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The Cholesterol Debate

The Cholesterol Debate

Cholesterol is a substance naturally manufactured by the body, and it is found in most animal tissue. Cholesterol is transported in the body attached to chemicals called lipoproteins, which can be high density (HDL) or low density (LDL). LDL deposits cholesterol in the membranes of the arteries while HDL mobilises cholesterol. It is when LDL cholesterol is oxidised that atherosclerosis occurs. Olive oil protects LDL from oxidation and the body from heart disease and strokes. Wine also increases the activity of HDL. Sugars, however, can lead to an increased oxidation of LDL.

Raymond has already alluded to the diet of the French in southern France. They have a diet high in fat, eating foie gras (fatty goose liver) among other cholesterol-rich foods, and yet they suffer less illness. They also smoke heavily, and drink. Despite these indulgences they have one-third the incidence of coronary heart disease suffered by Americans and Australians. This dispels the cholesterol myth. The explanation seems simple: it is not cholesterol in the diet which causes coronary heart disease, but sugar. For, despite their seemingly damaging lifestyle, they take in their diets one-sixth the amount of sugar eaten elsewhere in the West, eating a fresh, natural and organic diet, not processed food from the packets, thins and jars we tend to have in the UK and elsewhere. They shop daily for fresh vegetables, and consume garlic and onion, which contain potent bioflavonoids (see above). The red wine they consume contains other chemicals, which benefit vasculature, and their diet includes large amounts of mono-unsaturated olive oil. The French also use many herbs in their cooking: rosemary, for instance, is one of the most powerful antioxidant herbs in the vegetable kingdom. They rarely drink milk but have fermented and cultured dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt (in the latter, the lactose sugars have been fermented out and the bacteria are good for health). The French often overeat, but there is a low incidence of obesity. Stress is low, and mealtimes are enjoyed with the family. There is clear evidence that populations living in the Mediterranean countries have a longer life expectancy than northern Europeans. Genetic or racial factors do not explain these differences in society, because migration studies have proved no correlation. The major causes of death in the affluent societies – cardiovascular disease, cancer and digestive disorders – have very different incidence rates in different European countries, and the differences depend on diet. The most likely explanation is that a more relaxed lifestyle and a high fruit and vegetable consumption protect against disease.

Elsewhere in the world the cholesterol debate rages equally. In northern India the people consume a large amount of ghee which is clarified butter, a high cholesterol fat, yet they have one-fifteenth the incidence of heart attacks of southern Indians. Those in the south are often total vegetarians eating without animal fats, but they eat coconut oil, saturated fat, and margarine instead, as well as large amounts of sweetmeats. The fats in margarine are hydrogenated polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), which oxidise quickly, and are known to increase LDL. Butter, despite its fattening reputation, is actually much healthier than margarine. 

Source: Blanc Vite

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