Vegetarian Diet

Introduction
The term “vegetarian” is used to describe any diet that emphasizes the consumption of plant foods and discourages the consumption of animal foods. In its most restrictive form, a vegetarian diet excludes all animal foods, including animal flesh, dairy products and eggs. Vegan, macrobiotic, and fruitarian diets fall into this category. Less restrictive forms include the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet (includes dairy products and eggs) and the lacto-vegetarian diet (includes dairy products). The popularity of vegetarianism is on the rise in the United States, and converts cite personal health, spiritual and religious beliefs, concern about animal welfare, and distress about the economic and environmental consequences of a meat-based diet as reasons for adopting a plant-based diet. This movement towards vegetarianism is consistent with a growing body of research that touts the health benefits of plant-based diets including lower rates of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and heart disease. When carefully planned and well-balanced, vegetarian diets provide sufficent amounts of all essential nutrients. However, because infants, children, adolescents, and pregnant and lactating women have increased caloric and nutrient needs, care must be taken to include a variety of foods from all food groups (fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and, for those vegetarians who consume them, eggs and/or dairy products) to ensure that nutritional needs are met.

History
Throughout human history, advocates of vegetarianism have employed moral and spiritual arguments to express their disdain for eating the flesh of animals. Ancient writers such as Ovid and Plutarch deplored the killing of innocent creatures for food. Plutarch stated: “I am astonished to think what appetite first induced man to taste of a dead carcass or what motive could suggest the notion of nourishing himself with the flesh of animals which he saw, just before, bleating, bellowing, walking, and looking about them.” The Greek philosopher Pythagoras, who lived towards the end of the 6th century BC, argued that the flesh of beasts contaminated and brutalized the soul. In recognition of Pythagoras’ commitment, vegetarians were known as Pythagoreans until the mid-19th century. Other writers have associated vegetarianism with spiritual enlightenment. According to the 17th century English vegetarian Thomas Tryon, “…by thoroughly cleansing the outward court of terrestrial nature, it opens the windows of the inward senses of the soul.” (Whorton, 1994) For these reasons, a variety of religions, including Brahminism, Buddhism, Hinduism and the Seventh Day Adventists encourage followers to abstain from eating meat.

While philosophers have long articulated the moral and spiritual benefits of the vegetarian way of life, the pursuit of vegetarianism for the reasons of health did not begin until the 19th Century. Early in the 1800s, scientific and medical evidence for the benefits of plant-based diets began to emerge. In 1806, a London physician named William Lambe cured himself of longstanding illness by abstaining from meat. Encouraged by his experience, Lambe began to treat his patients with the same diet prescription. His work eventually convinced many of his colleagues that a plant-based diet was as, or more healthy than a meat-based diet. Around the same time in the United States, a popular health reform movement was gathering steam. This movement was initiated by Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham, most well-known now as the father of the Graham cracker. Graham, who preached on temperance and denounced the growing use of refined flour, was also a vegetarian. Following the establishment of the British Vegetarian Society in 1847, Graham worked to organize a similar group in America, and the American Vegetarian Society was founded in 1850. In the late 1800s, John Harvey Kellog, a Seventh Day Adventist and the maker of cereals bearing his family name, labored to make Americans aware of the nutritional benefits of vegetarianism.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, scientists continued to evaluate the health benefits of vegetarian diets. But, even as a growing body of scientific evidence emerged to validate this way of life, vegetarianism remained, to a large extent, on the fringe of society. Even as late as the 1970s, vegetarianism was associated with the counter-culture, a diet adhered to only by flower children and religious fanatics.

Popularity
During the last few decades of the 20th Century, the popularity of vegetarianism surged in the United States and Europe, as evidenced by the number of people claiming to be vegetarian and the increase in published literature promoting the health benefits of vegetarian diets. According to one source, in 1994 more than 12 million people in the United States reported themselves to be vegetarians, compared to 6 million in 1986 (Rajaram and Sabate, 2000). The Vegetarian Resource Group, a leading source of information on vegetarianism, reported the results of a 2000 survey that estimated the number of vegetarians in the United States to be only about 5 million people. In Europe, it is estimated that 5% of the populations of both the United Kingdom and Germany are vegetarian, and 4% of the adult population of the Netherlands follows a vegetarian diet (Hebbelinck, 1999). Vegetarians cite personal health, spiritual and religious beliefs, concern about animal welfare, and distress over the economic and environmental consequences of a meat-based diet as reasons for adopting a plant-based diet.

