Latest Fat Attack: OxyCHOLESTEROL

September 07, 2009

Latest Fat Attack: OxyCHOLESTEROL

A recent study from the Chinese University in Hong Kong isolated a type of oxidized cholesterol in foods that is thought to both increase total cholesterol levels and promote atherosclerosis, or the hardening of the arteries. Lead researcher, Zhen-Yu Chen, PhD. believes that this form of cholesterol may pose the biggest threat to heart health, greater than LDLs and/or total cholesterol levels, and hopes these results will lead to increased awareness and greater motivation towards healthier product formulations.

Oxycholesterol, the virtually unknown (to people other than scientists) and heart-harmful form of cholesterol, is generally formed when foods of animal origin (most contain trans-fats) are heated and cooked at very high temperatures. When heated, cholesterol is oxidized forming the new, dangerous union of oxygen and cholesterol. It is a well-known fact that high cholesterol levels pose a major health risk; The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 20% of all strokes and over 50% of all heart attacks can be linked to high cholesterol.

Our body, specifically the liver, produces cholesterol; it is necessary (in small amounts) for the formation of certain hormones and other basic cell functions. It is estimated that American’s daily dietary cholesterol intake is about 300-500 mg, and the oxidized version could account for up to 10% of this. American Heart Association recommends no more than 300mg cholesterol from dietary sources, and also reminds us that the body produces its own cholesterol, and thus there is no need for consumption.

There has been little research comparing oxidized cholesterol with non-oxidized cholesterol (LDLs and HDLs). The Chinese study involved feeding hamsters either a diet high in oxycholesterol or non-oxidized cholesterol; those in the former displayed total blood cholesterol increases of up to 22 percent versus the non-oxidized eaters. As well as a significant increase in blood cholesterol - or because of it - the oxy-eaters also demonstrated a greater deposition of cholesterol in the lining of their arteries.

It is not known yet whether conventional cholesterol lowering drugs like statins can lower oxycholesterol. Statins decrease thesynthesis of cholesterol thus lowering levels of total cholesterol in the blood; since oxycholesterol comes from the food we eat, it can be hypothesized that statins my have no effect on oxycholesterol, but this has yet to be proven.

(Note: If you have high cholesterol do not make any dietary or medication changes without speaking with your doctor)