High Cholesterol And Your Bones: The Surprising Link (Plus 10 Foods That Naturally Lower Your Cholesterol)

“You have to lower your cholesterol to avoid heart disease.”

“High cholesterol is mainly caused from eating fatty foods.”

Chances are you’ve heard these statements from your doctor or read them online. Statements like these have been in common parlance for so long that they’re considered standard knowledge.

But there’s only one problem. The above statements are incorrect, and so are many other conventional ideas about cholesterol perpetuated by the Medical Establishment and Big Pharma.

Today we’re going to debunk these and other cholesterol myths, and reveal the truth about the dangers of lowering cholesterol too much, the bone-damaging effects of statins, and the fascinating connection between lipids and your bones.

Plus, you’ll find a list of cholesterol-lowering foods you can eat instead of taking the drugs.

To begin, we first need to answer a basic but crucial question:

Just What Is Cholesterol?

There’s a great deal of misinformation about this, so I’d like to clarify the facts about it.

Cholesterol is a wax-like substance produced by the liver. Contrary to popular belief, very little cholesterol comes from the foods we eat; the majority, around 75 percent, is manufactured by the liver. In fact, low-fat diets encourage high blood cholesterol, and we’ll see why in a moment.

Cholesterol is a building block for adrenal and reproductive hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone, a type of androgen), and others. Keeping hormones in natural balance is very important for bone health.
We also need cholesterol in our skin. It prevents excessive drying, and cholesterol is converted to Vitamin D3 when our skin is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D3 is essential for bone health, and safe sun exposure is the best way to get the right amount.

Immunity is also influenced by cholesterol. This sticky substance binds toxins so they can be removed from the body, thus guarding against tissue damage. In fact, cholesterol is necessary for maintaining the integrity of cell membranes and insulating nerve cells.

One of cholesterol’s most important jobs is its role in the formation of a substance called cholic acid. This acid is used by the body to manufacture bile salts, which emulsify fats so they can be digested. Remarkably, most of the body’s cholesterol – between 60 and 80 percent – is used in the production of cholic acid.

Now you can see how a low-fat diet increases blood cholesterol. If the need for bile is reduced due to little fat in the diet, then the cholesterol produced by the liver is only partially used. According to a study published in the American Journal of Nutrition, dietary fat has a significant effect on bile salt metabolism.

After studying the effects of high-, intermediate-, and low-fat diets in six men (the diets contained the same amount of cholesterol ), the researchers concluded that:

“…both low-fat and high-fat diets have major effects on human bile salt metabolism, which are reflected in decreased turnover and synthesis of primary bile salts and, consequently, in impaired removal of cholesterol from the body via bile salts.”1

In other words, a low-fat diet discourages the production of bile, and bile is necessary to remove excess cholesterol from your bloodstream.

Because cholesterol is such an important moiety in so many body processes, it’s clear that there are …

Dangers In Lowering Cholesterol Levels Too Much

Now it becomes obvious why lowering your cholesterol by artificial means can be quite harmful. All of the above processes are greatly hampered when cholesterol levels plummet through the use of drugs.

What’s The Normal Range?

Over the years, what the Medical Establishment considers “normal” has changed (this is not unlike the lowering of diagnostic criteria for osteoporosis and the invention of osteopenia). The goal in lowering the bar, so to speak, is to sell more drugs. It’s a classic case of marketing a disease to market a drug.

Your doctor will likely tell you that serum cholesterol should be below 200 mg/dL, which is quite a contrast from years ago, when 175 to 275 (and higher) was an acceptable range. The normal range was lowered to accommodate the cholesterol-lowering effects of the statins, which take the cholesterol down below 200. So that became the “new normal.”

But What About “Good” And “Bad” Cholesterol?

The majority has been led to believe that there are two types of cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein, or LDL (the “bad” kind) and high-density lipoprotein, or HDL (the “good” kind), and that lowering the LDL is important for preventing heart disease. In actuality, the liver produces more than two kinds of cholesterol, and LDL is not inherently bad.