Are you a vegetarian? If so, you are in good company! Famous vegetarians include Mahatma Ghandi, Carl Lewis (Olympic athlete), Natalie Merchant (musician); Vanessa Williams (actress and singer); Raffi (children’s musician); Dean Ornish, MD (cardiologist and author); Paul McCartney (rock musician); Desmond Howard (Heisman trophy winner); Dustin Hoffman (actor); Tony LaRussa (pro-baseball manager); and Fred Rogers (TV’s Mr. Rogers).

Principles
In general, the term “vegetarian” is used to describe any diet that emphasizes the consumption of plant foods, avoids the consumption of animal flesh, and discourages the consumption of other animal products. In its most restrictive form, a vegetarian diet excludes all animal foods, including animal flesh, dairy products and eggs. Vegan, macrobiotic, and fruitarian diets fall into this category. Less restrictive forms include the lacto-ovo vegatarian diet (includes dairy products and eggs) and the lacto-vegetarian diet (includes dairy products). Interestingly, many people who claim to be “vegetarian” do not fit into any of the categories above. Many who consider themselves vegetarian eat fish on occasion, while other self-defined vegetarians include poultry and/or pork in their diet.

To be considered healthy, a vegetarian diet should include daily consumption of a variety of foods from all the plant groups, such as grains, legumes, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, plant oils, herbs and spices. To maximize the nutritional value of their diet, vegetarians should choose whole, organic, minimally processed foods, and go easy on highly processed foods, junk foods and sweets. A vegetarian diet featuring lots of chips, cookies and frozen confections, even if made from organic ingredients, will not promote health.

Research
A significant body of population-based research documents the health benefits of a vegetarian diet. For example, a paper published in 1999 summarized the results of a study associating diet with chronic disease in a group of nearly 35,000 Seventh day Adventists living in California. The members of the group who followed a vegetarian diet (defined as eating no red meat, poultry, or fish)had lower incidences of many diseases, including obesity, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and ischemic heart disease than the nonvegetarians (Fraser, 1999). Also in 1999, Key, et al., analyzed the combined results from five studies involving a total of more than 76,000 people that compared the incidence of disease among vegetarians (defined as eating no red meat, poultry or fish) to that of nonvegetarians with similar lifestyles. Mortality from ischemic heart disease was 24% lower in vegetarians than nonvegetarians (Key, et al).

For many years, the health benefits of vegetarian diets were thought to be due to the absence of meat and other animal fats in the diet, and the subsequent reduction in the intake of several known dietary villains such as total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. In support of this explanation, scientists pointed to results of research studies that link high intake of the above-mentioned dietary villains to an increased risk for various medical conditions including heart disease and cancer. Researchers have also suggested that the health benefits of vegetarian diets are due, at least in part, to other healthy lifestyle choices that often accompany vegatarianism, such as increased physical activity and not smoking.

Clearly, avoiding meat and animal fats and increasing physical activity contribute to the health benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle. However, recent research has focused on the presence of a variety of specific nutrients in plant foods that have health-promoting qualities.

