OxyCholesterol…the most serious cardiovascular health threat of all?

homer cholesterol

Researchers have found that a (virtually unknown to the public) form of cholesterol called oxycholesterol may be your most serious cardiovascular health threat.

“Total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), and the heart-healthy high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) are still important health issues,” says study leader Zhen-Yu Chen, Ph.D., of Chinese University of Hong Kong. “But the public should recognize that oxycholesterol is also important and cannot be ignored.

Our work demonstrated that oxycholesterol boosts total cholesterol levels and promotes atherosclerosis [“hardening of the arteries”] more than non-oxidized cholesterol.”

Q.     So, how do we get this oxidized cholesterol – oxycholesterol?

A.     Fried food, processed food, junk food…basically all of the food that makes you fat also has high levels of oxycholesterol. Quel surprise.

Scientists have known for years that a reaction between fats and oxygen, a process termed oxidation, produces oxycholesterol in the body.

  • Oxidation occurs, for instance, when fat-containing foods are heated, as in frying chicken or grilling burgers or steaks.
  • Food manufacturers produce oxycholesterol intentionally in the form of oxidized oils such as trans-fatty acids and partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils. When added to processed foods, those substances improve texture, taste and stability.

Until now, however, much of the research focused on oxycholesterol’s effects in damaging cells, DNA, and its biochemical effects in contributing to atherosclerosis. Dr. Chen believes this is one of the first studies on oxycholesterol’s effects in raising blood cholesterol levels compared to non-oxidized cholesterol.

In the new study, researchers compared the effects of a oxycholesterol rich diet to a diet rich in regular non-oxidized cholesterol.

The oxycholesterol group showed greater deposition of cholesterol in the lining of their arteries and a tendency to develop larger deposits of cholesterol. These fatty deposits, called atherosclerotic plaques, increase the risk for heart attack and stroke.


More importantly, oxycholesterol had undesirable effects on “artery function.”

Oxycholesterol reduced the elasticity of arteries, impairing their ability to expand and carry more blood.

In a healthy, elastic artery, expansion allows for more blood to flow through arteries that are partially blocked by plaques, potentially reducing the risk that a clot will form and cause a heart attack or stroke.

Luckily, a healthy diet rich in antioxidants can counter these effects, Chen said, noting that these substances may block the oxidation process that forms oxycholesterol.

Scientists do not know whether the popular anti-cholesterol drugs called statins lower oxycholesterol.

And how do we get a diet rich in antioxidants?

Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices….aka real food.


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  1. I agree with you that we need to eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices….aka real food. But the problem is that this so called real food that is found in super markets is seriously lacking in nutritional content, and the beneficial effect is greatly reduced if not harmful.

    Farming that uses modern technology and chemicals causes food to grow abnormally fast and is has residues of chemicals.

    The only solution is to eat organic food.

    Great post, thanks

  2. More studies are showing that our food is losing more of the nutrients since the 1970s. Nutrients would mean vitamins and the antixoidants. They keep depleting the soil without replenishing it. That and gmo seeds have me worried.

    I recently read that CoQ10 works better than statins.

  3. I’m more than a little confused. So oxycholesterol increases (total? – this is a guess) blood cholesterol in hamsters and causes artery hardening. Seems like it would have been nice to know what kind of cholesterol exactly was increased, because it doesn’t seem like it was HDL.

    Was there any mention of oxycholesterol actually being in the blood after eating it? Cholesterol doesn’t usually jump from your stomach directly into your blood.

    Also, if oxycholesterol is created by processing food, how can this be countered by antioxidants that we eat? I think the scientists were taking some poetic license with that one.

  4. This is all new science. All they know is that oxycholesterol raises total cholesterol..good and bad. It’s going to require further studies to find the answers to your questions.

    However, like you, I thought that their conclusion about antioxidants was premature at best.

    All we can really take from this study is that processed junk food increases total blood cholesterol. If we assume that this is bad for our health, we can also assume that eating processed junk food is bad for our health.


    But, hopefully it convinces another person to stop eating at McDonalds and to eat a damn apple every now and then.

