04:39 PM
 
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Here is a website with lots of information about dietary fats and so forth: http://www.drmcdougall.com/med_hot_vegetableoils.html

 

As a quick summary, I follow Dr. McDougall's recommendations and that entails eating a whole foods vegan diet based on healthy whole grain starches and fruits and veg. I use no free oils but do eat some flaxseed everyday. All whole plant foods contain essential fatty acids and it would be difficult to be fat deficient IF one is eating enough calories. Regarding omega 3 and 6 balance, lots of green veggies are good sources of omega 3. But I have found the easiest way to get the appropriate ratio is to minimise higher fat plant foods (nuts, avocado, soy),  and make sure to get 1 or 2 tsp of ground flaxseed every day. It is difficult to maintain a favourable omega 3 - omega 6 ratio if one is eating a lot of nuts and such, I have found. But you could keep a food diary and experiment to see what works for you. 

 

I have done a lot of research on this subject and personally my conclusion is that the "coconut oil and saturated fat are healthy" claim is not backed by science. But a lot of people would disagree, so it's up to you to draw your own conclusions!


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#12 of 20 Old 04-23-2013, 07:46 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you, everyone, for all of your replies.  The fat issue does seem very complicated and there are so many differing ideas about it.  It does seem that eating non-processed foods (i.e. not so many oils and fats) eliminates figuring out the "correct" answer.  That way, it seems that one would minimize the damage anyway....But even that is difficult since fats are so satisfying in a meal.

 

My husband doesn't eat a lot of saturated fats anyway - except for maybe in peanuts and peanut butter.  But he also doesn't consume a lot of omega 3 except for in canola oil.  I was reading the Wikipedia article about omega 3 fats, and it said that there isn't a great deal of evidence for having a good ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 leading to good heart health, but rather that one just should consume omega 3 in general for this benefit. 

 

It also said that in the body, omega 3 fats are converted to EPA and then EPA is then converted into DHA, rather than the other way around.  So if one has a high DHA level, then the DHA must have come from EPA.  So, one could not have too low of an EPA level, given that their DHA level was high enough?  Does that make sense?  I really am still pretty confused about this.    

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#13 of 20 Old 04-23-2013, 12:19 PM
 
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Well, I was obviously completely confused and got the two (EPA & DHA) switched in the fatty acid elongation / desaturation chain in my mind!

 

I have no idea why vegans would have more DHA and low EPA, then.

 

I guess, for those non-lipid experts among us, it comes down to eating whole foods. Personally, I think that unrefined oils can be considered "whole" in a nutritional sense. They still contain other nutritive substances, as well as a combination of saturated, mono-, and polyunsaturated fatty acids in their own unique balance. It just becomes more difficult to balance the fats when large amounts are consumed. I still think it is a good guideline to consider the original source of the oil to determine what it's nutritional value could be.

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#14 of 20 Old 04-23-2013, 01:39 PM
 
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Yeah. The Dr. was a little concerned about it I think. I didn't know that LDL could change from day to day like that....So if you ate something less than healthy the previous day, and then took the test, your LDL might be high, even if your diet is normally very healthy? That's reassuring.

 

I heard that cholesterol levels do vary from day to day but I don't know if that has to do with yesterday's meal plan or the test is not totally accurate.. or something else altogether... and I have no idea how much the level could vary.  That's why I asked if the dr had mentioned the change in numbers was significant or if it was something that you had noticed yourself. 

 

As for balancing fats... if you are concerned about DHA he could get a test at the dr office to see whether he's converting Omega 3's or not. The main concern for vegans (that I understand) would be that with a high Omega 6:3 ratio the fats are not converted efficiently into DHA.

 

Does your husband have a diet plan to follow?  There are lots of drs out there writing books and advocating a plant-based diet that can show you how to do it healthfully.  (as opposed to going vegan for ethical reasons and then eating lots of refined starches and processed meat analogs).  I am a big fan of Dr Fuhrman "Eat to Live" which has a wealth of nutritional information (and would also allow your husband to eat the occasional egg)  and there is also a free online program called "21 Day Kickstart" which is 100% vegan, but less restrictive in other ways (and less complicated, or less informative, depending on how you want to look at it.)

 

You can read a lot of theories out there (about saturated fats for ex) but unfortunately not all of them are backed by science.

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#15 of 20 Old 04-24-2013, 06:12 PM
 
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i always listed canola oil as being high in omega 6. it has more 6 than 3.

 

i am lost on coconut oil too. friend had to give up coconut oil coz it was affecting his LDL levels. 

 

i would also look at his genetics. if you make all the dietary changes and things still dont change it might be genetic. 

 

60 gms of fat is not that much and that is how much an adult should eat. 2 tbls of pb is 16 gms of fat. a quarter cup of peanuts contains 18 grams of fat. 1 tblsp oil 14 gms of fat. if he eats any snack apart from these he meets his 60 gm quota. 