Fiber: Plant foods such as whole grains, beans, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and nuts provide dietary fiber. High intake of dietary fiber may reduce your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, premenstrual syndrome, and colon cancer.
Antioxidants: Fruits and vegetables contain high amounts of vitamin C, vitamin E, and carotenoids, all of which act as antioxidants, protecting your cells from the damaging effects of free radicals
Phytonutrients: Plant foods contain a variety of unique nutrients such as phytoestrogens, indoles, isothiocyanates, and flavonoids. Emerging research indicates that these nutrients may help prevent cancer, heart disease, and other degenerative diseases.
Advocates of vegetarianism also point to research on the environmental impact of meat-based diets to support their lifestyle. Consider these facts:

Thirty-eight percent of total grain production worldwide is fed to chicken, pigs, and cattle. Seventy percent of grain production in the United States is fed to livestock. (Gussow, 1994)
The United States is losing approximately 4 million acres of cropland each year due to soil erosion. It is estimated that 85% of this topsoil loss is directly related to raising livestock. (The Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook, 1995)
More than 4,000 gallons of water are needed to produce a single day’s worth of food for the typical meat eater. In comparison, an ovo-lacto vegetarian requires only 1,200 gallons of water, and a vegan needs a mere 300 gallons. (The Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook, 1995)
One pound of pork that provides between 1000 and 2000 calories takes 14,000 calories of energy to produce in the United States. (Gussow, 1994)
Huge livestock farms generate an estimated five tons of animal manure for every person in the United States. In one day, a single hog farm produces the same amount of raw waste as a city of 12,000 people. In one year, a large egg farm yields enough manure to fill 1,400 dump trucks. Manure from livestock farms pollutes rivers and lakes, resulting in overgrowth of algae and pathogenic (disease-causing) microorganisms.
In Latin America, 20 million hectares of tropical forest have been converted to cattle pasture since 1970. This deforestation has had a devastating impact on plant and animal diversity in Latin America. (Gussow, 1994)
Many medical authorities link the emergence of foodborne pathogens such as E.coli and Mad Cow disease with factory farming methods.
One-third of the irrigation water in the State of California is used to produce feed for dairy cattle.
Foods Emphasized
Vegetarian diets emphasize the consumption of grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, soy products, nuts, and seeds.

Foods Avoided
All true vegetarian diets exclude meat, fish, and poultry. Strict vegetarian diets also exclude dairy products and eggs, while more liberal vegetarian diets include dairy products and eggs.

Nutrient Excesses/Deficiencies
Historically, vegetarian diets have been condemned by nutritionists for providing inadequate amounts of several important nutrients that are found primarily in animal foods including iron, protein, calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. However, it is now widely accepted by most nutritionists that vegetarian diets, when a variety of plant foods are included, can meet or exceed the nutritional requirements of most individuals.

Although vegetarian diets do tend to be lower in iron than meat-based diets, vegetarians do not have a higher rate of iron deficiency anemia than meat eaters. This may be explained by the fact that the iron found in vegetarian diets (in vegetables and unrefined grains) is often accompanied, in the food or in the meal, by large amounts of vitamin C, which increases the absorption of the mineral.

Vegetarians also tend to eat less protein than meat-eaters, but their intake still exceeds the required amounts. Several decades ago, it was believed that vegetarians had to eat complementary proteins at each meal to ensure adequate intake of all the essential amino acids. It is now known that vegetarians need not worry about complementary proteins at each meal, as long as they ensure intake of foods containing all essential amino acids during the day. For more information on complementary proteins, see the article on protein in our nutrient database.

Since vitamin D-fortified milk is the primary food source of vitamin D in the United States, vegetarians who exclude dairy products from their diet may require a supplemental source, especially if they do not have consistent exposure to the sun.

As is the case with vitamin D, the calcium intake of vegetarians depends to a great extent on whether or not dairy products are included in the diet. All vegetarians should incorporate plant foods (dark green leafy vegetables and organic tofu) that contain calcium, but this is especially important for those who exclude dairy products. Interestingly, because vegetarian diets tend to be lower in protein, vegetarians may retain more calcium than meat-eaters, thus promoting bone health.

