12 Sept 2011

Cholesterol - Phobia

Talking about "cholesterol-free diet" is a modern trend now. Marketing stunts like "100% fat free" or "Only 0.1% fat" have further caused restlessness in already agitated minds who don't have time to investigate enough to know what CHOLESTEROL is and whether its really that bad as is publicized.

Further, many people think fat = cholesterol (or vice versa) i.e.  they think that a fat free diet can not have cholesterol and a diet with cholesterol must have fat. Lets see.

Cholesterol is a waxy steroid of fat that is produced in the liver or intestines. Surprised? Most people think its produced in stomach or heart or in blood cells!

It is used to produce hormones and cell membranes. It is an essential structural component of mammalian cell membranes and is required to establish proper membrane permeability and fluidity. In addition, cholesterol is an important component for the manufacture of bile acids, steroid hormones, and Vitamin D. That makes things clear that it is required by the body.

There are two basic types of Cholesterol:

    HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) - The good one
    LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) - The bad one

Cholesterol does not mix with water, and therefore needs some assistance to travel throughout the blood stream. With the help of HDL, packets of cholesterol are formed to help move cholesterol through the blood. Hence, HDL helps remove cholesterol from the body by transporting it to the liver. On the other hand LDL does not aid in the transportation of cholesterol out of the body, instead it deposits cholesterol onto the vessel wall. In summary the ratio of LDL/HDL should be low i.e. more of good part then bad part.

Total Cholesterol (TC) = LDL + HDL for almost all practical purposes. The ratio of  TC/HDL is more indicative of cardiovascular disease than simply total cholesterol. For men an acceptable ratio of TC/HDL is 4.5 or below, and women is 4.0 or below. HDL levels have an inverse relationship with coronary heart disease. So a high HDL diet can be helpful in curing cardiovascular diseases.

Researches have proven that ghee contains  medium and short chain fatty acids which are absorbed easily by the body and digested too, unlike the other oils like sunflower/canola/palm oils and hydrogenated fats (like vanaspatee ghee - वनस्पती घी). Also ghee contains 27% mono unsaturated  fatty acids which are good and 4 to 5% polyunsaturated fatty acids. They help controlling the LDL levels and only causes increase in HDL cholesterol which isn't bad. Ghee does not raise the cholesterol levels to the levels compared to what oils would cause. But note that the ghee must be made authentically by churning the curd from the milk of vedic cows. Two tea spoons of ghee in daily diet twice a day is the recommended amount from some ayurvedic and modern doctors. Please consult yours.