 

i dont cook with fat. but boy oh boy do we all get our 60 grams in other ways. actually i have cut down on that too. 

 

is he eating enough fiber? fiber is what binds the extra fat and takes it out of the body.

 

is he exercising - meaning walks and not really hard exercising. 

 

the problem with red meat is if we overeat, the extra protein gets converted into fat. and since our protein needed is so little one tends to overeat. 

 

here's how i look at food. we've only been eating chicken and turkey for the past 100 years. do we know all about it. most of the world started oil maybe a couple of hundred years ago. otherwise it was animal fat. so there is a lot we dotn know and what we know we are not sure about. but there is a lot of research out there. however there is no bridging between the two extremes. how do you know which is right? the scientists or the alternative health people. 

 

there is a wealth of information out there that we have no access to. i have found way more info talking to my nutri proff, than researching online. 

 

here's a new twist. http://news.yahoo.com/gut-bacteria-increase-heart-disease-risk-211847225.html


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#16 of 20 Old 04-24-2013, 08:22 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I know part of the problem is genetic.  Many of the men in his family have had similar problems.  His family is short and squat - he always says they are like the dwarves in the Lord of the Rings.  He puts on weight just looking at food.  I probably eat about 1.5 times as much as him, but I don't have any problems with my weight.   

 

I think he is eating enough fiber.  The man practically lives off of his delicious homemade refried beans and red chile.  I know he doesn't use too much oil when he makes them, but I don't know if he eats less than 60 grams each day.  He also eats oat cereal and a good amount (though limited variety) of vegetables and fruits. 

 

He sometimes exercises more than others.  When he's busy at work, the exercising definitely goes down.  I'd say on average he gets about half and hour 5 times each week. 

 

My husband doesn't have a diet plan to follow.  He's sort of opposed to that kind of thing.  I think it would help him if he could stick to it.   But he gets pretty irritated and frusterated with specific diet plans, probably because he has not had very much success with dieting in the past. 

 

I'm just so worried about him. I love him and I don't want anything bad to happen to his body. 

 

mee-mee - I read that article about heart disease and gut bacteria.  (The main idea of the article was that beef, eggs and carnitine have an enzyme that cause a certain kind of gut bacteria to proliferate and produce a substance which causes heart disease.)  Very interesting. 

 

Cupressa - I've been thinking about what you were saying about inflammatory foods.  Is the idea behind inflammatory foods that certain foods cause actual inflammation in the body's tissues?  And the inflammation causes insulin and cholesterol to be produced in excess, eventually causing diabetes and heart disease?  The body needs some inflammation to produce the right amount of cholesterol, but not too much, otherwise a person will have these problems?  So, even if my husband had normal blood sugar readings when he was tested at the doctor's office, previous high blood sugar could have contributed to some issues of inflammation, I'm thinking.   

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#17 of 20 Old 04-24-2013, 11:06 PM
 
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Originally Posted by dovey View Post

My husband doesn't have a diet plan to follow.  He's sort of opposed to that kind of thing.  I think it would help him if he could stick to it.   But he gets pretty irritated and frusterated with specific diet plans, probably because he has not had very much success with dieting in the past. 

 

I'm just so worried about him. I love him and I don't want anything bad to happen to his body. 

Dovey I know you are in a hard place. i know what i am going to say is really hard to do, but just be careful. dont do too much. at one point of time you have to let it go and let it be his problem.

 

it seems like he is doing all the right things. this just might be a genetic thing going on. age hits and it happens. 

 

living life with a diet is hell. i understand his misgivings. i would do a change of food policy that affects everyone. not just him. just the way dd's food allergies affect us all. we all eat to accomodate her. 

 

do one step at a time. perhaps he can watch his oil/fats intake. see how much he is eating for a week throughout the day (if you can). be careful not to micromanage. it really is hard on the partner. 

 

in todays day and age disease is so rampant that heart disease has is not as big a deal as it used to be. i know 3 people who had heart disease but they died either from cancer or stroke. 

 

if he needs to go on medication so be it. 

 

food and exercise is just one aspect of disease. the other aspects are patient's mental state of mind (which has a huge impact) as well as their philosophy of how they want to live. 

 

so dont live your life in fear (i know how hard it is. i've seen friends go through this, who have dd's the same age as mine) because it can really get you and pull you down. 

 

you probably are not there yet, so i am warning you not to go there as it causes strain on the relationship. 

 

just breathe and be grateful in the moment. just dont obsess (not saying you are doing that now). 

 

example of stress: i had done all my homework so i was ready to get pregnant. i expected it at first try. hah. nothing happened. first, second and third month passed. 5 months passed. by teh 6th month it was a stressfull time at school and work. i didnt want to try to get pregnant that month. but then dh got upset that i'd let life interrupt us. so i just let everything go and said - well i am not ready to 'try to get pregnant' this month, but i'm up to having fun. so lets just forget the whole pregnant thing and just have fun. guess what?!!! that's exactly when i got pregnant. 

