Only when you are armed with the correct information are you able to take charge and make appropriate health and diet related decisions for yourself and loved-ones.
That includes understanding why you are taking a drug, and this can go beyond, “Because my doctor thinks it is a good idea.” If you have questions, ask your doctor or your pharmacist. Keep asking until you understand why you are taking a drug, for how long, you should take it and what side effects might occur.
To understand how Lipitor, a statin, became the best-selling drug in the world before its patent expired in November 2011, it is interesting to know the backstory to its birth. A scientist in Japan by the name of Akira Endo was tasked in the 1970’s to find substances of industrial value in fungi. While screening the effects of various types of fungi, Endo came across one species, Penicillium citrinum, which produced something that prevented animals from making cholesterol. From this unlikely discovery, the family of statin drugs was born.
The boon in sales of statins has rested on the theory that saturated fat/cholesterol is the cause of cardiovascular disease.
Yet, contrary to the saturated fat/cholesterol theory, studies show that the most significant risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) are actually insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes, and the chronic inflammation associated with these conditions. The damage to interior layers of arteries that allows cholesterol-rich plaque buildup can also be induced by elevated blood sugar, smoking, stress, and high blood pressure.
American physiologist Ancel Benjamin Keys can be credited with originating and cementing the saturated fat/cholesterol theory of heart disease. In the 1950s, Keys produced research that showed perfect correlations between cardiovascular disease and the dietary consumption of fat in several prominent Western countries. But there was a problem with the research. Keys “withheld the data from 16 other countries”. This is according to the research done for a two part documentary called “The Heart of the Matter”.
The credentials of the documentary’s producer, Maryanne Demasi, are impeccable: She has a Ph.D. in neurology, no conflicts of interest, and a long history of investigative journalism. But, the Australian Heart Foundation, the three largest statin makers (Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Merck Sharp & Dohme) and Medicines Australia, Australia’s drug lobby group, complained and the documentaries were expunged from ABC TV. Luckily they remain online. Please go to YouTube to find the two part documentary “The Heart of the Matter“.
You will discover that cholesterol is found at the scene of the crime but is not the perpetrator. The cholesterol is actually there to repair the inflammation! The research is clear and devastating for the 35 million people in the US (100-200 million worldwide) who are currently on statins.
Statin drugs may be beneficial for people with serious or advanced heart disease, but they may also incite some adverse effects and block some beneficial effects. Expert after expert say that statins only lengthen a life by a few days, and that they are shockingly ineffective for all but a few people, despite their hype and popularity.
According to the Mayo Clinic, your blood sugar (blood glucose) level may increase when you take a statin, which may lead to developing type 2 diabetes. The risk is small but important enough that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning on statin labels regarding blood glucose levels and diabetes. The increase generally occurs when blood sugar levels are already higher than normal and fall in the pre-diabetes or diabetes range when you begin taking a statin.
The FDA also has placed a warning label on statins that some people have developed memory loss or confusion while taking statins. These side effects reverse once you stop taking the medication. There is limited evidence to prove a cause-effect relationship, but talk to your doctor if you experience memory loss or confusion while taking statins.
Statins block the production of coenzyme Q10. Be sure to take a supplement of CoQ10 if you are on statins. Source the CoQ10 from Ubiquinol, the active and most effective version of CoQ10. Check the bottle for correct dosing and be sure it doesn’t have any binders or fillers. Statins also can cause muscle cramps, general weakness, difficultly walking, loss of muscle mass, numbness and muscles spasms, along with erectile dysfunction and memory loss.
Elevated cholesterol is very common for women approaching and going through menopause. Cholesterol is the substrate for our steroid hormones; in menopause, ovarian estrogen declines by 40-60%, and progesterone by 100%. Women’s bodies increase cholesterol production in an attempt to produce more reproductive hormones. Total Cholesterol levels of 240 used to be considered normal before the statin drugs became so heavily marketed.
There are dietary paths to consider to prevent LDL oxidation and arterial injury instead of taking statins.
Prevailing medical lore at the time of the Tang dynasty in ninth century China believed that red yeast rice could “purify” the blood. In our time, controlled studies in humans on the impact of red yeast rice on blood cholesterol levels have confirmed this effect. Trials at The Center for Human Nutrition at the UCLA Medical School found that eating red yeast rice lowers LDL cholesterol. The red mold that grows on the rice contains the very same type of substances that statins are composed of – without the side effects! You can buy red yeast rice supplements at Vitacost, an online market.
A class of phytonutrients called phytosterols also lower LDL levels. Phytosterols are found in many plant foods – soy, nuts, and berries. These foods are also rich in flavonoids and polyphenols, along with garlic, onions, grapes, cocoa, black rice, and citrus. They all match statins in their power to prevent inflammation.
Other classes of phytonutrients found in such vegetables and herbs as virgin olive oil, flaxseed, garlic, psyllium fiber, green tea, and curcumin from turmeric also both lower LDL cholesterol levels and reduce oxidized LDL. This prevents or fights the process of atherosclerosis, hardened arteries and cardiovascular failure.
Vitamins D and A can also reduce the levels of oxidized LDL and improve control of cholesterol transport. A combination of omega-3 fatty acids with balanced levels of D and A are highly effective. Get the omega-3 fatty acids from seaweed and algae, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, edamame, and kidney beans. (If you are a fish eater, cod liver oil has all of these nutrients. 2-3 grams of a clean source of cod liver oil is a safe and effective daily dose. “Clean” means that it comes from cod not caught in the Atlantic Ocean. Livers of Atlantic cod have been found to be contaminated with pesticides and dioxins. Look for cod liver oil sourced from the Pacific off the coast of Alaska.)
Regular aerobic activity helps with the transportation of fats in the blood. It also reduces stress – important in reducing inflammation.
