The news media is hungry for new findings, and reporters often latch onto ideas from the scientific laboratories before they have been fully tested. Also, a reporter who lacks a strong understanding of the science may misunderstand or misreport complex scientific principles. To tell the truth, sometimes scientists get excited about their findings, too, and leak them to the press before they have been through a rigorous review by other scientific peers.
As a result, the public is often exposed to late-breaking nutrition news stories before the findings are fully confirmed. Then, when the hypothesis being tested fails to hold up to a later challenge, consumers feel betrayed by what is simply the normal course of science at work.
The real scientists are trend watchers. They evaluate the methods used in each study, assess each study in the light of the evidence gleaned from other studies, and modify little by little their picture of what may be true. As evidence accumulates, the scientists become more and more confident about their ability to make recommendations that apply to people’s health and lives.
Sometimes media sensationalism overrates the importance of even true, replicated findings. For example, the media eagerly report that oat products lower blood cholesterol, a lipid indicative of heart disease risk. Although the reports are true, they often fail to mention that eating a nutritious diet that is low in certain fats is still the major step towards lowering blood cholesterol. They also may skip over important questions: How much oatmeal must a person eat to produce the desired effect? Do little oat bran pills or powders meet the need? Do oat bran cookies? If so, how many cookies? For oatmeal, it takes a bowl and a half daily to affect blood lipids. A few pills do not provide nearly so much and certainly cannot undo all the damage from a high-saturated fat meal.
I bring this up because of the recent comments which patients have made in my office. Now I am often hearing, “They now say cholesterol isn’t bad, it’s the sugar!”
The Cholesterol Report – Media Misinterpretation
Although true that processed sugar, too many fruits, sugar additives and sweeteners are not healthy (as I have often pointed out in previous posts), this does not take away from the fact that TOO MUCH saturated fats and the trans-fats, not the cholesterol, are in fact still a problem if consumed in quantities typical of the American Diet.
In addition, the report states that diet only influences 20% of a person’s cholesterol. However, the report failed to explain that we can now test a patient to see if they are one of the people genetically predisposed to be a hyper-absorber of cholesterol.
For those patients, the dietary influences of cholesterol are more significant.
I have said for many years, that cholesterol isn’t bad. Cholesterol is an essential fat which the body must have in order to survive. Cholesterol is a big player in the brain, the nervous system, the immune system, the hormone system and is 1/3 of the cell membrane of every cell in the body.
Having too much cholesterol, especially the LDL (“bad”) cholesterol is a health risk. Studies conclusively prove that too much LDL, especially in the form of high particle counts (LDL-P), which are oxidized, driven by apoB, and densely packed, do increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
It’s all about balance, folks. Having the right level of LDL cholesterol, package in the safest form, un-oxidized and balanced with a strong reverse cholesterol transport system (HDL, the “good” cholesterol) which imparts the greatest protection to your health.
I have long recommended to my clients that the type of fat they eat is a much bigger issue than the amount of cholesterol they consume. That means that, while a person might be able to eat more eggs, shrimp and lobster under the new guidelines, they would still need to limit foods heavy in saturated fat like prime rib, bacon, cheese and butter.
For those Facebook fans looking to learn about the major studies and how you can integrate a healthy diet, exercise, the right medications (where needed), and the proper supplements, I strongly recommend that you read “Heart Attack Proof” by Dr. Michael Ozner.
Dr. Michael Ozner, a lead cardiologist at Baptist Health in Florida, has written this book with the patient in mind. Both Dr. Ozner and I strongly recommend advanced cardiovascular testing over the traditional cholesterol tests run by almost every traditional physician.