Whole Life Magazine

October/November 2014

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Page 12 of 43

W ill the real health wrecker please stand up? Just when you think you've fi gured out the worst culprits (trans fats, simple carbs and cholesterol), along comes a new fi nding. A growing number of experts say weight gain, heart disease and many other illnesses are not caused by high cholesterol, but by underlying infl ammation. So instead of ditching cholesterol-laden eggs (a high source of protein), they recommend you avoid foods that increase infl ammation. The confusion came from scientifi c observation that high levels of cholesterol damage blood vessels, leading to conclusions that it was the cholesterol causing heart disease. But cholesterol actually comes around to fi x the problem caused by infl ammation. "It's the infl ammation in the vessels that starts the lesion," explained Dr. Beverly Teter, a lipid biochemist at the University of Maryland. "The body then sends the cholesterol like a scab to cover over it to protect the blood system and the vessel wall from further damage." Among cholesterol's critical roles, it also protects against respiratory and gastrointestinal problems, helps create vitamin D and is particularly benefi cial for the brain, which has more cholesterol than any other organ and uses it to pass messages from one cell to another. But don't go chowing down on cholesterol-heavy foods just yet. The key is to regulate the kinds of fats you eat. Writes the Harvard School of Public Health, "Trans and saturated fats increase the risk for certain diseases. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats do just the opposite." Bad fats increase the infamous LDL, but not all LDL is dangerous. Unfortunately, standard cholesterol tests provide limited insight into cardiovascular risk. The advanced Vertical Auto Profi le (VAP) breaks down detailed lipid measures, including size of the cholesterol particles. In the case of LDL, large buoyant particles aren't infl ammatory but small- particles are, because they can get stuck in the arteries and cause problems. Cardiologist Stephen Sinatra, author of The Great Cholesterol Myth, is among a growing number of doctors who point the fi nger at infl ammation, which is caused by a number of factors; too much sugar tops the list. "Cholesterol is found at the scene of the crime for heart disease, but it's not the perpetrator," Dr. Sinatra argues. "Cholesterol many times can be a gift in disguise." whole living Illustrations: istockphoto.com By Laura G. Owens R esearch published in a 2013 issue of Neurology suggests depressed people are three times more likely to develop Parkinson's disease. "Depression is linked in other studies to illnesses such as cancer and stroke," said study author Albert C. Yang, MD, PhD. "Our study suggests depression may also be an independent risk factor for Parkinson's disease." In a 2008 brain imaging study researchers found people with Parkinson's may have more serotonin reuptake pumps. Serotonin helps regulate mood. If someone has overactive reuptake pumps (a give-take process in the brain that releases and reuptakes chemicals in the brain), there is less serotonin available. "Many questions remain, including whether depression is an early symptom of Parkinson's disease rather than an independent risk factor for the disease," Yang said. DOWN AND SHAKING CHOLESTEROL CONFUSION R esearcher Carrie Wendel- Hummell is working to help stressed-out new parents. Doctors have long attributed post-partum depression to hormonal changes in new mothers, despite evidence to the contrary. "It has been framed as being a hormonal disorder, but the evidence is actually very limited," she said. "Childbirth itself is a life change and a life stressor, so actually there's far more evidence that those risk factors are the cause, more so than hormones." Wendel-Hummell found that low-income parents struggle just to meet their infants' basic needs due to low wages, job insecurity and diffi culty securing affordable quality childcare, reliable transportation, safe housing and mental health treatment. Middle class parents, on the other hand, tend to pressure themselves to be perfect. "Middle-class mothers often try to do everything to balance work and home life, and fathers are increasingly attempting to do the same," she said. "This pressure can exacerbate mental health conditions. If everything is not perfect, they feel like failures— and mothers tend to internalize that guilt." NEW PARENT PRESSURE Rock Body YOUR october/november 2014 13

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