It was back in the 1950s that they found conclusive evidence that high cholesterol was linked to diet. They wanted to find out why rates of heart disease appeared to be so much higher in some countries compared to others.
For example, in Finland, thousands of forestry workers would spend all day outdoors in the fresh air, indulging in physical labour. It should have been a recipe for good health and a long life. Yet, something was killing many well before their time. In fact Japanese fisherman, who lived mainly on vegetables, rice and fish were easily outliving the foresters, who instead consumed enormous amounts of saturated fats.
It was a landmark study that finally unlocked the role of cholesterol in the rising heart disease epidemic and marked a turning point in the way medicine approached the problem.
Cholesterol is actually important and plays an essential role in how our bodies work. There is naturally occurring cholesterol in every call we have and it is particularly important in keeping the brain, nerves and skin in good condition. It helps us make Vitamin D - vital for strong bones and teeth - and it is used to make bile, which helps us digest the fat we eat.
Most of the cholesterol we have is produced by the body. The problems arise when we get additional cholesterol from our diet, and that can lead to high levels circulating in our blood. That itself can lead to a build up of hard deposits, called plaques, inside blood vessels. When these become unstable they can cause a blockage, which shuts off the blood supply to the heart or brain, starving them of oxygen and causing a heart attack or stroke.
The trouble is - as per this entry - high cholesterol causes no symptoms, so many people have no idea they are affected. IN fact, Public Health England says that six out of ten adults in England have high cholesterol, although they suggest only 46% of men aged 40-60 had their cholesterol checked within the last year. Our very own Lazza takes a 5mg daily Lisinopril tablet for high blood pressure, a by product of high cholesterol.
Medical evidence indicates there is "good" and "bad" cholesterol.
The good cholesterol is "high-density lipoprotein, or HDL. It is made up of particles that travel round the bloodstream and transport the bad cholesterol (known as low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) back to the liver where it can be broken down and removed from the body safely.
LDL particles are needed, asd their role is to deliver the cholesterol that's needed to cells around the body. But of their levels get too high, our arteries clog up. Our total cholesterol level should be five or lower.
Although an estimated eight million people in the UK routinely take drugs called Statins to lower their cholesterol. But you can also help reduce it by making small changes to your diet and lifestyle. The key step is to reduce the amount of saturated fat in the diet. Dairy products such as butter, cheese, cream, full-fat milk (all tasty of course) are a major source of saturated fat, as is fatty meat and baked products, such as pies, cakes and biscuits (back onto the tasty food again).