Why cholesterol is bad for you
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Having high cholesterol means you have too much of a fatty substance called cholesterol in your blood. If this is allowed to build up over time it can cause blockages in the blood vessels. This can then lead to serious health conditions such as strokes and heart attacks.
One major cause of high cholesterol is diet – and more specifically eating foods high in saturated fats.
Therefore, if you have or are at risk of high cholesterol your doctor will recommend making changes to your diet.
One such way to do this is to up your intake of flavonoids.
These are compounds found in plant-based foods such as fruit, vegetables and tea and have antioxidant properties.
Known as “superfoods”, various medical studies have heralded their health benefits.
One meta-analysis (a study of existing research) explained how flavonoids could help lower “bad” cholesterol – low-density lipoprotein – while raising “good” cholesterol – high-density lipoprotein.
High-density lipoprotein works to reduce cholesterol levels by absorbing it and carrying it back to the liver. The liver then removes it from the body.
In contrast, low-density lipoprotein is what can build up on the walls of your blood vessels and over time this causes the insides of the vessels to narrow.
The research, published in the Diseases journal in 2017, says: “In another meta-analysis which included 23 randomised control trials, it was observed that an isoflavone-rich (a type of flavonoid) diet results a great decrease in plasma total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein, triglycerides and a concomitant (naturally occurring) increase in high-density lipoprotein, while tablets based on extracted isoflavones showed no effect on these parameters.
“Furthermore, the administration of bergamot fruits extract rich in neoeriocitrin, naringin, neohesperidin, melitidin and brutieridin (all types of flavonoid), for 30 days, to patients suffering from hypercholesterolemia, resulted in a dose-dependent reduction of total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, of triglyceride levels and an increase of high density lipoprotein.”
The study concludes that flavonoids could help prevent atherosclerosis – the thickening and hardening of arteries that is often caused by high cholesterol.
“Flavonoids may be relevant in the prevention and treatment of atherosclerosis and atherosclerosis-related disorders as they act as antioxidant, hypocholesterolemic and antidiabetic agents,” it says.
“Therefore, it is promising to investigate different flavonoids metabolites that could help to prevent and/or manage certain types of disorders.”
Separate research published in the Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences in 2020, adds: “All these studies revealed that plant-derived flavonoid-rich foods could reinforce life expectancy by cutting or preventing the risk of chronic lifespan-shortening disorders including diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases by dropping their associated risk factors, which positively affect the lifespan.”
Where can I find flavonoids?
Flavonoids are found in plant-based foods.
The study from the Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Science lists seven key foods high in flavonoids and explains: “Flavonoid-rich foods, based on their surprising health effects are well described as superfoods.
“These include all plant origin foods, mainly tea, fruit, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and wine.
“Tea and wine are the primary dietary sources of flavonoids in eastern and western societies, respectively.
“Besides, leafy vegetables, onions, apples, berries, cherries, soybeans, and citrus fruits are considered an important source of dietary flavonoids.”
Having high cholesterol can raise the risk of:
- Narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
- Heart attack
- Transient ischaemic attack (TIA) – often known as a “mini stroke”
- Peripheral arterial disease (PAD).
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