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5 Cholesterol Myths Debunked

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5 Cholesterol Myths Debunked

In this article we reveal the truth behind five common cholesterol myths….

The amount of cholesterol we consume has always been one of the main concerns for anyone adhering to a strict diet. Keeping cholesterol levels low is a great way to fight heart disease, and many people stick to a strict regime of low cholesterol intake. While this is certainly not bad advice, there are several myths regarding bad cholesterol, that have arisen over the years.

LDL And HDL Carrying Cholesterol

Myth 1: Americans have the highest cholesterol in the world

Although it’s safe to say that, as a nation American could do with loosing a few pounds per person, however when it comes to cholesterol, American sits in the middle of the ranks.

According to a 2005 survey conducted by the World Health Organization, American men rank 83rd in the world in average total cholesterol, and American women rank 81st – in both cases, the average number is 197 mg/dL, just below the Borderline-High Risk category.

When compared to other countries like Colombia, where the average cholesterol among men is a dangerous 244; or Israel, Libya, Norway and Uruguay, where women all average 232; America’s national cholesterol levels are actually quite respectable.

Myth 2: Eggs are evil

Eggs contain over 200mg of dietary cholesterol – two-thirds of the American Heart Association’s recommended limit of 300 mg a day.

However, dietary cholesterol is not as bad as doctors once thought. For a start, not all the cholesterol we consume ends up in the bloodstream, and if your dietary cholesterol rises, your body compensates by producing less of its own cholesterol.

While you should be careful how much cholesterol you comsume, eating an egg of two a few times a week isn’t dangerous. In fact, eggs are a great source of protein and unsaturated fat, nutrients essential to our overall health.

Myth 3: Kids can’t have high cholesterol

Another common myth is that high cholesterol is a problem strictly for the middle-aged. But research has shown that atherosclerosis – the narrowing of arteries that leads to heart attacks – can start as early as age eight.

In July 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics released guidelines on kids and cholesterol that recommended that children who are overweight, have hypertension, or have a family history of heart disease have their cholesterol tested as young as two years of age.

According to the guidelines, Children with high cholesterol should be on a diet that restricts saturated fat to 7% of calories and no more than 200 mg per day of dietary cholesterol.

These guidelines prompted a scare from parents worried that doctors would begin to push cholesterol-lowering drugs to overweight children, but a more recent study suggests that less than 1 percent of adolescents aged 12-17, would be considered for medication.

Myth 4: Food is heart-healthy if it says “0 mg cholesterol”

The cholesterol portion of the nutritional label refers only to the content of dietary cholesterol. As previously mentioned, dietary cholesterol is not as dangerous as we once thought, and it is far from the only thing in food that can cause cholesterol levels to go sky-high.

The more troublesome nutrients in food are the saturated fats found in animal foods and diary products, and the trans fats that can be found in many types of processed and fast foods. These seem to have a much greater impact on low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the so-called bad cholesterol that causes atherosclerosis, than dietary cholesterol.

Myth 5: Cholesterol is always a bad thing

It is extremely common for people to think that cholesterol equals bad. However this is quite far from the truth.

Of course, high cholesterol can be dangerous, but cholesterol is essential to various bodily processes such as insulating nerve cells in the brain, and providing a structure for cell membranes.

The role of cholesterol in heart disease is often misunderstood. Cholesterol is carried through the bloodstream by low-density and high-density lipoproteins (LDL and HDL). It is these LDLs, which are often referred to as bad cholesterol, that are responsible for atherosclerosis, not the cholesterol itself.

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