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Why cholesterol could be good for your health

February 18, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Dr. Mehmet Oz and cardiologist Dr. Steven Sinatra want you to completely rethink what you thought you knew about cholesterol.

"The big myth is that high cholesterol is not the villain we think it is," Sinatra said.

Sinatra, who wrote "The Great Cholestrol Myth" with nutrition expert Jonny Bowden, says it's not that we don't have heart problems; it's just that cholesterol may not be to blame.

In fact, they point out that we all need cholesterol. Cholesterol helps brain cells communicate, it fights infections, and it's even necessary to produce sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone.

And you may already know about good and bad cholesterol, but that's not the whole story.

"We now know that there's five kinds of HDL and five kinds of LDL and they behave very differently in the body," said Bowden.

These experts say if you do have high cholesterol, don't just take it for granted that cholesterol- lowering drugs are the way out. They want you to have a conversation with your doctor about it. Ask about getting a special blood test that narrows down where the problem lies.

"It's a test that's called a particle size test, and it measures specifics about the bad cholesterol in the body," Oz said.

So if it isn't butter, bacon or other forms of saturated fat that is causing problems, what is? These experts think the culprit is inflammation in the body, and Oz says sugar aggravates inflammation.

"Processed foods, the processed sugars, the high fructose corn syrup, the processed breads, the pastas, the cookies, the bagels," Sinatra said.

So to get the whole story on how your body's doing, they say you should ask your doctor about three more tests.

One: Test your triglyceride levels. Two: Ask about a c-reactive protein test. That measures inflammation in your body. Three: Ask to check your insulin resistance. High resistance to insulin may also make it harder to lose weight.

Sinatra and Bowden also say don't be so quick to get on statins. They cite a government study which suggests that lowering cholesterol has very limited benefits for those other than middle aged men with a history of heart disease.

Granted, not everyone in the medical community is convinced, but many like Dr. Oz think they're on the right track.

"Here's my bottom line on cholesterol. If you don't have a heart problem and your doctor wants to give you a statin, especially if you're a woman, I want you to push back," he said.


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