Posted July 5, 2022
By Thomas Abshier

There is much controversy over whether or not total cholesterol and LDL Cholesterol is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and whether higher HDL lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. The data is sufficiently verified, serum lipids levels and composition are correlated with cardiovascular disease. The actual question is, “What causes these lipid profile changes?” and “Are there dietary and lifestyle choices that can eliminate the risk for cardiovascular disease, and the host of other inflammatory conditions that plague humanity?”

In short, modern science does not have sufficient understanding of the mechanisms of metabolism, and their relationship to the intake of the various processed foods and drugs, to regulate the diet sufficiently to avoid the various diseases that afflict humanity. In other words, processed food is a drug with potent, physiology-altering effects. The body was not designed to maintain homeostasis for a lifetime while being pressured with the drug-like effects of processed foods. 

The healthiest diet is probably locally and organically grown fresh fruits and vegetables, supplemented with hunted game. And if we could return to such a world, this one factor would help maximize lifespan and minimize our disease conditions. But we don’t live in that world, and we can only approximate such Edenic conditions. So, we must adapt to the real-world conditions of modern life, and use the crude tools of science (lab tests, imaging, and risk analysis) to give us indications of how we may modify our diets, hygiene, toxin and infective agent exposure, behavioral risks, exercise, and stresses due to our mental-emotional ecology. 

The modern imbalanced diet, unnatural ecology of the cities, the toxic exposure to synthetic chemicals, and the depletion of the soils of minerals, may require supplemental vitamins, minerals, amino acids… to replete our physiological milieu with the nutrients required to maintain full metabolic function.

To begin with, we can largely eliminate processed foods. In particular, industrially produced vegetable oil should be eliminated from our diets. The omega 6 oil, Linoleic Acid, is an Essential Fatty Acid (we must consume it because we cannot synthesize it).  But we all get sufficient amounts in our nuts, seeds, grains, fruits, vegetables, and meats in a calorie sufficient and varied diet. The use of vegetable oils, and excess-intake of Linoleic Acid, in cooking, salad dressings, and deep frying, may be the most harmful of our many harmful modern dietary habits. Linoleic Acid (LA) is the precursor to the series 2 eicosanoids, the prostaglandins, thromboxanes, and leukotrienes that cause inflammation.

Linoleic Acid can oxidize and then bond with the Apolipoproteins in the Cholesterol transport lipoproteins such as the LDL. When LDLs are high, a higher number are available in the bloodstream and they can migrate at a greater rate into the tissue space of the arterial walls. Apolipoprotein B100 plus an oxidized lipid molecule is antigenic, and tissue macrophages in the subendothelial space consume these complexes, become foam cells as they consume many of these complexes, and secrete inflammatory cytokines that cause the proliferation of muscle and fibrous tissue, thereby producing an atheroma that constricts blood flow and can rupture causing a clot and ischemia.

Other toxin exposures/unbalanced diet elements/processed food/nutrient deficiency/and poor hygiene scenarios may be primary in individual situations and at epidemiologically that contribute to or cause the development of atherosclerosis. But the oxidized LDL hypothesis seems promising as a first level intervention in our personal and group health improvement. 

There’s much more to discuss on this topic. In our followup posts to “All About Cholesterol”, we’ll go further into the physiology and pathology associated with various lipids and lipid particles carried in the blood.

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About the Author

Dr. Thomas Lee Abshier, ND practices as a Naturopathic Physician in Portland, Oregon where he has maintained a general family practice including internal medicine and counselling for the past 20 years. Dr. Abshier graduated from National College of Naturopathic Medicine in 1987 after pursuing a wide range of life and educational experiences including: a Bachelor of Science from the UCLA School of Engineering, Naval Nuclear Power School, submarine service as a US Naval officer, and various consulting and management positions before pursuing his career in Naturopathic Medicine.

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