Vegans must pay attention to their intake of vitamin B12 since this vitamin occurs primarily in animal foods, and its deficiency can cause a variety of irreversible neurological problems. A study published in 1999 involving 245 Australian Seventh-day Adventist ministers evaluated the vitamin B12 status of lactovo-vegetarianns and vegans who were not taking vitamin B12 supplements. Seventy three percent of the participants had low serum vitamin B12 concentrations. (Hokin, 1999) Interestingly, vitamin B12 cannot be made by animals or plants, but only by microorganisms, like bacteria. When plant foods are fermented with the use of B12-producing bacteria, they end up containing B12. Otherwise, they usually don’t. Sea plants are an exception to the fermented plant rule since they can contain small amounts of B12 from contact with microorganisms in the ocean. Although animals cannot make vitamin B12, they are able to store B12 in their liver and muscles. The storage of B12 by animals explains why animal foods are the primary food sources of dietary B12.

Another nutrient to which vegetarians should pay special attention is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA is an omega 3 fatty acids believed to play an important role in the development and function of the central nervous system, as well as the eyes. It occurs naturally in meat, fish, eggs, and milk. DHA an also be synthesized by the body from alpha-linolenic acid, an omega 3 essential fatty acid, although it is not yet clear to what extent this conversion actually takes place. This process is slowed by the presence of large amounts of another essential fatty acid called linoleic acid, which is an omega 6 fat found in corn, safflower and sunflower oils. Vegetarians, and especially vegans, may want to supplement with DHA. To maintain a beneficial ratio of omega 3 fatty acids to omega 6 fatty acids, they may also want to and/or substitute foods containing alpha-linolenic acid, such as flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds and soybeans for foods containing linoleic acid.

Who Benefits
A vegetarian diet may be especially beneficial for overweight individuals, as well as for women with premenstrual syndrome and individuals with diabetes, high blood pressure and/or cardiovascular disease.

Who is Harmed
Because infants, children, adolescents, and pregnant and lactating women have increased caloric and nutrient needs, individuals in any of these groups choosing to follow a vegetarian diet must take care to include a variety and adequate amount of food from all food groups (fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds) to ensure that nutritional needs are met.

Menu Ideas
These vegetarian recipes were developed by the George Mateljan Foundation.

Resources
For additional information about vegetarianism, contact the following organizations:

Earthsave
http://www.earthsave.org
The North American Vegetarian Society
P.O. Box 72
Dolgeville, NY 13329
Phone: 518-568-7970
Vegetarian Resource Center
P.O. Box 38-1068
Cambridge, MA 02238
Phone: 617-625-3790
The Vegetarian Resource Group
P.O. Box 1463
Baltimore, MD 21203
Phone: 410-366-8343
References
Beilin LJ. Vegetarian and other complex diets, fats, fiber, and hypertension. Am J Clin Nutr 1994; 59(suppl): 1130S-5S. 1994.
Craig WJ. Iron status of vegetarians. Am J Clin Nutr 1994; 59(suppl): 1233S-7S. 1994.
Editors of Vegetarian Times. Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook. Macmillan: New York, 1995. 1995.
Fraser GE. Associations between diet and cancer, ischemic heart disease, and all-cause mortality in non-Hispanic white California Seventh-day Adventists. Am J Clin Nutr 1999; 70(suppl): 532S-8S. 1999.
Gibson RS. Content and bioavailability of trace elements in vegetarian diets. Am J Clin Nutr 1994; 59(suppl): 1223S-32S. 1994.
Gussow JD. Ecology and vegetarian considerations: does environmental responsibility demand the elimination of livestock?. Am J Clin Nutr; 59(suppl): 1110S-6S. 0.
Haddad EH, Sabate J, Whitten CG. Vegetarian food guide pyramid: a conceptual framework. Am J Clin Nutr 1999; 70(suppl): 615S-9S. 1999.
Hebbelinck M, Clarys P, de Malsche A. Growth, development, and physical fitness of Flemish vegetarian children, adolescents and young adults. Am J Clin Nutr 1999; 70(suppl): 579S-85S. 1999.
Herbert V. Staging vitamin B-12 (cobalamin) status in vegetarians. Am J Clin Nutr 1994; 59(suppl): 1213S-22S. 1994.
Hokin BD, Butler T. Cyanocobalamin (vitamin B-12) status in Seventh-day Adventist ministers in Australia. Am J Clin Nutr 1999; 70(suppl): 576S-8S. 1999.
Key TJ, et al. Mortality in vegetarians and nonvegetarians: detailed findings from a collaborative analysis of 5 prospective studies. Am J Clin Nutr 1999; 70(suppl): 516S-24S. 1999.
Rajaram S, Sabate J. Health benefits of a vegetarian diet. Nutrition 2000; 16: 531-533. 2000.
Sanders TAB, Reddy S. Vegetarian diets and children. Am J Clin Nutr 1994; 59(suppl):1176S-81S. 1994.
Weaver CM, Plawecki KL. Dietary calcium: adequacy of a vegetarian diet. Am J Clin Nutr 1994; 59(suppl): 1238S-41S. 1994.
Whorton JC. Historical development of vegetarianism. Am J Clin Nutr 1994; 59(suppl): 1103S-9S. 1994.
Willett WC. Convergence of philosophy and science: the Third International Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition. Am J Clin Nutr 1999; 79(suppl): 434S-8S. 1999.

