High cholesterol: The ‘very common’ vitamin deficiency linked to higher risk of condition

High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips

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High cholesterol refers to the presence of fatty molecules that circulate in the blood and are deposited on the arterial walls, causing them to clog. Although it is generally harmless in the initial stages, the condition can wreak havoc on the body if left untreated. Researchers continue to unearth some of the different risk factors for the condition. While certain foods should be avoided at all costs, other foods that contain one key vitamin may lower the risk of high cholesterol.

Vitamin D is essential for wellbeing, with a plethora of studies highlighting its role in the immune system and bone health.

But the sunshine vitamin, so-called because it’s produced in the body through the action of sunlight, also has strong associations with cholesterol.

According to Heart UK, the body needs cholesterol in its skin cells to make vitamin D from sunlight.

“The vitamin D is later transformed again in the liver and kidneys, but cholesterol is needed for the first step,” explains Heart UK.

READ MORE: High cholesterol: Doctor names and shames ‘high cholesterol foods’ to avoid

To date, meta-analyses have shown that individuals with lower vitamin D levels are more likely to have high cholesterol dyslipidemia.

Dyslipidemia refers to an abnormal level of cholesterol and other lipids, also called fats, in the blood.

But while researchers have highlighted a correlation between both conditions, no “cause and effect” relationship has been established.

The term typically describes an excess of triglycerides in the blood, and therefore covers more than just LDL, or “bad” cholesterol.

This association between vitamin D deficiency and dyslipidemia was illustrated in one 2018 study, published in the journal Current Medical Research and Opinion.

The researchers wrote: “Vitamin D deficiency is found to be associated with dyslipidemia in a cohort of 3788 subjects, serum 25 (OH) D is inversely correlated with LDL cholesterol and triglycerides levels, and positively correlated with HDL cholesterol levels.”

Despite overwhelming evidence highlighting the essential role of vitamin D in the body, levels remain exceptionally low in the UK and other countries.

Healthline writes: “Vitamin D deficiency is very common. It’s estimated that about one billion people worldwide have lower blood levels of the vitamin.”What’s more, levels of vitamin D are believed to have plummeted further as a result of the pandemic.

When the nutrient can’t be obtained through exposure to sunlight, however, it must be sourced from food.

Good sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, beef liver, and fortified products such as cereal, soy milk and orange juice.

How to avoid high cholesterol

It is well known that diet is paramount for helping lower blood lipids into a healthy range.

Certain foods high in soluble fibre can lower cholesterol by binding to lipid molecules and dragging them out of the body.

All fruits, vegetables and legumes and good sources of soluble fibre.

Exercise is equally important for managing the condition, with running, walking, cycling and swimming all shown to have promising effects.

Furthermore, researchers believe exercise could help increase HDL, or good cholesterol.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “moderate physical activity can help raise high-density (HDL) cholesterol.“With your doctor’s OK, work up to at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week or vigorous aerobic activity for 20 minutes three times a week.”

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