Monday, August 8, 2011

Breastmilk Cholesterol!

Everybody knows cholesterol is bad, BAD, BAD, don't they? 

How do we know?
How did I know? well, the TV told me. There is ad after ad of product designed to "lower cholesterol", "improve heart health". (Ususally a product made of grain, soy or canola......hmmmm wait a sec)
We've all heard of LDL ("bad" fat) and HDL ("good" fat) haven't we?

So anyway, I came across this article yesterday (I highly recommend you read) which I found hugely interesting. It basically says that Newborn babies are born deficient in cholesterol and they recieve A LOT from breastmilk in the first 6 months of life.
Here's the deal:
  • Newborn (cordblood) cholesterol: 70.3 mg/dl
  • Exclusively breastfed infant at 6 months: 194 mg/dl
  • Partially breastfed infant at 6 months: 162 mg/dl
  • Non-breastfed infant at 6 months: 140 mg/dl
This would put all of the babies, were they adults, in the "at risk" category for doctors looking at heart health, and most of all the breastfed infants.

This, when you think about it, is very very strange.

In exclusively breastfed infants, 6 months is around the time that that the gut closes and immune function matures. If the baby is not exclusively breastfed for at least 6 months, the immune system can take much longer before it functions properly. Low LDL cholesterol levels after birth means reduced ability to make antibodies. HDL is also important for immunity. Non-breastfed infants, recieve less cholesterol (among many other things), and are therefore at an elevated risk of suffering from allergy, obesity, heart disease, lower cognitive outcomes, infection, the list goes on. Study after study shows that breastmilk protects the health of children, and the longer they recieve it the more protected they are. 

So why would something that is considered soo nasty and threatening later in life, be so very good for us when we are the most vulnerable and new?
Something to ponder...

Now, I am not recommending that you go out and stuff yourself full of animal fats right now without looking back. I know that the body is a very complex creation and many factors influence it's proper functioning. There are certain things that many people eat a lot of, like lectins found in grains, that oxidise LDLs and actually make them harmful to you.

What I am saying is, my personal ideas about cholesterol have changed a lot since learning about the paleo way of eating and living. In fact I'm no longer scared of fats, animal or otherwise, at all. I've learnt so much about the benefits of fat (eg. the brain is made almost entirely of fat and requires a fair amount of the stuff to grow, or even function correctly). And the fact that breastmilk (read: perfect food) is high in cholesterol has completely convinced me that it need not be a bad thing.

If you would like to learn a little more try visiting Robb Wolf, he is a biochemist-come-health-expert who says "Reducing inflammation through a clean, Paleo diet, abstaining from smoking and excessive exercise, minimizing alcohol consumption, and engaging in stress-lowering habits.  When these variables are in order, we do not need to be so caught up with (worrying about) saturated fats."

Note: These are just my opinions and musings on information from more knowledgable others that I have (tried to) understand. It is entirely possible that I may have misinterpreted some of the facts, and if I am totally incorrect please feel free to help me out.

What's your opinion? Are you scared of fats, or embracing them?

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