Much talk has been generated about how fiber can help lower serum cholesterol levels. So much that some products with it are even “stamped” by the American Heart Association with a label saying: “Can Help Lower Cholesterol”. First of all there are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. They are both necessary, but it’s the soluble fiber that CAN contribute to lowering cholesterol.
OK, let’s discuss how fiber helps. There are in fact three theories as to why this works. And all three may in fact be true. The precise mechanism doesn’t really matter as much as the information I’m going to give you about it at the end of this article.
First, soluble fiber dissolves in water and then becomes gelatinous in consistency. It is in this form that it becomes able to literally bind to substances in the intestinal tract. When these substances are bound, they are then excreted from the body as part of human waste. First, one theory says the fiber is able to bind to bile (which contains cholesterol) in the intestines so that it does not get reabsorbed into the bloodstream.
Second, another theory says that it binds to bile acids in the intestines; again in order to prevent reabsorption. This mechanism would eventually cause a decrease in the amount of bile acids in the liver. As a result, the liver gets a “signal” to make more (whole) bile. The liver will then take up cholesterol from the blood in order to create more bile, as cholesterol is one of its components. So bile contains cholesterol and bile acids (in addition to other biochemicals). By the way, toxins are often bound to bile as well, so it becomes a route for detoxification. Hence, you’ll get lower blood cholesterol levels as it is pulled from the blood to make bile.
The third, more complicated theory basically says that soluble fiber shifts “bile acid pools” which leads to a decrease in the enzyme the liver uses to make cholesterol in the first place. Less production of cholesterol, means less serum cholesterol levels. You can read more technical information about that here, but I’ve covered the gist of it. The other two theories are “common” knowledge.
OK, what’s the common denominator in all three theories? Bile, of course. By the way, in case you didn’t know, bile’s function is to be released into the gut when fats are available to emulsify them in order for proper absorption of those fats (and fat-soluble vitamins).
Here is where the information stops! My question is: What is going to determine if you have bile in the intestines in the first place? As I stated above, fats must be available in the intestines. So now you go ahead and have a healthy “cholesterol-lowering” breakfast: some oatmeal and some added fruit, maybe you add psyllium to really increase the soluble fiber. More sources can be found here. And don’t forget the skim milk, you certainly wouldn’t want any added fat. Nah, you’re vegan or sensitive to dairy, you use water. Here’s another million-dollar question. Where’s the fat in this meal to stimulate the flow of bile in order for it to get bound by the fiber? As you know, the answer is nowhere. Now what? Well, your good intentions just got flushed down the toilet. No pun intended, but now that I think of it, pun intended.
The take home message is to include fat in the meal. So you can use whole milk and the vegan can use a grain-based milk. Nuts may be sufficient as well, if you’re not sensitive (and CHEW them properly). But if there is no other added fat, don’t use water or skim milk (I wouldn’t even use 2%). If you want to, use added coconut oil, then you’d really be doing yourself a favor. Oh wait, there’s saturated fat in it. So what? This notion of fat (even saturated fat) being bad for you is utter nonsense and terrible misinformation! And avoiding it to lower cholesterol is even worse information. Even if you avoid cholesterol itself, a negative-feedback loop will cause your body to make more cholesterol as your body senses the absence of it. If avoiding cholesterol was key, how could a vegan have high cholesterol? And believe me, some do. That’s all for another time. If you still won’t use any of these “oatmeal” combinations, eat it for dinner in hopes that there’s some bile left over in your gut from breakfast or lunch. Now, there may be a slight amount of bile released into the intestines with any meal, however that amount will be very poor without fat in the meal.
One last thing. Take a look at these foods (excuse me, name-brand products) with the stamp from the American Heart Association. Many of them, especially the breakfast cereals, breads, and desserts are not a good idea if you ask me. Read all the ingredients. It’s kind of like an investment banker showing you a document stamped with a seal that says “guaranteed 10% return on your investment”. Please don’t miss the print in the rest of the document stating that the fees equal 80%. You have to go the extra mile these days. Good luck everyone!
Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology