Cholesterol, an essential macromolecule needed for membrane and hormone synthesis, is more commonly known in terms of numbers. Everyone is trying to manage or simply reduce their cholesterol levels, and for a good reason. Excess cholesterol in the blood can build up and stick to the walls of your blood vessels as plaque, causing blockages. These blockages slow blood flow and increase the stress on your heart to push blood past clogged arteries. Too much plaque in your arteries can lead to a condition called atherosclerosis, the leading cause of heart attacks and strokes. For this reason, doctors and health professionals suggest you maintain a manageable cholesterol level to prevent possible health complications later on.
If you already have high cholesterol, there are several ways you can begin to manage your levels. Statins, such as Mevacor and Lipitor, are cholesterol reducing prescription drugs that have become one of the most prescribed drugs in developed countries over recent decades. These drug work by interfering with a key step in the production of cholesterol.
Yet despite their proven effectiveness, the greatest opposition to statins lies in the adverse side effects of taking these drugs. In a study on statins, scientists found that the class of drugs induces a gene which leads to increased muscle atrophy and the loss of muscle weight. This explains why muscle injury is one of the primary side effects of taking statins.
A more traditional alternative to lowering cholesterol is daily exercise and diet. One specific diet catered to losing cholesterol is the raw food diet. Stemming from the late 1800s, raw foodism first surfaced upon one researcher’s realization that he could cure his jaundice, an eye disease, by just eating raw apples.
The diet has expanded and evolved into a strict food diet, mostly consisting of plant based foods with some raw fish and meat. Based around the belief that cooking and heat break down essential nutrients, the raw food diet sets out to exclude the cooking process altogether. Since the majority of restaurant meals and prepared foods are already cooked and processed, the raw food diet caters best to a home chef. Consequently, one of the biggest obstacles to the diet is the required discipline.
Recently, the raw food diet has been more popularly implemented as a weight loss program. As uncooked and unprocessed food naturally contains less calories, the raw food diet is primarily a weight loss diet. Not only efficient for slimming down, the raw diet also effectively helps one lower total cholesterol levels, as one study shows.
However like statins, the raw food diet is not without its own hitches. Of the essential vitamins and nutrients needed to uphold a healthy lifestyle, vitamin B12 is one of the limited nutrients that is scarce in raw food diets. As this vitamin is only found in animal products, supplementing the raw food diet with vitamin B12 is a necessity. Rather than taking vitamin B12 pill supplements, prepare foods with high B12 content already, such as shellfish, tofu, and cereal bran products.
Whether you are looking to lower your cholesterol levels or simply want to lose weight, the raw food diet is a better option compared to statins. The muscle pain side effects associated with statins are clearly researched and should be a strong opposition to taking the drugs. By simply adding more time to prepare healthier meals and exercise weekly, you can lower your cholesterol without having to worry about the pestering side effects of these prescription drugs. As a testament to healthier living, always opt for the conservative route: diet and exercise over popping pills.
Albert is a premedical student studying Molecular & Cell Biology in his second year at UC Berkeley. He is new to health blog writing but hopes to provide an insightful, scientific perspective on healthy living. In his free time, Albert enjoys playing soccer and basically doing anything while listening to music.
Main Photo Credit: Len44ik/shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: Kate Capture/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: marco mayer/shutterstock.com