The Hidden High Cholesterol Culprit You Might Not Be Looking For

Saturated fat gets a lot of blame when it comes to high cholesterol. Carbohydrates come in a close second. While they're both important factors, they aren't the only ones to consider. Diets high in saturated fat are responsible for approximately one in five cases of high serum cholesterol, and high carbohydrate intake is responsible for approximately one in three. That still leaves a little less than half of all high serum cholesterol cases unaccounted for.

The fact is, if you have high cholesterol, you may need to look further than your diet to find the real culprit.

Researchers from the Japanese National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences think they may have found a missing piece of the cholesterol puzzle. They discovered that small quantities of lead caused elevated serum cholesterol in experimental animals. In their experiments they found that lead induces the genes responsible for creating the liver enzymes that produce cholesterol.

To compound the problem, lead also suppresses a gene responsible for the producti8on of a liver enzyme that breaks down and destroys cholesterol. With cholesterol production "turned on" and cholesterol breakdown "turned off" by lead, the animals' serum cholesterol increased significantly.1

Although the lead/cholesterol connection hasn't been proven by research on humans yet, it still helps to explain some observations that holistic doctors have made over the years. Holistic doctors who do chelation therapy (a process that removes lead and other toxic metals from the body) have noted that cholesterol levels often drop after chelation.

If you've tried following a strict diet and your serum cholesterol is still high, have a physician skilled and knowledgeable in nutritional and natural medicine check your lead levels. The most accurate way to test for lead is to get an intravenous drip of a chelating agent (EDTA is typically used for lead chelation) followed by a six- to eight-hour urine collection, which is then tested for lead and other toxic metals.

If a chelation test shows you have too much lead (or other toxic heavy metal) in your system, work with your physician to get the lead out. Not only will it help your serum cholesterol levels, but it will also help lots of other natural biochemical processes in your body operate better. Jonathan V. Wright, M.D.

1 Kojima M, Masui T, Nemoto K, Degawa M. "Lead nitrate-induced development of hypercholesterolemia in rats: sterol-independent gene regulation of hepatic enzymes responsible for cholesterol homeostasis." Osteoarthritis Cartilage Laboratory of Animal Gene Function, Department of Physiology and Gene Regulation, National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, Kannondai 2-1-2, Tsukuba 305-8602, Japan.

This article was published in the July, 2006 issue of the Dr. Jonathan V. Wright's Clinical Nutrition & Healing newsletter.