To complement the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Good Eats: Some Saturated Fat is Good,” by Erin Zimniewicz Williams, in the July 2012 issue. Article summary: Most people wince at the thought of saturated fat in their food, because we’ve been trained to think of such fat as unhealthy. “Eating foods that contain saturated fats raises the level of cholesterol in your blood. High levels of blood cholesterol increase your risk of heart disease and stroke,” states the American Heart Association’s website (www.heart.org). That point of view has helped create saturated fat’s bad reputation. The question you should ask is, “Is this true?”

by Erin Zimniewicz Williams

Cholesterol is a natural substance made by the liver to carry fats and fat-based vitamins in the water-based bloodstream. Cholesterol is needed for life. Fats and fat-soluble vitamins need cholesterol to be a carrier molecule to whisk them from point A to point B in your body.

We need cholesterol to carry vitamin K to our finger if we have to stop a cut from bleeding; to get vitamin A to our eyes for conversion into retinol; to get fats into and out of cells for energy processing and more. More than just a transporter, cholesterol also acts as a building block for hormones and maintains the integrity of cellular membranes.

There are five main types of cholesterol in our bodies, but only two, LDL and HDL, are present in large quantities. LDL cholesterol is low-density lipoprotein. HDL cholesterol is high-density lipoprotein. Both are needed. LDL carries fat and fat-soluble molecules away from the digestive system to be used by the peripheral cells, while HDL carries fat and fat-soluble molecules back to the digestive system so they can be processed out.

LDL cholesterol has a bum reputation and is nicknamed the bad cholesterol, while HDL is named the good cholesterol. Both are beneficial. What makes the good-or-bad label is when the proportion of LDL cholesterol is significantly higher than HDL cholesterol. Most Americans have normal-to-high levels of LDL cholesterol and low levels of HDL cholesterol.

When too much LDL cholesterol circulates in the blood, it can slowly build up in the walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain. Along with other substances, it can form plaques and atherosclerosis. If a clot forms and blocks a narrowed artery, it can cause a heart attack or stroke.

Erin Zimniewicz Williams, C.N., L.M.P., is the owner of EZ Balance in Redmond, Washington. She is a certified nutritionist and licensed massage therapist as well as a yoga and Pilates instructor.

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