Cholesterol ought to be studied separately. This fat-like substance participates in building cells, especially the nerve ones, as well as some hormones (including the steroids). This means that cholesterol is essential to our life. It is easily synthesized by the liver, so even strict vegetarians never lack it, though vegetarian food does not contain any cholesterol.
In case of meat diet, cholesterol consumption very often exceeds the necessary amount. If its concentration in the blood increases, atherosclerotic plaques start forming on the walls of blood vessels. The metabolism can also be disturbed.
Until quite recently increase of cholesterol concentration with age was considered normal. Such conclusions were based on average statistical data. But it is clear that we should not draw conclusions based on this average number that includes many sick people. Age-related pathologies should not be a standard.
Outstanding scientists and famous dietitians from all over the world agree on this issue. They concluded that the normal level of cholesterol for a person that is 30 years old or younger is around 1.8 mg per gram of blood, and for individuals over 30 of age it should not be more than 2 mg. No age excuses if you want to live a long life.
One of the reasons for ageing is malfunctioning of organs and tissues nutrition, which can lead to their complete isolation from the blood vessels delivering nutrients. This is what happens during atherosclerosis condition, when blood vessels thicken as a result of plaques formation, restricting the blood flow more and more. And even though an unfortunate blood clot may not cause a stroke or an infarct, life will be steadily leaving your body as the blood flow is restricted.
Surely, that does not happen just because of cholesterol, as there are many reasons for ageing. Atherosclerosis also does not always depend just on the cholesterol level in blood. There is always a place for exceptions, but permanently repeating facts make it unquestionable – atherosclerosis is almost always accompanied by high cholesterol level.
However, there are some anti-arteriosclerotic substances that also classify as fats. One of them is called lecithin and it prevents plaques formation on the blood vessels and even helps to dissolve them.
Very often products rich in cholesterol also contain a lot of lecithin. For example, cream, sour cream and eggs. But of course it is safer to obtain lecithin from buckwheat, wheat, bran, beans, salads and natural dairy products. This shows one more advantage of vegetarian food. That is a reason why vegetarians very rarely suffer from atherosclerosis.
According to the most recent research results, daily consumption of cholesterol should not exceed 300-400 mg. In this case, a healthy organism can handle it successfully, turning the excesses into bile acids. However, there are different types of cholesterol. Cholesterol is subdivided into high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). LDLs are the ones that cause plaques formation, while HDLs prevent sclerosis processes. If the ratio of total cholesterol concentration to the HDL concentration is less than 5, it means that everything is not that bad. If the HDL level is low, then there is a reason to worry even when your total cholesterol level is normal. Which factors help normalize cholesterol metabolism? It is not hard to list them all.
1. Reducing cholesterol consumption with food. That is one of the most effective methods. Just this way you can rapidly decrease the cholesterol level by 20-30%.
2. Moderate eating (overeating significantly increases cholesterol synthesis).
3. Sufficient amount of cellulose in food. Cellulose absorbs cholesterol in the stomach.
4. Sufficient vitamin supplementation. Vitamins reduce cholesterol synthesis and contribute to its decomposition and removal.
5. Weight normalization. Obesity (as well as significant underweight) disturbs functioning of all the regulatory systems.
6. Tobacco and alcohol elimination. These stimulators lead to massive metabolism disorders.
7. Mental health.
1. Many people think that before reaching 12-14 years one does not really need to control cholesterol level and limit its consumption. They say that in an early age cholesterol is especially needed for nerve cells growth and without it a child will not be able to develop normally. But they clearly forget about the ability of our body to synthesize cholesterol on its own and about the disturbing fact that by ten years old many children nowadays already show symptoms of blood vessels thickening – that is the first stage of atherosclerosis. That is not surprising if you recall the amount of cakes, sweets, baked and fat food consumed by our children. Parents’ wish to please their children this way often turns into a threat for their health.
2. You can use the cholesterol content data (though counting grams is not very effective), but there are some exceptions. For example, all types of fish, despite their high cholesterol level, help lower its level. Recently scientists found out that special fatty acids in fish have incredibly effective anti-sclerotic properties. Milk and fermented milk products, cottage cheese (it is not advised to eat more often than three times per week) and low-fat cheeses also present that beneficial activity. Among the most dangerous in terms of cholesterol products are various by-products, egg yolks, fat meat, all crunchy things fried on animal fat, fat in soups (it can be taken off after cooling), butter and sour cream. Of course you can eat butter and sour cream in small quantities, but as far as animal source food is concerned… we will talk about it later.
Text: from the book A.Eddar "Treatise of nutrition". Interpreter: Liza Dukhova