Preliminary research seems to show that a little known type of cholesterol might be the biggest threat to our heart health, the most severe complication of diabetes. Even worse than LDL cholesterol is something called oxycholesterol.
The 238th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society heard study leader Zhen-Yu Chen, Ph.D., of the Chinese University of Hong Kong point out the problems with oxycholesterol. We can expect published research to follow, but the chemical society's Michael Bernstein tells me that, "There is no formal published paper connected to this study."
Dr. Chen told the chemical society which foods have the highest levels of oxycholesterol. Fried and processed food -- particularly fast-food -- contains high amounts of oxycholesterol, he says. Avoiding them and eating a diet that is rich in antioxidants can reduce our levels of this really bad cholesterol.
Dr. Chen's research team measured the effects of a diet high in oxycholesterol on hamsters, which scientists often substitute for humans in in cholesterol research. Cholesterol in the blood of the hamsters fed oxycholesterol rose up to 22 percent more than hamsters eating non-oxidized cholesterol. The hamsters fed oxycholesterol also had more cholesterol lining their arteries and a tendency to develop larger deposits of cholesterol. These fatty deposits increase the risk for heart attack and stroke.
Even more important, Dr. Chen says, is that oxycholesterol reduces the elasticity of arteries, impairing their ability to expand and carry more blood. That expansion can allow more blood to flow through arteries that are partially blocked by plaques, potentially reducing the risk that a clot will form and cause a heart attack or stroke.
The good news is that some foods can combat the bad effects of oxycholesterol. A healthy diet rich in antioxidants can counter these effects, Dr. Chen says. They seem to block the oxidation process that forms oxycholesterol. Good sources of antioxidants include fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, and seeds. So this is another great reason to eat what we already knew we needed to eat.
The way that lots of people remember that LDL is bad is to think of it as the "lousy" cholesterol. Now, we need a similar way to think of the worse stuff called oxycholesterol. But I can't think of the right mnemonic. Can you?