In fact, because LDL contains more fat than protein, it works to transport non-water-soluble, healthy fatty acids through the bloodstream to various tissues. HDL plays a role in the transport of hormones throughout the body and of cholesterol that’s bound to toxins back to the liver for processing.

Both forms of cholesterol – and the other forms, such as very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) – are necessary for vital life processes. There is a constant adjustment of the LDL to HDL ratio in response to the body’s varying needs that change from day to day. It’s a remarkable biological balancing act that, like bone remodeling, can’t be forced into numerical parameters without causing harm.

In contrast to natural, food-based management of cholesterol, cholesterol-lowering drugs bypass the body’s natural system of “checks and balances” so to speak, causing unhealthy and at times dangerous imbalances. Statin drugs are no exception. In fact, they have an effect on the body that is very similar to bisphosphonates, the most commonly prescribed osteoporosis drugs.

The Startling Similarity Between Statins and Bisphosphonates

Interestingly enough, both statins and bisphosphonates block the same biological pathway, a topic discussed in detail in Chapter 4 of the Save Our Bones Program:

“Like statins…nitrogenous bisphosphonates begin their action on bone metabolism by blocking the enzyme farnesyl diphosphate synthase (FPPS) which is involved in the mevalonate pathway (also called the HMG-CoA reductase pathway).”

While statins do not bind to bone surfaces, blocking this pathway results in the production of osteoclasts that lack the ruffled border necessary for adherence to bone, thus preventing them from resorbing bone as part of the healthy remodeling process.

In addition, FPPS is formed into FPP, another enzyme that’s a catalyzer for CoQ10, or ubiquinone. CoQ10 is present in nearly all cell membranes, where it functions as an energy source for cellular mitochondria. In fact, a lack of CoQ10 may increase the risk of atrial fibrillation and cardiovascular disease, a discovery that prompted scientists in the early 1990s to recommend a CoQ10 supplement when taking statins. Unfortunately, this research-backed recommendation was (and still is!) largely ignored by the medical community.

By blocking the enzymatic pathway, statins, like bisphosphonates, have the potential to cause a CoQ10 deficiency.

But Wait… Doesn’t Cholesterol Build Up And Block Arteries?

While it’s true that cholesterol does factor in to the accumulation of plaque in the arteries, to contribute to a blockage the cholesterol must first be oxidized. Oxidized cholesterol does not exist in whole fatty foods like eggs, but when it’s processed into something else, such as a hydrogenated oil or powdered eggs, it suffers free radical damage and becomes oxidized.

This makes the cholesterol sticky enough to latch onto the inside lining of the arteries, triggering inflammation and the formation of arterial plaque. This has nothing to do with high or low cholesterol levels; it has to do with the oxidation of the cholesterol, a situation that can be managed by controlling inflammation via the intake of antioxidant nutrients.

It’s not controlled by lowering cholesterol with statins. At the Save Institute, we never recommend taking either bisphosphonates or statins. Rather, the Saver approach is to manage health through nutrition and the consumption of foods high in the aforementioned antioxidants, which we’re going to look at in a moment. First, I want to point out a very important connection between high serum lipoproteins and fracture risk.

Study: Triglycerides Increase Fracture Risk

Triglycerides are derived from glycerol and fatty acids, and high levels of both tend to go hand in hand. An insightful new study shows that fracture risk is closely linked to triglyceride levels.

Researchers followed 2062 pre- or early peri-menopausal women for 13 years. None of the women had a history of fracture. At the end of 13 years, the women with high triglycerides were more likely to have sustained a fracture than those with lower triglycerides – more than twice as likely, in fact.

The study concludes as follows:

“Midlife women with high fasting plasma triglycerides had an increased risk of incident non-traumatic fracture.”3

That means that some of the women – 147 of them – had fractures that occurred without trauma such as hard impact. The fractures included the feet, ankles, or wrists.

