What About Cholesterol?
Many things in the grocery store claim to be cholesterol-free. Cholesterol is important in the body because it is the prototype of a whole family of steroids, including the sex hormones.
The body manufactures its own cholesterol in the liver. It is also found in fatty sheaths around nerves, and the brain is about one-tenth cholesterol.
As with so many things in life, excesses can cause health problems. High levels of cholesterol cause stiffening and thickening of the artery walls. This can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.
Controlling dietary cholesterol means cutting back on animal fats and other foods rich in cholesterol. Actually animal fats pose a double threat. Not only do they provide the liver with the raw materials to produce cholesterol, they also carry high levels into our digestive systems.
The amount of cholesterol produced by our bodies is governed by a whole complex of interacting factors, including genetics, exercise, emotional stress and the fibre in our diets. It is helpful to see “cholesterol free” on the label, but be careful to read the small print as well. It should also mention the actual content of hydrogenated vegetable oils. The higher the hydrogenation, the higher the resemblance to animal fat.
So next time you read “cholesterol free,” remember there is more to staying healthy than just buying that product.
It’s a challenge to take care of ourselves. There are so many delicate balances to maintain. Enough fat - but not too much. Enough salt - but not too much. Enough calories - but not too many. Enough exercise - but not too strenuous. And on and on and on it goes.
It also seems that there is a lot of counter-intuitive advice which recommends extreme responses to specific problems which may well threaten the organism as a whole. For example, some diets are effective in helping us to lose weight, but are hard on the cardio-vascular system.
Then there’s the natural tendency many of us have to let things slide until there’s a crisis – then we overreact. One common example is waiting for a bad cholesterol count and then keeping the diet so strictly that we lose weight and become potentially anaemic.
Many of us who do take care of our physical bodies are less concerned with the spiritual aspect of our beings. Yet, science is taking notice of the influence the spiritual realm has on the physical. In the last few years, news magazines like Time and Newsweek have carried articles about the healing power of prayer and the spiritual power which some people are able to access to improve their health and well-being.
Ironically, science is usually credited with moving us away from our spiritual roots. Now it seems that at least some scientists, in an effort to understand and explain some areas of investigation, are opening the door to spirituality again.
Some of us, scientists included, have never abandoned the spiritual aspect of our lives. It continues to be a significant force with a bearing on decision-making, goal-setting, behaviour, relationships and identity. Most spiritually aware persons have a god-concept which informs their inner life and values.
Among the modern pantheon, the God of the Bible is very clear and defined. His standards and the way He shows us to live are remarkably healthy in every way. Don’t get bogged down in religion, but open yourself to God as He reveals Himself to you.
David Humphreys and Ron Hughes
© August 2004