What is Cholesterol?

What is Cholesterol? What Causes High Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a lipid (fat) which is produced by the liver. Cholesterol is vital for normal body function. Every cell in our body has cholesterol in its outer layer.

Cholesterol is a waxy steroid and is transported in the blood plasma of all animals. It is the main sterol synthesized by animals – small amounts are also synthesized in plants and fungi. A sterol is a steroid sub-group.

Cholesterol levels among US adults today are generally higher than in all other industrial nations. During the 1990s there was some concern about cholesterol levels in American children. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), nearly 1 in every 10 children/adolescents in the USA has elevated total cholesterol levels; and this was after concentrations had dropped over a 20-year period.

The word “cholesterol” comes from the Greek word chole, meaning “bile”, and the Greek word stereos, meaning “solid, stiff”.
What are the functions of cholesterol?

It builds and maintains cell membranes (outer layer), it prevents crystallization of hydrocarbons in the membrane
It is essential for determining which molecules can pass into the cell and which cannot (cell membrane permeability)
It is involved in the production of sex hormones (androgens and estrogens)
It is essential for the production of hormones released by the adrenal glands (cortisol, corticosterone, aldosterone, and others)
It aids in the production of bile
It converts sunshine to vitamin D. Scientists from the Rockefeller University were surprised to find that taking vitamin D supplements do not seem to reduce the risk of cholesterol-related cardiovascular disease.
It is important for the metabolism of fat soluble vitamins, including vitamins A, D, E, and K
It insulates nerve fibers
There are three main types of lipoproteins

Cholesterol is carried in the blood by molecules called lipoproteins. A lipoprotein is any complex or compound containing both lipid (fat) and protein. The three main types are:
LDL (low density lipoprotein) – people often refer to it as bad cholesterol. LDL carries cholesterol from the liver to cells. If too much is carried, too much for the cells to use, there can be a harmful buildup of LDL. This lipoprotein can increase the risk of arterial disease if levels rise too high. Most human blood contains approximately 70% LDL – this may vary, depending on the person.

HDL (high density lipoprotein) – people often refer to it as good cholesterol. Experts say HDL prevents arterial disease. HDL does the opposite of LDL – HDL takes the cholesterol away from the cells and back to the liver. In the liver it is either broken down or expelled from the body as waste.

Triglycerides – these are the chemical forms in which most fat exists in the body, as well as in food. They are present in blood plasma. Triglycerides, in association with cholesterol, form the plasma lipids (blood fat). Triglycerides in plasma originate either from fats in our food, or are made in the body from other energy sources, such as carbohydrates. Calories we consume but are not used immediately by our tissues are converted into triglycerides and stored in fat cells. When your body needs energy and there is no food as an energy source, triglycerides will be released from fat cells and used as energy – hormones control this process.
What are normal cholesterol levels?

The amount of cholesterol in human blood can vary from 3.6 mmol/liter to 7.8 mmol/liter. The National Health Service (NHS), UK, says that any reading over 6 mmol/liter is high, and will significantly raise the risk of arterial disease. The UK Department of Health recommends a target cholesterol level of under 5 mmo/liter. Unfortunately, two-thirds of all UK adults have a total cholesterol level of at least five (average men 5.5, average women 5.6).

