IT'S international cholesterol month - and with New Zealand adults being widely prescribed statins, this is a health issue that will affect most of us at some time of our life, particularly as we get older.
After years of advice that was based on flawed science, it turns out that some of the fats naturally found in our diet, such as eggs and milk, aren't quote the bad guys they were painted to be.
Trans fats, found in highly processed food, and man-made fats (such as margarine) are in fact the real disease-drivers that wreak the damage in our arteries.
Incredibly, man-made fats were created to be 'healthier' were actually worse for national health. These and super-heated oils commonly used in fast food restaurants, are now thought to be the main perpetrators of heart disease.
The Western diet contains 50 times the amount of harmful oils than is needed for good health. Which is something to remember next time you're contemplating KFC for dinner.
Good fats (high-density lipids ‘HDL’ cholesterol) aren’t the problem - the undisputed enemy is the low-density fats – ‘lipids’ (LDL) that become highly corrupted, ‘oxidise’ and destroy the lining of blood vessels, which leads to the hardening of the arteries.The body actually needs cholesterol for critical processes in the body, it’s essential to brain function and the millions of cellular interactions that take place for processes such as generating vitamin D.
When combined with chronic inflammation in the body, you get a ‘perfect storm’ of damaging processes that lead to, among other things, hardening of the arteries, degenerative brain and cardiovascular disorders.
That’s where antioxidants from the diet - and particularly berries – may be important for protecting against these actions.
Antioxidants are thought to help prevent LDL cholesterol oxidation and boost the protective capacity of ‘good’ cholesterol, as well as inhibiting inflammation.
Regular antioxidants in our diet help keep our arteries clear and the wall linings performing their array of actions. Importantly though, by reducing plaque build-up in the linings of our vasculature, will lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.