Among those women who began the study with high triglycerides, the fracture risk was more than two and a half times greater than in the lower-triglyceride women.

While other bone-weakening factors may come into play besides triglycerides, high triglycerides can be interpreted as a red flag that something is amiss metabolically. They also indicate that cholesterol levels are correspondingly on the increase.
One of the key ways to keep these numbers in range is through nutrition. And the good news is that there are foods that work with your body’s biological balancing mechanisms to keep lipoproteins in check.

Foods That Keep Cholesterol Levels Balanced

  • Oatmeal* is rich in soluble fiber, which you’ll also find in foods like apples, prunes, and pears (these make great oatmeal toppings as well!). Soluble fiber helps the body not to absorb too much cholesterol into the blood.
  • Rich, buttery avocados*contain monounsaturated fats, which help keep LDL levels in check.
  • Barley* is a delicious ancient grain that often gets hidden in oatmeal’s shadow. It is rich in soluble fiber and is quite versatile. Barley can be baked into breads, used in soups or as a side-dish, or tossed with veggies and dressing to make a cold grain salad.
  • Walnuts* and other tree nuts like almonds*, pecans*, and hazelnuts provide cholesterol-balancing monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially when eaten in their raw state.
  • Olive oil is another excellent source of monounsaturated fats and Omega-3 fatty acids, which increase calcium absorption and help maintain bone density.
  • Whey* protein is well-known to Savers as a bone-healthy food due to its lactoferrin content. While it’s derived from cow’s milk, lactoferrin is alkalizing and helps build bone, and it also helps lower total cholesterol naturally.
  • Strawberries* are rich in anti-inflammatory compounds and Vitamin C, which also functions as an antioxidant. Strawberries are helpful in preventing the oxidation of cholesterol.
  • Grapes* are also anti-inflammatory and rich in Vitamin C. In addition, grapes contain resveratrol, the heart-healthy polyphenol found in the skins of red grapes.
  • Fatty fish like salmon*, mackerel*, and sardines* are rich in heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids that reduce the risk of heart attacks.
  • Healthful gut microbes, or probiotics, have been linked to lower cholesterol levels.4 Probiotics are found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and some pickles.

*Foundation Food

As you can see, nearly all of the above foods are Foundation Foods. So if you’re following the Save Our Bones Program, you’re already getting plenty of them.

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But there’s more you can do to keep lipoproteins in check.

Research Shows That Exercise Lowers Cholesterol Levels

Exactly how exercise lowers cholesterol is somewhat conjectural, but the evidence clearly shows that regular exercise does in fact keep cholesterol and lipoproteins within current desirable ranges.5 According to research, this may be due to the ability of exercise to influence the size of lipoprotein particles, making them larger and less dense.

In addition, exercise increases the transport of cholesterol out of the bloodstream and back to the liver for processing and removal. Still another way that exercise helps is by decreasing cholesterol absorption from the small intestine into the bloodstream.

It’s important to point out that cholesterol made by the liver is not reduced by exercise; it’s the dietary cholesterol and lipoproteins – the oxidized cholesterol from processed fats – that are reduced by physical activity.

So along with nutritious, cholesterol-lowering foods, exercise helps keep serum lipoproteins in check, but not dangerously low as with statin drugs. This is great news for Savers, who are already eating these foods and exercising regularly as part of the Program. Clearly, the Save Our Bones Program is a whole-body, multi-faceted approach to managing osteoporosis.

Take Exercising For Your Bones to the Next Level!

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As part of this holistic approach, the Densercise™ Epidensity Training Program was created to be implemented in conjunction with the Save Our Bones Program. Densercise™ rounds out the Program by providing all the myriad benefits of regular exercise, from fracture resistance and much more.

