I recall in great detail the great cholesterol 'scare' that surfaced in the 80's. Cholesterol was linked to heart disease, and thus began the mainstream push for low-fat, low-cholesterol food products. We went from a family that ate eggs every morning for breakfast, to one that rotated between cereal, fake eggs (aka Egg Beaters), pancakes or french toast, oatmeal, and on Sundays, we got real eggs. Much to my father's dismay, eggs got a bad rap and his breakfast regimen changed forever. Sorry dad.
This was probably the start of my body's bio-chemical warfare. My day no longer began with a high quality protein source (eggs) which provided me with essential vitamins and minerals such as lutein (good for the eyes), Vitamins A & E, and Omega 3s. Instead, my day began with high carbohydrate foods that digested quickly, and spiked my blood sugar leaving me hungry 2 hours after I just ate.
Trans-fats were born. Saturated fat was labeled 'bad'. And we all thought we were doing the right and healthy thing by changing our diets. Now, many of us are paying the price.
Fortunately, there is a wealth of new research and information out there to dispel popular cholesterol myths. I would like to share some of them with you today.
- Eggs and shrimp cause cholesterol. Wrong! The body only gets about 15% of its cholesterol from food sources. The biggest influence is the dance between the amount of fats, carbohydrates, and sugars you put in your body. So, if you eat a lot of cinnamon buns and french fries, you are more at risk than someone eating eggs for breakfast every day.
- Saturated fats are bad and will cause high cholesterol. Wrong! Unless you are a rabbit. A lot of cholesterol 'testing' is done on rabbits. They are vegetarians and are not meant to eat fats. (Sigh.) Our human ancestors, on the other hand, ate high quality meat. High cholesterol and heart disease were a non-issue and very rare way back when. Mother's milk is almost 50% saturated fat. If saturated fat caused heart disease, breast-fed babies wouldn't make it past their 1st birthday.
- High cholesterol leads to heart disease. Wrong! Our cells and brain need cholesterol to function properly. And if this were the case, heart disease would affect all ages, races, and cultural populations. It is inflammation that creates heart disease, and sugar is the #1 culprit. (See next myth.)
- Low fat foods prevent high cholesterol. Wrong! If anything, these are the worst offenders. We know that low fat foods are often high in trans-fats, processed vegetable oils (Canola is NOT a plant, by the way), and sugar. When your cells have had enough sugar, they reject more, and the excess sugar is stored as fat. These sticky fat cells = heart disease. (Back to myth #3.)
- Statin drugs help prevent heart disease. Wrong! After years of using humans as guinea pigs, all the scientific data is now proving otherwise.
Fortunately, most other nations didn't fall for this well intentioned, but misguided information. If you travel overseas, you will most likely see all sorts of protein products on breakfast plates. In Asia, you get fish, rice, and vegetables. In London, you get an option for a 'full English breakfast' that includes eggs, blood sausage, and tomatoes. When I was in 7th grade, I traveled to Yugoslavia with my family. I recall their breakfast offerings included eggs, meats, sausage, pickled vegetables, sourdough breads, and cheeses. Dad was in heaven.
Moral of the story? Don't fear healthy saturated fats, eggs, and shrimp. Fear sugar and the fake food!
Want to learn more? Here are some noteworthy articles written by people who know what they are talking about.
Read about what really causes heart disease from a surgeon.
And, if you need some more 'famous' and 'mainstream' sources, here is Dr. Oz for you.