 

a happy positive outlook i feel helps with healing. 


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#18 of 20 Old 04-25-2013, 10:00 AM
 
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Cupressa - I've been thinking about what you were saying about inflammatory foods.  Is the idea behind inflammatory foods that certain foods cause actual inflammation in the body's tissues?  And the inflammation causes insulin and cholesterol to be produced in excess, eventually causing diabetes and heart disease?  The body needs some inflammation to produce the right amount of cholesterol, but not too much, otherwise a person will have these problems?  So, even if my husband had normal blood sugar readings when he was tested at the doctor's office, previous high blood sugar could have contributed to some issues of inflammation, I'm thinking.   

My (basic) understanding is that inflammation is the body's response to something: a substance in food, a chemical produced in the body, or a chemical from outside the body. Inflammation can be caused in the walls of the arteries by substances that have free-radical activity, which necessitates the need of a repair process. Cholesterol is one ingredient in the repair and strengthening of compromised arterial tissues.

 

The body needs inflammatory chemicals because they signal the body to repair a damaged area, but cholesterol is produced for many other things, notably as part of cell membranes, steroid hormones, bile, and the brain.

 

Some degree of inflammation is unavoidable, because even being alive, metabolizing creates free radicals and by-products that our bodies have to deal with. It's just that our current diets, lifestyles, environment, etc., have created a huge host of inflammatory substances that we assault ourselves with, which ultimately leads to excessive inflammation. Excess insulin and blood glucose are just some of the irritants. Toxins from the environment are implicated, as well as excess omega-6 fats, of course.

 

In the the case of insulin, excess insulin results from the consumption of excess sugar. Insulin resistance develops because excess glucose in the bloodstream stimulates the pancreas to produce enough insulin to signal the cells to take in glucose. Whatever the cells don't use is stored. When there is too much glucose, the cells the insulin is telling to take in glucose become overwhelmed by the constant signalling, and become resistant. This causes the insulin levels to increase in the blood stream, since the previous amount of insulin wasn't getting the job done. This higher insulin level is not good for the arteries. At a later stage of this process, blood sugar begins to be elevated, because the pancreas becomes worn out -- also not good for the arteries. The stage of insulin resistance can last for many years before blood sugar levels reflect the problem.

 

So I think that elevated cholesterol is a warning to strictly avoid sugars and use prudent amounts whole-food starches. Your dh's current blood sugar levels may be low, but insulin could still be elevated. It's more complicated to measure insulin levels. I'm not sure that past high blood sugars could be involved in the current cholesterol levels, though. Hopefully past inflammation has resolved by this point.

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#19 of 20 Old 04-25-2013, 02:40 PM
 
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My (basic) understanding is that inflammation is the body's response to something: a substance in food, a chemical produced in the body, or a chemical from outside the body. Inflammation can be caused in the walls of the arteries by substances that have free-radical activity, which necessitates the need of a repair process. Cholesterol is one ingredient in the repair and strengthening of compromised arterial tissues.

The body needs inflammatory chemicals because they signal the body to repair a damaged area, but cholesterol is produced for many other things, notably as part of cell membranes, steroid hormones, bile, and the brain.

Some degree of inflammation is unavoidable, because even being alive, metabolizing creates free radicals and by-products that our bodies have to deal with. It's just that our current diets, lifestyles, environment, etc., have created a huge host of inflammatory substances that we assault ourselves with, which ultimately leads to excessive inflammation. Excess insulin and blood glucose are just some of the irritants. Toxins from the environment are implicated, as well as excess omega-6 fats, of course.

In the the case of insulin, excess insulin results from the consumption of excess sugar. Insulin resistance develops because excess glucose in the bloodstream stimulates the pancreas to produce enough insulin to signal the cells to take in glucose. Whatever the cells don't use is stored. When there is too much glucose, the cells the insulin is telling to take in glucose become overwhelmed by the constant signalling, and become resistant. This causes the insulin levels to increase in the blood stream, since the previous amount of insulin wasn't getting the job done. This higher insulin level is not good for the arteries. At a later stage of this process, blood sugar begins to be elevated, because the pancreas becomes worn out -- also not good for the arteries. The stage of insulin resistance can last for many years before blood sugar levels reflect the problem.

So I think that elevated cholesterol is a warning to strictly avoid sugars and use prudent amounts whole-food starches. Your dh's current blood sugar levels may be low, but insulin could still be elevated. It's more complicated to measure insulin levels. I'm not sure that past high blood sugars could be involved in the current cholesterol levels, though. Hopefully past inflammation has resolved by this point.

Interesting. I've been struggling with bouts of low blood sugar, but also have uncontrollable binge eating issues with carbs. I'll have to look into this insulin resistance thing a bit more. Thanks for the info!
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Hmm interesting read
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