DO NOT ABRUPTLY STOP TAKING STATINS Speak to your doctor about reducing your dose while adding some of the suggested foods and supplements. Essential reading if you are considering reducing your statin dose or getting off of statins: The Disease Delusion, Conquering the Causes of Chronic Illness for a Healthier, Longer, and Happier Life, by Jeffery S. Bland and The Great Cholesterol Myth by Jonny Bowden and Stephen Sinatra with recipes by Deirdre Rawlings.
One cup of kale has 33 calories, 6 grams of carbs (2 of which are fiber) and 3 grams of protein. Kale contains very little fat, but a large portion of the fat in it is an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha linolenic-acid. Given its incredibly low calorie content, kale is among the most nutrient-dense foods in existence.
Kale is a cruciferous vegetable like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens and Brussels sprouts. There are many different types of kale. The leaves can be green or purple, and have either a smooth or curly shape.
A single cup of raw kale contains:
- Vitamin A: 206% of the DV (from beta-carotene)
- Vitamin K: 684% of the DV
- Vitamin C: 134% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 9% of the DV
- Manganese: 26% of the DV
- Calcium: 9% of the DV
- Copper: 10% of the DV
- Potassium: 9% of the DV
- Magnesium: 6% of the DV
- It also contains 3% or more of the DV for vitamin B1 (thiamin), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), iron and phosphorus
Kale, like other leafy greens, is very high in antioxidants. These include beta-carotene and vitamin C, as well as various flavonoids and polyphenols. Antioxidants are substances that help counteract oxidative damage by free radicals in the body.This includes the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol, which are found in large amounts in kale. They have powerful heart-protective, blood pressure-lowering, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-depressant and anti-cancer effects, to name a few.
Vitamin C is an important water-soluble antioxidant that serves many vital functions in the body’s cells. It is necessary for the synthesis of collagen, the most abundant structural protein in the body. Kale is much higher in vitamin C than most other vegetables, containing about 4.5 times much as spinach. A cup of raw kale contains even more vitamin C than an orange.
Cholesterol has many important functions in the body. It is used to make bile acids, which is are substances that help the body digest fats. The liver turns cholesterol into bile acids, which are then released into the digestive system whenever you eat a fatty meal. When all the fat has been absorbed and the bile acids have served their purpose, they are reabsorbed into the bloodstream and used again.
Substances called bile acid sequestrants can bind bile acids in the digestive system and prevent them from being reabsorbed. This reduces the total amount of cholesterol in the body. Kale actually contains bile acid sequestrants, which can lower cholesterol levels. This might lead to a reduced risk of heart disease over time.
According to one study, steaming kale dramatically increases the bile acid binding effect. Steamed kale is actually 43% as potent as cholestyramine, a cholesterol-lowering drug that functions in a similar way.
The form of vitamin K in kale is K1, which is different than vitamin K2. It helps prevent heart disease and osteoporosis.
Kale has compounds that are believed to have protective effects against cancer. One of these is sulforaphane, a substance that has been shown to help fight the formation of cancer at the molecular level. It also contains a indole-3-carbinol, another substance that is believed to help prevent cancer.
Kale is high in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that the body turns into vitamin A.
Kale is a good plant-based source of calcium and magnesium. Eating plenty of magnesium may be protective against type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Kale also contains quite a bit of potassium, a mineral that helps maintain electrical gradients in the body’s cells. Adequate potassium intake has been linked to reduced blood pressure and a lower risk of heart disease.
One advantage that kale has over leafy greens like spinach is that it is low in oxalate, a substance found in some plants that can prevent minerals from being absorbed.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoid antioxidants that are found in large amounts in kale. Many studies have shown that people who eat enough lutein and zeaxanthin have a much lower risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.
Kale is very low in calories but still provides significant bulk that should help you feel full. Because of the low calorie and high water content, kale has a low energy density. Kale also contains small amounts of protein and fiber.
How to Buy
There are a few varieties of kale including curly kale, ornamental kale, and Tuscan or Lacinato kale known as “dinosaur” kale, each offering a slightly different taste and texture. The most common variety is curly kale, available in grocery stores, recognized for its ruffled hardy leaves, and sharp peppery taste.
Look for kale in the cooled produce section. It is recommended that you buy kale that is grown organically, as kale has become one of the newest members of the “Dirty Dozen,” a list of the most contaminated foods.
The leaves should be firm and deeply colored with stems that are moist and strong. Make sure that the leaves are not browning or yellowing, and they are free from small holes. If the raw leaves show signs of wilting, it is an indication that the greens have been sitting on the shelf for too long, or they were not properly stored.
How to Store
Kale can typically be stored for up to 5 days. It might become bitter if you store it longer. Only wash the kale when you are ready to use it as washing before storage will promote spoilage.
How to Cook
Kale has a ton of fiber which makes it difficult to eat raw. Remove the kale’s stem. (I use this tool.) Only use the leaves.
Massage your kale with avocado, olive oil, or a little lemon juice and salt until it starts to soften, usually about 3 minutes. You can also use a bit of your dressing. After you add just enough dressing, massage the leaves. The dressing’s vinegar helps break down the leaves even more.
Red Lentil Dal with Coconut Milk and Kale
Melissa and Jasmine Hemsley
In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil. Add the cumin, fennel and turmeric and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and half of the sliced chiles and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Spoon half of the spiced onion mixture into a small bowl and reserve.
Add the vegetable stock, coconut milk, red lentils and cilantro stems to the saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Add the kale and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
Spoon the dal into bowls. Top with the reserved onion mixture and the remaining sliced chiles. Garnish with chopped
cilantro and serve with lemon wedges.
The dal can be refrigerated for 2 days. Reheat gently, adding more water if necessary to help thin it out.