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Cholesterol myth busting

Confused about cholesterol, your diet and your health? Stephen Eddey, nutritionist, naturopath and Principal of Health Schools Australia, separates the facts from the fiction. 

Myth 1: Cholesterol is bad

Cholesterol isn't something to avoid. It's actually produced by the body, mainly the liver, and is vital for many functions, including hormones and food digestion. Confusion may arise as there are 'good' and 'bad' cholesterols. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is known as the 'bad' cholesterol because when its level in the blood stream is high, it can clog up your arteries. The 'good' cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), helps to remove excessive cholesterol out of the cells and the arteries.

Myth 2: My diet causes high cholesterol

Our body creates its own cholesterol, and most people who have high levels do so due to a history of stroke or heart disease, or familial hypercholesterolaemia. However, eating a healthy, wholefood diet that’s high in fibre, fruits, vegetables, lean meats and seafood and cutting down on fatty or processed meats and snack foods can help keep your levels in check. Stopping smoking, exercising for at least 30 minutes a day, and ensuring your weight is within a healthy range will ensure you reduce your risk of many illnesses.

Myth 3: I don't eat eggs or seafood, so my levels are fine

While eggs have received negative press in the past, reducing egg intake is not important if you have normal blood cholesterol levels. Seafood such as prawns contain cholesterol, but they are also low in saturated fat and high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, so aim to include these in your meal plan at least two to three times a week.

Myth 4: I get all the cholesterol I need from my diet

While a healthy, balanced diet is recommended for everybody, supplements can also help keep your cholesterol levels within the healthy range. Studies from the Medical Surgical Research Center in Havana, Cuba, found that daily doses of five milligrams to 20 milligrams of policosanol lowered LDL and increased HDL. Cuban Policosanol, which is a natural source extract of sugarcane wax, may aid in the management of cholesterol levels within the normal range and help improve the LDL/HDL ratio.

Dietary supplements should not replace a balanced diet. Please seek advice from your healthcare practitioner before considering the use of supplements.