Till next time,

References:

1Bisschop, Peter H., et al. “Low-fat, high-carbohydrate and high-fat, low-carbohydrate diets decrease primary bile acid synthesis in humans.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 79. 4. (2004): 570-576. Web. August 2, 2016. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/79/4/570.full

2Madjd, Ameneh, et al. “Comparison of the effect of daily consumption of probiotic compared with low-fat conventional yogurt on weight loss in healthy obese women following an energy-restricted diet: a randomized controlled trial.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. (2015). Web. August 2, 2016. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2015/12/23/ajcn.115.120170

3Chang, Po-Yin, Ph.D., et al. “Triglyceride Levels and Fracture Risk in Midlife Women: Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN). JCEM. (2016). Web. August 2, 2016. http://press.endocrine.org/doi/abs/10.1210/jc.2016-1366

4Manoj K., et al. “Cholesterol-Lowering Probiotics as Potential Biotherapeutics for Metabolic Diseases.” Exp Diabetes Res. 2012; 2012: 902917. Published online 2012 May 3. doi: 10.1155/2012/902917. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3352670/

5Trejo-Gutierrez, J.F., and Fletcher, G. “Impact of exercise on blood lipids and lipoproteins.” J Clin Lipodol. 1. 3. (2007): 175-81. Web. August 2, 2016. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21291678

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42 comments. Leave Yours Now →
  1. Michael Stern August 18, 2017, 3:52 pm

    DO STATIN DRUGS CAUSE BONE LOSS.

  2. Teresa September 12, 2016, 7:36 am

    Last year completed a course of chemo and radiation for breast cancer. My physician has been visibly upset with me because I have refused to take bisphosphonates (Zoledronic acid IV). I have had osteopenia for almost 10 years and has not progressed to osteoporosis. Thanks for all the information on bone health.

  3. Mairin September 3, 2016, 3:49 pm

    Thank you for the enlightening article on Cholesterol. I have only recently come across your site and have bought the exercise manual.
    You place importance on the role of whey protein. I am coeliac and also lactose intolerant. What can I use instead of whey?

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA September 3, 2016, 4:14 pm

      Hi Mairin,

      I’m so glad you found Save Our Bones. 🙂

      Many people who have dairy or lactose sensitivities are able to tolerate whey, but that’s not always the case, and sometimes an alternative is more acceptable.

      The reason I recommend whey is due to its ability to synthesize glutathione, so you can’t just substitute another protein powder.
      To achieve the same end, you could take 100 to 200 mg of Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA) instead of whey protein. ALA also synthesizes glutathione.

  4. Barbara Ross August 13, 2016, 12:31 pm

    How do you slowly and safely go off a statin? I have been taking one for approx 10 years now.

    • Maureen McKinney September 29, 2016, 2:41 pm

      I also have been taking statins for years and would like to stop. my doctor does not support that but she also wants me to start taking drugs for osteosporosis which I will not do. How can I safely wean myself off of the atorvastatin i am taking?
      Maureen

  5. Maurice August 8, 2016, 6:48 am

    Is it true that Coffee can contribute to increased cholesterol levels?

  6. Nicole August 5, 2016, 7:15 pm

    Dear Vivian – This has been so informative for me. My total cholesterol is about 205 but my Doc, wants it below 200. I have also been told I shouldn’t worry because my HDL is high, which is supposed to be a good sign. What do you think? I am very careful about my diet & I exercise regularly (tai chi, yoga & zumba) I am 82 & would welcome any suggestion. Thank you for all you do for us – Nicole

  7. Renie August 5, 2016, 2:14 pm

    Wonderful article. My Mom refused to continue taking statins because of leg cramps. I am pleased she did. Your article gives her even better reasons. Thank you. Love the work you do for all of us!

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA August 6, 2016, 12:34 pm

      You’re welcome, Renie! I’m so pleased that this article gave you confirmation. 🙂

  8. Fanny August 5, 2016, 1:21 pm

    Thank you for your very informative article. You are certainly a Guardian Angel.

  9. jill August 5, 2016, 12:33 pm

    Thank you so much for this great information. You never cease to amaze me! I only wish Doctors could be more informed before just writing prescriptions for everything. It seems to me pharmaceutical companies really do have a strong hold over Dr’s. Thank the Lord for people like you vivian! !

