It’s Not the LDL, It’s the Inflammation

The current healthcare industrial complex takes a two-pronged approach to preventing and treating coronary artery disease:

1) Lower LDL cholesterol levels through diet changes and statin usage
2) Raise HDL cholesterol levels through “cardio” activities

While some of this has merit (especially the diet change part), much of it fails to address the real culprit in the development of atherosclerosis – namely, systemic inflammation.

Without getting too technical, coronary artery disease is largely an inflammatory process that results from irritation, injury, and reinjury to the inside of the blood vessels. And these “injury sites” happen to provide the ideal surface area for the formation of atheromas, or “plaques.”

The common misconception is that these plaques are cholesterol deposits. While it is true that these plaques consist largely of cholesterol and fatty acids, they don’t start out that way. They first make their appearance as “fatty streaks” which are largely accumulations of white blood cells known as macrophages. These macrophages are present as a result of arterial inflammation, mostly the result of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) molecules attaching to these injury sites.

The key takeaway here is that the “low fat diet + statin” formula focuses primarily on lowering LDL levels – not on reducing or eliminating systemic inflammation.

And systemic inflammation can be triggered by a number of factors other than the amount of LDL cholesterol in one’s diet:

– Chronic low-level stress
– Sleep deprivation
– Sedentary lifestyle
– Obesity
– Smoking and tobacco usage
– Excessive levels of aerobic training (<— quite ironic, isn’t it?)
– Gluten (i.e. grains)
– Hydrogenated oils (i.e. artificial fats)
– Highly processed meats
– High fructose corn syrup
– Dairy products
– Periodontal disease (usually triggered by a high-sugar diet)

Bottom line, while conventional medicine is on the right track with regards to dietary modification, there are a lot of half-truths in their recommendations. And very little focus is placed upon the role of systemic inflammation – which is the ultimate cause of coronary artery disease.

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