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Managing Your Cholesterol During the Holidays

In most cases, elevated cholesterol levels are associated with an overly fatty diet coupled with an inactive lifestyle. High cholesterol or triglycerides can also be associated with other diseases a person may have, such as diabetes. However, in some cases, the causes of abnormally high cholesterol may be related to an inherited disorder. Certain genetic causes of abnormal cholesterol and triglycerides, known as hereditary hyperlipidemias, are often very difficult to treat.

There are several cholesterol-lowering drugs which are often prescribed and effective for hypercholesterolemia. The most common types are called statins, such as lovastatin, simvastatin, pravastatin, fluvaststin and rosuvastatin. They lower blood cholesterol by slowing down the body’s normal production of cholesterol and by increasing the liver's ability to remove the LDL cholesterol already in the blood. Studies have shown that statins work to reduce LDL cholesterol up to 20-60% lower than patients not taking cholesterol-lowering drugs. For very high risk patients, drugs may be used as first-line therapy, but for people with a lower risk of heart disease, they may be used after lifestyle changes have been tried for 3-6 months. Statins are generally well tolerated, but side effects can include upset stomach, gas, bloating, abdominal pain or cramps and muscle soreness. There is also risk of depletions of the antioxidant coenzyme Q associated with statin drugs.

World renowned cancer specialist and homeopathic physician Dr. James Forsythe says that most doctors prescribe statins to reduce cholesterol but often don’t recommend different types of herbal and nutritional supplements that may help to lower cholesterol.  “The current class of cholesterol-lowering drugs we have—statins—are effective at reducing LDL, or low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol, so that’s what doctors prescribe. Yet in a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a diet that includes soy foods, fiber, almonds, and plant sterols was found to be just as effective as a common statin. It also helped reduce two leading causes of heart disease—inflammation and homocysteine, an amino acid that is elevated when people don’t get enough folic acid. In spite of research like this, the message from the medical establishment is that taking a drug is the only way to avoid dying prematurely."

Dr. Forsythe believes that medication should be the last resort for elevated cholesterol levels. “Though statins can be very effective, they can frequently cause muscle pain and, occasionally, serious muscle damage. They also can sap levels of coenzyme Q10, an important part of our cellular energy metabolism.”
Adding, “Swallowing a pill is a lot easier than making lifestyle shifts. But exercising and eating right are the kind of fundamental changes that can promote good health for the rest of your life, and lower your risk of stroke, heart disease, dementia, cancer, diabetes, and nearly all age-related diseases.”
Many of Dr. Forsythe’s patients have seen remarkable results from this approach. Dr. Forsythe describes, “In fact, after one patient I know lowered her cholesterol by 100 points, her doctor assumed she had started taking statins. Your response may not be as dramatic, but you’ll certainly see a difference.”

Dr. Forsythe recommends the following three ways to lower cholesterol through diet:

  • Reducing the amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol consumed each day
  • Increasing daily consumption of fruits, vegetables, fish, and whole grains
  • Supplementing the diet with other protective components such as fiber

There are a number of diets designed to keep cholesterol levels in check including the American Heart Association (AHA) diet, the Mediterranean diet, and the Ornish diet. While these three diets vary in some ways, they all emphasize whole grains and include fiber, fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, particularly soy and fish, and avoidance of saturated fats and trans fatty acids. Dr. Forsythe’s favorite diet is the following.

The Mediterranean Diet is comprised of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, olive oil, garlic, and moderate, daily consumption of red wine. Although this diet is not low in fat, it is high in monounsaturated fatty acids and has been shown to increase high density lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterol levels (generally good cholesterol) and to inhibit the process whereby low density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol (generally low cholesterol) adheres to artery walls. One large, well-designed study found that people who had had at least one heart attack were between 50% and 70% less likely to suffer a another heart attack if they followed the Mediterranean diet. This diet puts a great emphasis on bread, root and green vegetables, and the daily consumption of fruit, fish, and poultry. Only olive and rapeseed (canola) oils are used in this eating plan and margarine (with alpha-linolenic acid) is used instead of butter. Eating beef and lamb is discouraged. This diet is naturally rich in fiber, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids. It contains the same amount of protein as the AHA diet, but the source of protein is primarily fish. The Mediterranean diet has fewer carbohydrates than the AHA or Ornish diets, but places the same emphasis on consuming fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and beans.

Dr. Forsythe recommends the following supplements to his patients.

Policosanol, derived from sugar cane wax (10 mg, twice a day), which lowers cholesterol and other risk factors, such as platelet clumping.

Niacin (vitamin B3) is effective in increasing HDL levels while lowering LDL and preventing atherosclerosis. It is better at raising HDL than prescription medications. However, high doses of niacin can cause side effects, such as flushing of the skin, headaches and dizziness. A time release form may help with the side effects, but long term use may cause liver damage.

Antioxidants, which when consumed in high amounts, have been associated with lowered risk of cardiovascular disease. (Vitamin E appears to be of particular value).

Omega-3 fatty acids, such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which may lower the chance of recurrent heart attacks and death from heart disease.

Folic acid supplements, which may improve the function of the blood vessels in those with high cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Guggulipid (Commiphora mukul) Guggulipid, a traditional Ayurvedic medication used to treat high cholesterol, is widely used in India andwas first recommended as a treatment for hardening of the arteries in 600 BC. It appears to be an effective cholesterol-lowering agent and its healthful effects are thought to be due to its ability to block the production of cholesterol in the liver. In a 4-week study of 61 people who were on a fruit and vegetable-rich diet, half were given guggul supplements of 400 mg three times and the other half received placebo. The guggulipid group had reductions of total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides comparable to that seen with conventional cholesterol-lowering drugs while the placebo group had no improvement.