Below is a list of cholesterol levels and how most doctors would categorize them in mg/dl (milligrams/deciliter) and 5mmol/liter (millimoles/liter).
Desirable – Less than 200 mg/dL
Bordeline high – 200 to 239 mg/dL
High – 240 mg/dL and above

Optimum level: less than 5mmol/liter
Mildly high cholesterol level: between 5 to 6.4mmol/liter
Moderately high cholesterol level: between 6.5 to 7.8mmol/liter
Very high cholesterol level: above 7.8mmol/liter
Dangers of high cholesterol levels

High cholesterol levels can cause:
Atherosclerosis – narrowing of the arteries.

Higher coronary heart disease risk – an abnormality of the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the heart.

Heart attack – occurs when the supply of blood and oxygen to an area of heart muscle is blocked, usually by a clot in a coronary artery. This causes your heart muscle to die.

Angina – chest pain or discomfort that occurs when your heart muscle does not get enough blood.

Other cardiovascular conditions – diseases of the heart and blood vessels.

Stroke and mini-stroke – occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery or vein, interrupting the flow to an area of the brain. Can also occur when a blood vessel breaks. Brain cells begin to die.
If both blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels are high, the risk of developing coronary heart disease rises significantly.

Symptoms of high cholesterol (hypercholesterolaemia)

Symptoms of high cholesterol do not exist alone in a way a patient or doctor can identify by touch or sight. Symptoms of high cholesterol are revealed if you have the symptoms of atherosclerosis, a common consequence of having high cholesterol levels. These can include:
Narrowed coronary arteries in the heart (angina)

Leg pain when exercising – this is because the arteries that supply the legs have narrowed.

Blood clots and ruptured blood vessels – these can cause a stroke or TIA (mini-stroke).

Ruptured plaques – this can lead to coronary thrombosis (a clot forming in one of the arteries that delivers blood to the heart). If this causes significant damage to heart muscle it could cause heart failure.

Xanthomas – thick yellow patches on the skin, especially around the eyes. They are, in fact, deposits of cholesterol. This is commonly seen among people who have inherited high cholesterol susceptibility (familial or inherited hypercholesterolaemia).
What causes high cholesterol?

Lifestyle causes
Nutrition – although some foods contain cholesterol, such as eggs, kidneys, eggs and some seafoods, dietary cholesterol does not have much of an impact in human blood cholesterol levels. However, saturated fats do! Foods high in saturated fats include red meat, some pies, sausages, hard cheese, lard, pastry, cakes, most biscuits, and cream (there are many more).

Sedentary lifestyle – people who do not exercise and spend most of their time sitting/lying down have significantly higher levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) and lower levels of HDL (good cholesterol).

Bodyweight – people who are overweight/obese are much more likely to have higher LDL levels and lower HDL levels, compared to people who are of normal weight.

Smoking – this can have quite a considerable effect on LDL levels.

Alcohol – people who consume too much alcohol regularly, generally have much higher levels of LDL and much lower levels of HDL, compared to people who abstain or those who drink in moderation.
Treatable medical conditions

These medical conditions are known to cause LDL levels to rise. They are all conditions which can be controlled medically (with the help of your doctor, they do not need to be contributory factors):
Diabetes
High blood pressure (hypertension)
High levels of triglycerides
Kidney diseases
Liver diseases
Under-active thyroid gland
Risk factors which cannot be treated

These are known as fixed risk factors:
Your genes 1 – people with close family members who have had either a coronary heart disease or a stroke, have a greater risk of high blood cholesterol levels. The link has been identified if your father/brother was under 55, and/or your mother/sister was under 65 when they had coronary heart disease or a stroke.

Your genes 2 – if you have/had a brother, sister, or parent with hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol) or hyperlipidemia (high blood lipids), your chances of having high cholesterol levels are greater.

Your sex – men have a greater chance of having high blood cholesterol levels than women.

