Updated: Jul 15
By Chloe Olvera
Everything I used to know about cholesterol was wrong. After reading The Great Cholesterol Myth by Dr. Stephen Sinatra and Jonny Bowden, I learned about all the misinformation spread about cholesterol and massive financial efforts by big Pharma companies. In this post, I want to debunk any cholesterol myths you may believe and highlight surprising facts about cholesterol.
Good cholesterol vs. bad cholesterol?
A common misconception is that all high-density lipoproteins (HDL) are “good cholesterol” and low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are “bad cholesterol”. It’s a bit more nuanced than that, as it’s actually a healthy cholesterol profile that matters.
In a 2019 study by J. Hua and T. Malinski, they found that the most damaging part of cholesterol is subclass B LDL, made of tiny and dense particles, which contributes to atherosclerosis development due to damage of the endothelium (an essential lining of your blood vessels, heart, and organs). This may also increase the risk of heart attack.
On the other hand, subclass A LDL, made of larger and less dense particles, has a negligible toxic effect and actually helps maintain endothelium function. Therefore, the type of LDL (or cholesterol profile) is more important than how much total LDL you have.
You may often overlook triglycerides, a type of lipid in the blood, but their value to your health is underrated. Your triglyceride to HDL cholesterol ratio matters much more than your LDL cholesterol level. A 2008 study by da Luz et al. found that a higher triglyceride to HDL cholesterol ratio showed a strong association with coronary disease.
Eating Healthy Fats
Healthy fats include avocados, wild-caught salmon, eggs, and nuts. Eating healthy fats actually improves your cholesterol profile. Healthy fats are an important part of a heart-healthy diet. They can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, as found in a 2017 study by Liu et al.
Trans fats, however, are the true villain. They are extremely unhealthy and should be avoided in your diet. Trans fats can be found in many foods such as fried foods, baked goods, margarine, microwave popcorn, frozen foods, and fast food. Key tip: if a food’s ingredients list has hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil, then there are trans fats present. Packaging may often try to get away with listing 0 grams of trans fat per serving in the “Nutrition Facts” label, when in reality, this just means there can be up to 0.5 grams per serving of trans fat (per FDA regulations). So, don’t be fooled!
The Dangers of Sugar & Inflammation
By adding sugar and oxidation to cholesterol, sugar and inflammation causes heart disease. Prasad and Dhar stated in their 2014 study, “added sugars are involved in the development of atherosclerosis, hypertension, peripheral vascular disease, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, heart failure, and cardiac arrhythmias”. They also found drinking beverages containing a lot of sugar is associated with inflammation.
Taking a Statin?
Statins are the most commonly prescribed medication for lowering cholesterol. A common side effect reported by many people taking statins is muscle pain. People taking statins should take coenzyme Q10 to reduce the risk of muscle-related side effects, according to a 2018 study in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
Want help with losing weight or beating your medical conditions, such as Type 2 Diabetes and abnormal cholesterol? Contact our team at Beyond Practice and we’ll help you get started on your journey to a healthier lifestyle with our program.