  5. Why do Eskimos, who typically eat a diet loaded with animal fat, have very low rates of heart disease?
    The answer is that high cholesterol isn’t the cause of heart disease – oxidised cholesterol is.
    That’s the opinion of many alternative physicians including Philip Lee Miller MD, founder and director of the Los Gatos Longevity Institute in California. ‘ I’m one of those people who have been saying for 30 years that cholesterol does not cause heart disease,’
    he says. ‘It’s a recruit in the process, like a soldier is a recruit in a war, but it does not cause the war.’
    Dr Miller, like the majority of medical professionals, recognises that the lowering of LDL cholesterol plays a critical role in preventing hardening of the arteries. He knows that excess cholesterol in the bloodstream can be subjected to oxidation (the same oxygen-sparked, cell destroying process that rusts iron or turns an apple brown after it has been cut).
    The destructive process of oxidation is literally inflammatory – it’s like a fire in the body.
    ‘The immune system, your body’s fire service, rushes foam cells to the area to douse the blaze. But just as firemen sometimes have to axe down a door to get into a burning building, the anti-inflammatory process can damage the lining of the artery. This roughened, injured area is a perfect foundation for the build-up of plaque, the truly evil plug that clogs arteries and triggers heart attacks’.

    ‘Oxidized LDL starts an inflammatory reaction that the body tries to heal, but the healing causes more problems than it resolves, ‘ says Dr Miller. The best way to prevent this heart-hurting process, he says, is to prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol – and the best way to do that, he adds, is to make sure you get enough of the antioxidants vitamin E, vitamin C, and glutathione.

    Antioxidants work by calming unstable oxygen molecules called free radicals, which are responsible for oxidising cells. When antioxidants neutralise free radicals, they are on a type of suicide mission. The antioxidants themselves are oxidised or, in chemical terms, reduced.

    Fortunately, the body has a system to help ensure that there are always plenty of antioxidants available, Dr Miller says. When vitamin C is oxidised, vitamin E comes to the rescue, donating some of its molecules to restore the vitamin C to its full antioxidant status. In the process, the vitamin E is reduced, but the glutathione replenishes it. That’s why you need all three nutrients, says Dr Miller.

  6. Inflammation seems to be a common factor in the chronic diseases (obesity, diabetes, CVD) afflicting North American society.

    I loved your description of oxidization as rust…easy to understand

  7. OK, so I cut out all the fast food from the land of the golden arches and elsewhere, and cut out simple carbs with the exception of maybe a slice of bread a day, and I’m not eating any “heat and serve” meals or junk food such as (heaven forbid) Bagefuls. Currently doing a version of the “big breakfast diet” you posted on your site in the past. Pleased with the results (weight loss and lack of hunger through most of the day).

    I’ve recently tried a product called miracle noodles which claims to be made from soluble plant fiber having no carbs, calories or much else to it. Not a perfect replacment for pasta (no flavor to it and more chewey than the real deal) but not too bad to put some homemade sauce on or use in a stir fry.

    Have you tried this and/or do you have any opinion on it relative to the healthier type of diet I’m trying to follow?

  8. They have no flavor in and of themselves. So it all depends what you doctor them up with. I’ve used spaghetti sauce, a spaghetti carbonara sauce, and my favorite “Cincinnati Chili” (having been born and raised in that city).

    I’ve been pleased with it so far, however it is a bit on the chewey side.

  9. I contacted my low carb guru, Jimmy Moore and asked him about the Miracle Noodles.

    Here are some links that he provided:

    THANKS Douglas! I first blogged about shirataki “miracle” noodles way back in 2006

    Here’s my review of the Konjac brand

    And the House brand with tofu

    I’ve posted several shirataki recipes that are low-carb and even hosted a recipe contest:

    I haven’t blogged much recently about shirataki because I have pretty much saturated the topic previously. Feel free to use any and all links at your blog…just give me the proper credit to my http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog. 😀 THANKS!

  10. Thanks, those are great links. Since I’ve got a fair amount of the miracle noodles, it will be a while before I try the House brand with tofu to compare. Had them again tonight in a chicken Parmesan. Two things I tried off your friends site, one was cutting them up after rinsing, made them much easier to eat, the other was drying them in the same pan that I used to pan fry the chicken in a tablespoon of olive oil. Doing that they picked up a nice flavor.

  11. As if I need one more reason to not eat fast and crap food. The site of those monster burgers, like in the Simpson’s cartoon above, make me cringe with disgust! I hate fast food french fries, chicken nuggets (not sure it’s really even chicken), the very fattening and high calorie salads (which many think are healthy), and those burgers. GROSS.

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