Your age – as you get older your chances of developing atherosclerosis increase.

Early menopause – women whose menopause occurs early are more susceptible to higher cholesterol levels, compared to other women.

Certain ethnic groups – people from the Indian sub-continent (Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka) are more susceptible to having higher cholesterol levels, compared to other people.
How is high cholesterol diagnosed?

Blood and cholesterol screening results Cholesterol levels may be measured by means of a simple blood test. It is important not to eat anything for at least 12 hours before the blood sample is taken. The blood sample can be obtained with a syringe, or just by pricking the patient’s finger.

The blood sample will be tested for LDL and HDL levels, as well as blood triglyceride levels. The units are measure in mg/dl (milligrams/deciliter) or 5mmol/liter (millimoles/liter).

Researchers at the Sree Sastha Institute of Engineering and Technology, India, developed a photographic cholesterol test, which they describe as a completely non-invasive way to test cholesterol levels.

People who have risk factors should consider having their cholesterol levels checked.
What are the treatments for high cholesterol?

Lifestyle

Most people, especially those whose only risk factor has been lifestyle, can generally get their cholesterol and triglyceride levels back to normal by:
Doing plenty of exercise (check with your doctor)
Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, oats, good quality fats
Avoiding foods with saturated fats .In general, the main sources of saturated fat are from animal products: red meat and whole-milk dairy products, including cheese, sour cream, ice cream and butter.
Getting plenty of sleep (8 hours each night)
Bringing your bodyweight back to normal
Avoiding alcohol
Stopping smoking
Many experts say that people who are at high risk of developing cardiovascular disease will not lower their risk just by altering their diet. Nevertheless, a healthy diet will have numerous health benefits.

Cholesterol-controlling medications

If your cholesterol levels are still high after doing everything mentioned above, your doctor may prescribe a cholesterol-lowering drug. They may include the following:
Statins (HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors) – these block an enzyme in your liver that produces cholesterol. The aim here is to reduce your cholesterol levels to under 4 mmol/liter and under 2 mmol/liter for your LDL. Statins are useful for the treatment and prevention of atherosclerosis. Side effects can include constipation, headaches, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Atorvastatin, fluvastatin, lovastatin, pravastatin, rosuvastatin and simvastatin are examples of statins.

Aspirin – this should not be given to patients under 16 years of age.

Drugs to lower triglyceride levels – these are fibric acid derivatives and include gemfibrozil, fenofibrate and clofibrate.

Niacin – this is a B vitamin that exists in various foods. You can only get very high doses with a doctor’s prescription. Niacin brings down both LDL and HDL levels. Side effects might include itching, headaches, hot flashes (UK: flushes), and tingling (mostly very mild if they do occur).

Anti hypertensive drugs – if you have high blood pressure your doctor may prescribe Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, Angiotensin || receptor blockers (ARBs), Diuretics, Beta-blockers, Calcium channel blockers.
In some cases cholesterol absorption inhibitors (ezetimibe) and bile-acid sequestrants may be prescribed. They have more side effects and require considerable patient education to achieve compliance (to make sure drugs are taken according to instruction).

What Are Essential Fatty Acids?

What Are Essential Fatty Acids?

Essential fatty acids are, as they sound, fats that are necessary within the human body. Though you’ve probably often heard the word “fats” and associated it with bad health, there are some essential fatty acids that are necessary for your survival. Without them, you could cause serious damage to different systems within the body. However, essential fatty acids are also not usually produced naturally within the body. This means that you have to obtain essential fatty acids by adding them to your diet. There are two basic types of essential fatty acids:

1. Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids

Omega-3 essential fatty acids are necessary within the human body, but they can also be produced modestly within the body. However, you need to be sure that enough Omega-3 is in your diet. Omega-3 serves a variety of purposes within the body. First, it helps your organs to function properly and also aids in cell activity within your body. Omega-3 essential fatty acids also help cell walls to form and helps oxygen circulation throughout the body. They also work with red blood cells to make sure they are doing their job.