  10. Carol August 5, 2016, 7:23 am

    Thank you Vivian for this wonderful post, I am going to copy and print out the list of foods that keep cholesterol levels balanced and put it on my refrigerator so I can see it as a reminder everyday. I love these foods and want to remember to incorporate them into my cooking as much as possible!

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA August 5, 2016, 8:47 am

      What a good idea, Carol! Maybe you could print off a list to keep in your purse when you go to the grocery store, too. 🙂

      • Carol August 6, 2016, 6:41 am

        Vivian, thank you again! That is a very good idea 🙂

  11. Muriel Adamson August 5, 2016, 6:04 am

    My husband has been taken statins for some time, and has decided to come off them because of pains in his legs should he consult his Doctor first.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA August 5, 2016, 8:46 am

      Hi Muriel,

      It’s an excellent idea for your husband to check with his doctor about going off the statins. If he is clear and confident in his approach, his doctor will be able to advise him as to how to go off the statins safely.

  12. jo August 5, 2016, 6:00 am

    I am curious what taking gaba powder with magnesium calm powder might be doing to my brain. Used this combo when I stopped all meds three years ago while withdrawing from all my medications. It relieved withdrawal pains, and I still use it to relax and sleep. Hope use of additional gaba is not harmful. Avoiding bone and all meds recommended by doc, and incorporate your bone building foods in diet now. Thank you!

  13. jo August 5, 2016, 5:44 am

    Thank the Lord for courageous wise people who are not afraid to reveal the truth about meds. I actually still take Gaba powder 1/8 tsp with madnesium calm at night to help sleep. And it helped when I stopped xanax , Zoloft, and two meds I was addicted to 3 years ago. I knew intuitively all meds were killing me. Going to try the lemon balm. Thanks for telling the truth

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA August 5, 2016, 8:44 am

      I am thankful for people who “hear” information and use it to make wise decisions about their health! Good for you, Joy, and I hope you’re resting well.

  14. Lorraine August 5, 2016, 1:50 am

    In Australia, cholesterol levels are reported differently, i.e.HDL 1.8, LDL 3.4 and total results of 6.0 etc. so it is difficult to correlate the way the US records compare. Haven’t been tested for years but in the past, no doctor would dare suggest statin drugs!

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA August 5, 2016, 8:43 am

      That is very interesting, Lorraine. Criteria does differ by region and geographical location, and that’s fascinating that statins are not automatically recommended where you are. That’s another reason not to get too hung up on the numbers. 🙂

      • Lorraine August 7, 2016, 7:14 am

        To clarify regarding my comment about statin drugs, I actually meant my physician knew my stance on taking these drugs because of research (and mainly through your website) and knew that I would tell him in no uncertain terms to “take a funny run” … a crazy Australian idiom!

  15. Vivian Goldschmidt, MA August 4, 2016, 9:08 pm

    It sounds like this post was a real “ah-ha” moment for you! I am so glad this information provides some affirmation and peace of mind for you.

  16. Donna Koester August 4, 2016, 5:11 pm

    Thank you for all the good information and also a good review to remind me of the things I have used from your website. I was right on track when I read the foods that keep cholesterol levels balanced. This was much appreciated. I have cut back on eating red meat so am I getting enough protein to make good red blood cells. What other suggestions would increase red blood cells. Mine were on the low side this past health exam. I recently have been eating salmon and I really like it but watch for good prices on the fresh salmon in the meat dept.. I usually stick to chicken, turkey and ground beef. My bones are stronger since I have been drinking only almond milk the last 3 years. I am lactose intolerant. I love lactose free ice cream.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA August 4, 2016, 9:23 pm

      Hi Donna,

      You are most welcome! If you’re looking for iron-rich foods, some options include spinach, kale, organ meats, and blackstrap molasses.

