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Can I Get My Cholesterol To Zero?

Posting Date: 08/27/2001

Q: Is it possible to get my cholesterol level to zero -- assuming I don't eat any foods with cholesterol? How low can I go and how do I get there?

A: If you eliminated all the cholesterol from your diet, would you then be able to get your blood cholesterol level to zero? No! It's important for people to realize that cholesterol is a useful and necessary part of human life.

The amount of cholesterol you eat accounts for only part of the total cholesterol found in your body. Your liver produces a lot of cholesterol, an essential substance in the production of bile acids which you need to help you digest fat from the foods you eat.

In addition, cholesterol is the building block in the production of estrogen and testosterone, the female and male sex hormones. Goodness knows what would happen if women and men didn't make estrogen and testosterone -- the whole world would go to pot!

The raging argument, then, is whether you need to eat cholesterol at all. Most biochemists feel that your body would produce all the cholesterol it needs without getting any in the diet. As far as we know, the liver can make cholesterol out of any fat that you eat. But it will produce more cholesterol if you eat saturated fats and less cholesterol if you eat polyunsaturated fats.

An interesting point is that your liver seems to produce more of the good cholesterol HDL, while cholesterol from your diet contributes to an increase in the bad cholesterol LDL. During a fast, however, the liver will produce more LDL. So, here again, is another reason to avoid radical or low-calorie dieting.

A patient who is put on a low-cholesterol diet by a physician often feels overwhelmed by the lists of forbidden high-cholesterol foods. Eating in the Fit or Fat style: low-fat, low-sugar, high-fiber, balanced and varied, is an easy way to maintain a low-cholesterol diet with no confusion.

I would like you not only to limit your intake of fat and cholesterol, but also to live a lifestyle that will make your body more competent to handle the amount of fat or cholesterol you do eat. Reduce sodium intake, get more exercise, decrease blood pressure, avoid cigarette smoke, reduce the stress in your life and decrease your body weight -- these and other factors should all be combined in a total approach to health.

Adapted from The Fit or Fat Target Diet by Covert Bailey. Copyright 1984 by Covert Bailey, published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.