The debate surrounding the impact of cholesterol on our health has been ongoing in the realms of modern medical and food science. To manage our cholesterol levels, we have become more cautious about the foods we consume.
We limit our intake of processed meat, fried food, shellfish, and other cholesterol-rich foods, while prioritising healthier alternatives like beans, vegetables, whole grains, and fruits.
After all, numerous health articles, WhatsApp messages, and Facebook posts have warned us about the dire consequences of cholesterol. But is cholesterol truly deserving of such vilification?
Demonising Cholesterol: Is it really THAT bad?
The answer, like many things in life, likely lies somewhere in the middle.
Consider sugar, for example. It provides us with glucose, the brain's primary fuel and a vital energy source for the body. However, excessive sugar consumption can also lead to health issues.
Similarly, cholesterol serves certain functions in our bodies. Healthy cholesterol, such as HDL, is essential for bodily functions. Meanwhile, LDL and triglycerides are harmful counterparts, and if found in excess, can result in clogged arteries and an unhealthy body.
Thus, rather than jumping to absolutes, the key to managing cholesterol lies in balance and moderation.
Can our digestive system help regulate cholesterol levels?
Recent research from Cornell University suggests that specific species of gut bacteria help balance dietary cholesterol levels by converting it into a molecule called cholesterol sulfate. Cholesterol sulfate plays a role in regulating immune cells and improving digestion.
Research conducted by Harvard University has also revealed the presence of a gene called Intestinal Steroid Metabolism A (IsmA) within bacteria. IsmA converts cholesterol into coprostanol, a substance that is naturally eliminated from the body through defecation.
These studies point to a common principle – it’s not just your diet that has to be healthy, your gut has to be healthy too!
Are probiotics the starting point towards tackling cholesterol?
The significance of probiotics cannot be overstated in light of their ability to restore the composition of the gut microbiome. Probiotics introduce beneficial functions to gut microbial communities, helping prevent gut inflammation and related diseases.
While fermented foods like yoghurt and kimchi can provide probiotics, for many of us, it may be more convenient to support gut health through supplementation. Products such as Nutrilite Botanical Beverage Mix with Chicory Root Extract and Probiotics, as well as Nutrilite Mixed Fiber Powder, are rich in probiotics and prebiotics that specifically support digestive health and promote positive bowel movements.
That being said, while probiotics and gut bacteria undoubtedly play a vital role in strengthening one’s digestive system, they still only play a supplementary and supporting role to the main agents of enhancing one’s gut health - proper clean nutrition and regular exercise.
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