  17. Sandra August 4, 2016, 5:00 pm

    This response is for Janice who asked about an acceptable level for cholesterol. Janice, the ratio is more important than the actual numbers, but I can tell you that you want your “good” cholesterol, that is your HDL, to be a greater number than your “bad” choleterol, which is your LDL. Your ratio is the opposite of what you need, and you can change that with your diet. Just follow Vivian’s diet recommendations for awhile and you should achieve results. I know because my husband had heart disease and I changed his diet and began to achieve results with the HDL surpassing the LDL.

  18. Rob Danco August 4, 2016, 3:34 pm

    Dear Vivian: Your explanation of cholesterol and how it works in the body is very understandable, and in addition, how it relates to our bones is excellent. This article I want to keep in my files for future purposes and to provide others that are having difficulties in how to respond to their doctors who are always trying to push drugs on people instead of healing with nutrition and exercise. Thank you again for your dedication to good health and bones. God Bless.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA August 4, 2016, 9:16 pm

      Great idea, Rob – keeping the information on file to share with others would be very helpful!

  19. Janet August 4, 2016, 1:54 pm

    Thank you Vivien for a brilliant article on statins. This came just at the right time. I had been prescribed these without an explanation of why and was having side effects which now after reading your article I have stopped taking them.
    Thank you

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA August 4, 2016, 9:15 pm

      It sounds like this is just the right post at the right time for you, Janet!

  20. Janice August 4, 2016, 12:52 pm

    Thank you for this valuable information. I went through early menopause, and “suffer” from osteopenia. I do not want to take any drugs at all. I eat many of the recommended foods on a regular basis and exercise regularly. However, my cholesterol is still “high” in relation to today’s standards. TL=240; LDL=125; HDL=85; Trigl.=88. Your article never stated what the acceptable cholesterol range should be according to your research. Please advise. Thank you.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA August 4, 2016, 9:15 pm

      Hi Janice,

      Good question! If you’ll take a look, the information is in today’s post:

      “Your doctor will likely tell you that serum cholesterol should be below 200 mg/dL, which is quite a contrast from years ago, when 175 to 275 (and higher) was an acceptable range. The normal range was lowered to accommodate the cholesterol-lowering effects of the statins, which take the cholesterol down below 200. So that became the ‘new normal.'”

    • nancy lee August 4, 2016, 5:37 pm

      Some doctors might say “would you rather have a heart attack or stroke,killing you,or possibly develop osteoporosis years down the road” What do you say to that ?

      • Lynn August 4, 2016, 10:40 pm

        I would say “Will your office transfer my records to my new doctor?”

        • Cindy August 6, 2016, 9:45 pm

          I second what Lynn has said… you HAVE to be your own advocate in YOUR health. Your doctor works for you, and if you decide you don’t need the meds, or want to try a different, safer approach, they should be supportive. I “fired” my endocrinologist when he scorned me for researching other methods than fossamax and prolia… A year later my bone density has shown marked improvement.

          Some people NEED to take medication. There isn’t anything wrong with that either. But only you can make that decision of what is right for you. Don’t be intimidated by your doctor. Be informed! Tell your doctor you would like to TRY this alternate method for a year and see how it goes…

          Vivian, I thank you again for all the knowledge you share here on this website.

  21. R. Lalitha August 4, 2016, 12:39 pm

    Thank you very much for enlightening many of us with providing exclusive information regarding cholesrtol myth.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA August 4, 2016, 9:12 pm

      You are most welcome!

  22. JoAnn Fox August 4, 2016, 12:35 pm

    What about the consumption of yeast flakes that I take for B vits. I have read that it is much higher in phosphorus than calcium, which will leach calcium from the bones. How can I balance it?

  23. Marlene Villar August 4, 2016, 10:21 am

    Thank you very much Vivian for sharing this EXCELLENT
    information . I truly Appreciated it.
    Have a wonderful day. Marlene

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA August 4, 2016, 9:08 pm

      You are welcome, Marlene!

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