For decades, you were told that cholesterol is Public Enemy #1 when it comes to heart health.
Today you see messages promising to lower cholesterol plastered on cereal boxes and other so-called healthy foods. Sometimes it comes as a “heart-healthy” symbol with a white check mark inside a red heart.
We see the same propaganda from the scientific community as well.
Recently, a study published by the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine claimed industry-funded researchers were downplaying the relationship between cholesterol and one of the most important foods you can eat.1
The researchers were on target when they linked industry funding with study outcomes. But, they were way off base with their conclusion. Let me explain…
The food the researchers focused on is cheap, widely available, and packed with protein and many other health-promoting vitamins. This includes: vitamins E, B12, B6, and A. It was once a staple of the American diet…before “experts” linked it to heart disease and other so-called diseases of aging.
Of course, I’m talking about eggs.
As the study found, eggs do in fact raise your cholesterol. But they don’t cause heart disease…
In fact, a staggering 75% of people who have had heart attacks also had normal cholesterol levels.2
The so-called “wellness industry” doesn’t want you to know this, but you need cholesterol for good health.
Your body uses cholesterol to build cell membranes and make vitamin D. It helps form bile acids to digest fat. And it helps maintain the health of your intestinal wall.
Cholesterol also makes up a large part of your brain as well as the protective layer of your nerves. So it’s essential for good brain function as you age. You also need it for the proper function of serotonin receptors in the brain to ward off depression. And it helps stave off neurological diseases like dementia, MS, and Parkinson’s.
Without cholesterol you wouldn’t be able to produce testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, or cortisol. It’s a key building block for all of your hormones.
And it is critical for a long life. A 10-year study published in The Lancet found those with higher cholesterol levels had a lower risk of dying from all causes.3
At the Sears Institute for Anti-Aging, I tell my patients to throw away their cholesterol-lowering statin medications. Then, I help them raise their high-density lipoproteins, or HDLs.
This is the so-called good cholesterol.
But, here’s what most health professionals still don’t get… There is no good or bad cholesterol. You need both kinds to keep your body healthy.
By now, almost everyone knows that cholesterol patches the damaged walls of blood vessels. And they’ve heard how these patches turn into plaque, growing thicker and thicker…until the blockage causes a heart attack.
And most people have heard that they have two types of cholesterol, one called low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and the other is HDL. According to the conventional wisdom, LDL is the “bad cholesterol,” because it causes plaque. And the “good” HDL helps clean away LDL.
That’s not the whole story. Those LDL deposits are a symptom of coronary disease, and not the cause.
Inflammation is the real villain. It’s what damages the blood-vessel walls in the first place. So when LDL patches the wall, it’s just doing its job. And the patch should only exist long enough for the inflammation to pass and for the wall to heal.
Then, HDL is supposed to come along and clear it away. But the system breaks down when there’s too much inflammation and not enough HDL to keep up with the cleanup. The best way to prevent a heart attack is to reduce inflammation and boost your HDL levels.
High HDL is a strong predictor of heart health. The famous Framingham Heart Study proved it.3 If you get your HDL to 85 or above, your risk of heart disease drops to almost zero. Even if your total cholesterol is through the roof.
Raise Your HDL Naturally
Here’s what I tell my patients when it comes to increasing cholesterol and preventing heart attacks:
- Raise your HDL with guggul. This ancient herb comes from the resin of the guggul tree. Ayurvedic healers have used it for thousands of years as a heart-strengthening tonic. The guggulsterones in the resin lower the inflammation that act on cholesterol and help improve your cholesterol ratio (the ratio of LDL to HDL). Look for guggul extract standardized to 6% guggulsterones and take 300-400 mg two to three times a day.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise is the most effective way to boost HDL levels. I’m not talking about going on a 30-minute jog or enrolling in some aerobics class at the gym. You need to engage your body the way your ancestors did…with rapid and intensive movements. This is known as high-intensity interval training – or HIIT for short. Just 12 minutes of exercise like this per day will boost your good cholesterol, trim fat, and build muscle. My popular PACE program, which I practice with my patients at my clinic, is built on this concept.
- Eat REAL health foods. Despite the propaganda you’ve been fed for almost a century, foods like eggs and red meat are some of the healthiest things you can eat. They are good sources of omega-fats which increase HDL. Virtually all the studies that have linked these foods to heart disease targeted mass-produced, mutated forms of them rather than their natural variants. When you’re at the grocery store, make sure you’re buying grass-fed beef and cage-free, pastured eggs.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD, CNS
1. Barnard N, et al. “Industry Funding and Cholesterol Research: A Systematic Review.” Am J Lifestyle Med. 2019;15(2):165-172.
2. Castelli WP. “Cholesterol and lipids in the risk of coronary artery disease—the Framingham Heart Study.” Can J Cardiol. 1988; 4 Suppl A:5A-10A.
3. Weverling-Rijnsburger AW, Blauw GJ, Lagaay AM, Knook DL, Meinders AE, Westendorp RG. “Total cholesterol and risk of mortality in the oldest old.” Lancet. 1997.