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Why do we care about excess cholesterol?

Lipids are essentials molecules but its accumulation is dangerous

Lipids such as fats and cholesterol are essential for your body. They serve as starting material for the production of several hormones, such as estrogens and testosterone, vitamins and vital structures, such as cell membranes.

However, our modern lifestyle, which associates high caloric food intake and low physical activity, may alter the lipid balance in our body because it is no more adapted to the genetic inheritance – a “sparing genome” – that our ancestors optimized for more than 150 thousands of years under very different contexts of food supply and physical activity. Thus, the body’s impaired ability to handle an excess of fuel molecules such as fats and sugars results in abnormal accumulation of lipids in adipose tissue, liver, and vessels, which engenders a range of metabolic disorders.

Among them we can mention the metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions (increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels) that occur together, increasing your risk of atherosclerosis, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Fatty liver (non-alcoholic hepatic steatosis, also called NAFLD for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) is another very common pathology associated to overweight and bad eating habits, which concerns about 30% of the Americans. It consists of an abnormal accumulation of fat in the liver. In parallel, development of metabolic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and atherosclerosis are among the most concerning contemporary health issues.

Your cholesterol level is a silent indicator of your metabolic health

Having too high levels of fat and/or « bad cholesterol » in your blood puts you at risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death worldwide. People with high cholesterol have about twice the risk of heart disease as people with lower levels. High cholesterol has no symptoms; so many people don’t know that their cholesterol is too high. However, once a deregulation of the lipid balance in the body takes hold, it is a pathological situation that is very complex to be treated. Consequences are tiredness, loss of concentration ability, risk of developing diabetes and vascular fragility. Therefore, prevention is crucial and it is essential to check the level of circulating lipids and maintain a good balance of body lipids, which are indicators of your metabolic state. The first line of preventive actions comprises healthy diet and sufficient physical activity.

What does Western medicine offer against high cholesterol?

Even if a healthy diet and regular physical activity can prevent heart disease and stroke, medication becomes necessary when the rates of blood lipids are severely high. The current available solutions directly act on lipid production and catabolism or lipid absorption in the intestine. Cholesterol- and triglyceride-reducing drugs are statins and fibrates, respectively. However, their efficiency is often limited and their side effects are multiple. Fibrates are known to reduce circulating fats (triglycerides) by speeding up their removal from the blood while boosting good cholesterol. However, they are loosing popularity due to a lack of convincing vascular protecting effect. Side effects of fibrates include liver problems, muscle damage and digestive disorders. Statins, on the other hand, protect patients at risk from cardiovascular accidents by reducing bad cholesterol levels through impairment of cholesterol synthesis. They are thus the most sold pharmaceutical drugs worldwide. Unfortunately, statins cause heavy side effects, mostly muscle pain, weakness or damage.

Natural molecules that help reduce bad cholesterol

For mild cholesterol excess rates, a range of natural actives is proposed as food supplements, in order to avoid or delay medication. The most common ones are phytosterols, omega-3 fatty acids, beta glucans, red year rice yeast and niacin (vitamin B3). Phytosterols are cholesterol analogs that compete for cholesterol in absorptive micelles, which results in reduced cholesterol solubility. So might work beta glucans, too. However the effects are transitory. Furthermore they might also alter vitamins assimilation, leading to deficiencies in vitamins A and D. Red yeast rice is the most efficient natural product to reduce blood cholesterol levels. No wonder: its bioactive molecule is a natural statin (lovastatin). However, just like the latter, side effects cannot be excluded.

Switching off the alarm instead of solving the cause

Currently available cholesterol-reducing drugs or food supplements work through a mechanistic action that directly reduces blood lipid levels by impairing either their production or absorption. However, circulating lipids are more the indicators of an existing metabolic disorder than the real cause of it. Targeting them is like switching off the alarm more that addressing the root problem.

However, a restoration of the natural balance of the organism as a whole system could be achieved through a more global action, for instance that of nutrigenomics, involving modulation of gene activity. This is what Actigenomics is offering with its product LIPISTASE®.

 

 

 
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