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum graecum) Fenugreek is a legume sold as a dried seed. It is cultivated in India and the Middle East, and used as a condiment in foods like curry and in baked goods. In Ayurvedic medicine, spices and herbs are traditionally used to treat a variety of chronic diseases. Fenugreek seeds have been shown to decrease LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and increase HDL cholesterol levels. These effects appear to result from reduced intestinal absorption of cholesterol, and may be related to the high fiber content of the seed. Consumption of fenugreek may therefore be beneficial in the management of high cholesterol levels.
Hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha and monogyna) The flowers and berries of the hawthorn plant have been used in traditional herbal and homeopathic remedies to protect against stroke and to treat chest pain, irregular heartbeat, and heart failure. In addition, studies using rats suggest that the tincture of Crataegus (made from the berries) may be a powerful agent for the removal of LDL from the blood stream. The tincture of hawthorn berries also reduced the production of cholesterol in the liver of rats who were being fed a high-cholesterol diet. Studies to determine if hawthorn will confer the same effects in humans are needed.

Green Tea (Camellia sinensis) Green tea has been observed to have a variety of beneficial effects, including anticancer and antioxidant effects. The tea has also demonstrated an ability to lower total cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol in both animals and people. Although an animal study conducted to determine how green tea effects these changes was not conclusive, results from the study suggest that the catechins in green tea may block intestinal absorption of cholesterol and promote its excretion from the body.

Red clover (Trifolium pratense) Preliminary studies suggest that chemicals in red clover known as isoflavones may raise HDL levels, especially in menopausal women. Not all studies, however, have shown such positive effects. Further studies are needed before a definitive conclusion can be made.

Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) Animal studies suggest that bilberry may prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, thereby lessening the risk of this bad form of cholesterol contributing to the development of atherosclerotic plaque in the arteries. Research in people is needed.

Soluble fibers, such as psyllium, which have a cholesterol lowering effect along with whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and nuts

Soy, which reduces total cholesterol

Garlic may reduce cholesterol by a few percentage points.

Red yeast rice has been used in China for over 1000 years to help improve circulation. Studies have shown it effective in reducing total cholesterol.

Red wine contains high concentrations of flavenoids, which inhibit LDL oxidation, part of the process where the LDL attaches to arterial walls. One glass of red wine per day may help to play a role in lowering cholesterol.
Dr. Forsythe also says stress levels can put you at a higher risk of a heart attack.  He believes that exercising and meditation can help lower your stress levels helping you live a better quality of life. “The more vigorously you exercise, the more your cholesterol will drop. Start with half an hour of aerobic activity, like running, biking, or walking, four to five times a week. Lowering stress also lowers cholesterol, so try yoga, meditation, or watching a sunset—whatever helps you relax.” 

And enjoy the holidays. Have you or your significant other give your holiday recipes a make-over.  You don’t have to bring the fat down to zero or sacrifice the taste but rather make the fats and other ingredients used in your holiday indulgences healthful ones.  Here’s a healthy-heart pumpkin pie recipe I found on the  that sounds quite delicious. 

"Heart Healthy" Pumpkin Pie and Walnut Pie Crumb Crust


1 1/3

walnuts, crumbled (in food processor)



tablespoons soy nut butter (Acme sells it)



cup Splenda sugar substitute (the one that measures cup for cup like sugar)



teaspoon cinnamon



1 (15

ounce) can pumpkin



cup Splenda sugar substitute



teaspoon ground cinnamon



teaspoon ground ginger



teaspoon ground nutmeg



eggs, slightly beaten (use 1 egg 2 egg whites)


1 (5

ounce) can evaporated milk (2/3 cup)



cup sugar free soy slender vanilla-flavored soy milk (westsoy can be found at health food store)


  1. PUMPKIN PIE FILLING: Make pumpkin pie filling FIRST and cool in refrigerator or freezer. (because of the natural oils from the walnuts the pie filling MUST be baked separately and combined at the end. If you baked them together you may end up with an oily pie) It's really is worth the effort.
  2. To begin Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  3. In mixing bowl combine pumpkin, splenda, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg
  4. Add eggs (1 egg 2 egg whites slightly beaten) Beat with fork lightly until combined
  5. Gradually stir in the evaporated milk and Soy milk; mix well Pour the filling into greased pie pan and bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until knife inserted in center of pie comes out clean.
  6. Cool COMPLETELY (either in fridge or freezer)
  7. WALNUT PIE CRUMB CRUST: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In food processor, combine all crust ingredients and process until well blended.
  8. Press into bottom and sides of ungreased 9-inch pie pan. Bake 7 minutes or until golden brown.
  9. Cool several minutes. Gently move the pie filling on top of the pie crust. Use a spatula or spoon to smooth out cracks. Put under broiler for a minute or two to even out filling.

The opinions expressed in the newsletter article belong to the original author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of the Century Wellness Clinic and Cancer Screening & Treatment Center of Nevada. The information provided at this site and specifically newsletters are for informational purposes and are not intended for use as diagnosis or treatment of a health problem or as a substitute for consulting a licensed medical professional.

The information contained in this Health Report is intended for education purposes only. It is intended to complement—not replace—the advice provided by healthcare providers.

Lisa Marie Wark is currently a free lance writer and is a business development consultant with a concentration in medical spas and alternative clinics. Currently she is President of MedSpas, a business development firm that provides physicians the necessary business tools to help them build or expand their practices into medical spa facilities. Wark was formerly an anchor and financial reporter for ON24 Financial News in San Francisco. In 2001, she was promoted to the main female anchor of three financial news broadcasts, covering a broad range of financial sectors and industries.




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