Is Coconut Oil Still Healthy? The Truth Behind The Recent Headlines.

You may or may not have seen the American Heart Association’s (AHA) latest report, but I’m sure you’ve probably seen the social media frenzy that followed their statements on coconut oil.

An article by USA Today with the headline “Coconut Oil Isn’t Healthy, It’s Never Been Healthy”, has been shared over a half a million times. The AHA rehashed their age-old dietary guidelines for fats and cholesterol, attempting to finger them both as the cause of cardiovascular disease (CVD). But this time they took it one step further and took a stab at coconut oil, stating:

However, because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, a cause of CVD, and has no known offsetting favorable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil.

So what’s going on here? Is coconut oil suddenly not as good for you as we once thought? Or, is the AHA report based on erroneous science? Continue reading

Higher Dietary Carbohydrate Associated with Lower HDL

HDL is commonly referred to as “good cholesterol,” as clearly higher levels of this carrier protein are associated with a reduced risk for accumulation of atherosclerosis within the walls of arteries, especially the arteries that supply blood to the heart.

While so much attention is focused on total cholesterol, as well as LDL, which unfortunately has been given the name “bad cholesterol,” it seems clear that it is fair to explore what can be done to raise HDL since it is so important for vascular health.

As it turns out, diet does in fact playing important role in determining a person’s HDL level. In a study appearing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Canadian researchers evaluated the diets of 619 Canadians of either Aboriginal, South Asian, Chinese, or European descent who had no previously diagnosed medical conditions. Continue reading

The War On Cholesterol

The war on cholesterol has been waged for the past couple of decades because cholesterol is obviously something very terrible…or not exactly.  It turns out that lower cholesterol levels are strongly associated with increased risk for becoming demented.  Again, the lower the cholesterol the higher the risk for becoming demented.  In this video we will take a look at some of the science that will hopefully change your mind about this brain protective chemical.

LDL is Your Friend

LDL or low density lipoprotein has been given a bad rap. Ever since someone decided to call it “bad cholesterol” it has been demonized as being responsible for just about everything bad in the world. Medical doctors and cardiologists in specific have joined the crusade against LDL with a pervasive mentality that somehow the lower the blood value of LDL, the better. Fortunately, the justification for this altruism is unjustified.

So let’s take a step back for a moment and review just exactly what LDL is and does, and then I’ll move on and explain why the notion of it being something to fear is ill founded.

LDL is what we call a carrier protein, and one of its important jobs is to carry a fundamentally important chemical to every cell in the body. This chemical is a critical component of cell membranes, serves as a brain antioxidant, and is the raw material from which your body manufactures vitamin D, cortisol, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. And this important, life-sustaining chemical is cholesterol.

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Cholesterol: Important for Brain Health

For decades, we’ve seen science and the media tarnish the reputation of cholesterol. We’ve been educated (and re-educated) on eggs, LDL, HDL, and a wealth of other buzzwords that pertain to cholesterol, all the while being told that if we keep our cholesterol levels low, our bodies will stay in tip-top shape. Unfortunately, that’s just not true.

In Grain Brain, I talk extensively about cholesterol, and attempt to dispel many of the mistruths that have been circulated about this compound. In fact, cholesterol plays an important role in our body, serving as an antioxidant and the precursor to Vitamin D production, among other roles. Those high-cholesterol foods we’ve been told to avoid? You may want to reconsider them.

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Cholesterol Leads to Alzheimer’s? Nonsense.

Recently, the research study Associations Between Serum Cholesterol Levels and Cerebral Amyloidosispublished in the journal JAMA Neurology, gained a lot of attention in the press. Somehow it was construed that the study had revealed a direct relationship between cholesterol levels and Alzheimer’s risk. Is that really what the research showed? Let’s take a look.

The study evaluated total cholesterol levels, level of HDL and LDL in a group of 74 elderly individuals. In addition, each of the subjects underwent a special type of brain scan to determine how much β-amyloid their brain contained. β-amyloid was studied because some researchers still believe that there is a relationship between β-amyloid levels and Alzheimer’s risk.

The marker for β-amyloid used in the study is something called PIB. Here is what the authors published:

Higher LDL-C and lower HDL-C levels were both associated with a higher PIB index. No association was found between the total cholesterol level and PIB index. No association was found between statin use and PIB index, and controlling for cholesterol treatment in the statistical models did not alter the basic findings.

Basically, there was a small, increased risk of having higher β-amyloid if the subjects had high LDL or low HDL with no correlation to cholesterol values or statin use.

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