A lack of Omega-3 essential fatty acids could lead to blood clots, problems with memory, a decreased sense of vision, irregular heartbeat and a decrease in the functioning of your immune system. In order to be sure you’re getting enough Omega-3 essential fatty acids in your diet, try including more foods including flaxseed oil into your diet. Walnuts, sesame seeds, spinach, salmon and albacore tuna are some other foods that will help increase your Omega-3 levels.

2. Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids

The main Omega-6 essential fatty acids that your body requires is linoleic acid. Omega-6 essential fatty acids help the body cure skin diseases, fight cancer cells and treat arthritis. However, the tricky thing with Omega-6 essential fatty acids is that most people do get enough in their diet, but they ruin it by eating foods that are high in sugar and trans fats. These factors lower the Omega-6 levels in the human body and actually do harm to you even if you are getting the right amount of Omega-6 essential fatty acids in your diet. If you’re not getting enough, though, try to include flaxseed oil, pistachios, chicken and olive oil into your diet to raise your Omega-6 levels.

Easy Ways to Get More Essential Fatty Acids into Your Diet

It’s not hard to add essential fatty acids to your current diet. All it takes is a conscious effort on your part to do it. Things like high heat temperatures can actually strip foods of their essential fatty acids. So if you’re using nuts, for example, to raise the levels of your essential fatty acids, eat them raw instead of roasting them. Check the packages of the foods you buy to see if they have high levels of essential fatty acids. Try sprinkling flaxseed oil (a great source of essential fatty acids) onto vegetables instead of using butter. These are some simple ways to deliver more essential fatty acids to your diet.

Essential Fatty Acids Keep Skin Healthy

How Essential Fatty Acids Keep Skin Healthy

Who knew that essential fatty acids and skin go hand-in-hand. Consuming fatty acids should be part of your skin care regimen, and here’s why:

What Are Essential Fatty Acids?

Essential fatty acids are some of the “good fats” that your body needs for healthy performance. ‘Essential’ designates these fatty acids as ones that are not made by the human body, and therefore must be replenished through food. These fatty acids are responsible for regulating cell function. They maintain the integrity of cellular walls, and allow transference of waste and water. This function plays a big part in skin health.

Skin Cells and Fatty Acids

Youthful skin is full of plump, water-filled cells. A skin cell’s ability to hold water decreases with age. A healthy skin cell has a healthy membrane, which keeps good things in, like water and nutrients, and allows waste products to pass out. It is a fatty acid’s job to keep that cell healthy and its membrane functioning. Not getting enough essential amino acids results in unstable membranes that cannot keep their buoyant shape, which in turn leads to saggy, aged skin.

Prevents Acne

Soft, non-oily skin is among the skin types least likely to suffer acne flare-ups. Acne occurs when glands over produce the substances keratin and sebum. They clog skin pores and result in skin infections. Essential fatty acids have a two-fold benefit for acne. First, they cause healthy cell transference, which helps dissolves the fatty deposits that block pores and cause acne. They also work to repair the skin damaged by pimples and blemishes.

Helps with Cellulite

There is no quick fix or final answer for getting rid of your cellulite. Depending on their genetics, even the thinnest of supermodels sometimes must struggle with the bumpy appearance of fat deposits pressing against the skin. However, essential fatty acids might help in the battle. There is evidence to suggest that the healthier and more supple your skin cells, the less intense the appearance of cellulite. Consuming plenty of essential fatty acids will give your skin cells more fullness and flexibility, and thereby possibly reducing the appearance of cellulite.

The Best Foods For Healthy Skin

Essential fatty acids are a must for healthy, youthful skin. Most essential fatty acids can be consumed in healthy foods. Flax seed, walnuts, salmon and canola oil, eaten in moderation, all contain enough of these fatty acids to have a positive effect on your skin. The essentials you are trying to get are omega 3 and omega 6, two of the most important components of healthy skin.

If healthy, youthful appearing skin is a priority to you, there are treatments and precautions you can take to insure your skin’s lifespan. Don’t neglect proper nutrition in the form of essential fatty acids to keep you skin cells full, flexible and strong.