How to Control Cholesterol

We are going to show you what you can do to control cholesterol and inflammation levels, reducing cardiovascular risk.
How to Control Cholesterol
Saúl Sánchez

Written and verified by el nutricionista Saúl Sánchez.

Last update: 16 December, 2022

Keeping cholesterol levels in optimal ranges has been the primary concern of many health professionals for the past few decades. Although the relationship between lipid profile and cardiovascular risk is currently being questioned, it’s still important to control cholesterol to ensure internal homeostasis.

The first thing to be clear about is that the impact of diet on lipoprotein levels is limited. After all, effective modulation is dependent on a set of life habits applied together. Among them, the practice of physical activity on a regular basis is especially important.

Modify your diet to control cholesterol

Until recently, experts recommended limiting the presence of dietary cholesterol in our diets to avoid a negative impact on the lipid profile. We now know that this relationship isn’t as clear-cut as previously thought. In fact, it has been shown that the intake of eggs has practically no impact on this parameter.

This is because cholesterol can be produced endogenously in the intestines. For this reason, its levels in the body are modulated by genetic determination. Endogenous synthesis will vary depending on the presence of the nutrient in the food consumed.

Even so, it’s true that there are certain limitations to this situation of homeostasis. If you have a poor-quality diet, for example, the distribution of lipoproteins may be affected. In addition to this, excessive consumption of trans fatty acids could increase a type of LDL cholesterol known as type C. This is evidenced by a study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology.

This oxidized lipoprotein does seem to have a greater risk of aggregation, so it’s important to regulate its levels in order to maintain good health. However, its production would be diminished if the intake of antioxidants in the diet is optimal. Thanks to these elements, the production of free radicals is neutralized.

On the other hand, other nutrients can positively affect cholesterol levels. Among them, special mention must be made of omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties. They can also increase HDL-type lipoprotein and lower LDL-C, according to research published in the European Journal of Nutrition.

The effects of fiber

As a general rule, it is recommended to increase your fiber intake to maintain good health. Experts advise about 25 grams (1 oz) of fiber per day in our diets to achieve optimal digestive function. In addition, it should be noted that this element works as an antinutrient, partially blocking the absorption of certain elements, such as dietary cholesterol.

The effect of fiber on cholesterol levels isn’t as significant as previously believed. The lipid profile is determined by the person’s genetic load and if lipoproteins are produced at an endogenous level. In this way, an increase in the fiber intake will reduce the absorption of cholesterol, but will cause compensation through the increase in its synthesis.

In this sense, the levels will remain more or less stable over time, tending towards a situation of homeostasis. This isn’t to say that the fiber intake isn’t positive. Its fermentation causes the creation of anti-inflammatory compounds, which are short-chain fatty acids.

Keeping the levels of inflammation in the body under control is crucial in order to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular diseases, as evidenced by research published in the journal Nature Reviews. It’s also essential in order to reduce the rate of oxidation.

Fiber foods to control cholesterol.
Foods rich in fiber can help control inflammation in the body, reducing cardiovascular risk.

Doing exercise to control cholesterol

When the objective is to optimize the lipid profile and keep the inflammation and oxidation processes in optimal ranges, it’s best to do regular exercise. Through physical activity, a stimulus is generated that ends in muscle hypertrophy.

Improving body composition will result in a reduction in triglyceride levels. Also, the oxidized fractions of the lipoproteins that make up cholesterol will decrease. Mortality from all causes will decline, according to a study published in the journal BMJ.

The truth is that strength exercise should be prioritized over aerobic work. The latter has to be carried out as well, but through the muscular adaptations that generate hypertrophy, a more significant improvement in health is achieved.

Different types of activities can improve the state of body composition, which can also help to control cholesterol. For example, high-intensity interval work activates the metabolism very efficiently.

Supplements to control cholesterol

Some functional supplements or products promise to control cholesterol levels. Although it’s true that they can have an impact on this parameter, their efficiency is limited. It will be useless to include these elements in our diets if a series of healthy lifestyle habits aren’t promoted.

Among all these supplements, fish oil and plant sterols stand out. They have been shown to have a positive effect on the rate of lipoprotein oxidation and on LDL levels, with little or no side effects. They are considered very safe for health.

To experience positive effects with supplements, a slightly hypocaloric diet that promotes weight loss is recommended. Obesity is clearly one of the risk factors that increase the rate of LDL oxidation, in addition to increasing the risk of death from any cause.

Other factors that can affect cardiovascular health

Cholesterol levels aren’t currently considered a very effective marker of cardiovascular risk. However, there are other factors that can give information about the chances of developing these types of problems.

The consumption of tobacco and alcohol is considered very harmful in terms of maintaining internal homeostasis, as they affect the functioning of the heart and blood vessels. The toxins could cause greater arterial stiffness, increasing the risk of having high levels of triglycerides in the blood.

The indications by health professionals today aren’t focused so much on reducing a serum marker as on promoting the development of healthy habits. It’s beneficial to avoid toxins, increase sports practice, limit the presence of ultra-processed substances in our diets, and increase the consumption of vegetables and fresh foods.

The importance of avoiding statins

The medication currently used to control cholesterol has side effects. For this reason, it’s essential to promote good lifestyle habits in order to avoid having to resort to using medication for cholesterol.

During the last few decades, they have been one of the most widely used type of medication. However, health professionals are becoming more and more reluctant to prescribe these drugs, opting for a modification of habits and for changes in nutrition.

We need to learn to correct the things that cause this damage through a good diet, good rest, and physical exercise. Also, frequent exposure to sunlight can help greatly.

Doctor prescribes medication to control cholesterol.
It will always be preferable to reduce cholesterol with non-medical techniques. In this way, side effects are avoided in the medium and long term.

Cholesterol can be controlled through good habits

It’s possible to exert a certain influence on cholesterol levels through good lifestyle habits. Our diet may limit the oxidation of LDL lipoproteins, although it won’t reduce this excessively. It must be remembered that the lipid profile is determined by the genetic load.

What is true is that cholesterol levels can rise if we don’t have a balanced diet. A high consumption of trans fatty acids will increase the presence of lipids in the blood, promoting the oxidation of lipoproteins. The result will be an increase in inflammation levels.

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