What is an arterial plaque made of exactly?
Oxidative stress leads to inflammation, and the body comes to put the fire out.
Healthy immune cells called macrophages are sent to trauma, inflammation, or oxidative stress areas. In the case of arterial plaque, they consume oxidized LDL carriers of cholesterol and become a “foam cell” that lines the artery, forming plaque.
What do the LDL carriers carry?
LDL stands for Low-Density Lipoprotein.
It’s called Low Density due to the smaller size and decreased density of the lipo (fat) protein (uh, protein) it has become as it essentially deflates in size as it delivers cholesterol it carries to the body’s cells.
An LDL starts as a chylomicron full of cholesterol made in the liver. As it is dropped off to the body that needs it, this carrier shrinks to what we call an intermediate density (IDL) carrier, then a Very Low Density (VLDL), and finally, an LDL.
The immune system cells, macrophages, only engulf oxidized LDL particles and leave the healthy ones to continue their job delivering cholesterol to the cells of the body and then returning to the liver to be refilled and repeat the process.
The LDLs that become oxidized are filled with oxidized sterols.
We use the term cholesterol, chol-esterol, when referring to what these LDL carriers carry, but it can be any sterol from the sterol molecule family.
The sterols that are most susceptible to damage, aka oxidation, are phyto-sterols.
Why phytosterols (aka plant cholesterol)?
Because they are found in omega-6 fatty acids.
Omega-6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids are both essential and highly unstable, having multiple (poly) bonds in their fatty acid chain that are open to oxidative attack (rancidity).
Plant oils are filled primarily with unstable, oxidation omega-6 fatty acids and phytosterols that become oxidized very quickly when consumed and become free radical-producing molecules in the human (animal) body.
Not all immune macrophages engulfing these damaged plant cholesterols (phytosterols) end up as part of arterial plaque. Most end up being neutralized and recycled through the body’s recycling system of autophagy.
The immune cells previously known as macrophages that engulf these oxidized LDL particles, now called mast cells, can also be used to reinforce a damaged tissue, specifically arteries in the heart, in the form of plaque and blood clots. Some argue they are one and the same.
So, one way to reduce oxidative stress, inflammation, artery damage, and plaque formation within the arteries is to eliminate non-human sterols, aka phyto or plant sterols, from the system by not eating or consuming them.
What happens when you eliminate “plant cholesterol” from your diet?
Your cholesterol will initially go up, then stabilize to your true human cholesterol levels and requirements in time.
As long as you eat or consume plant cholesterol or plant sterols, you will have an artificial cholesterol count about 17 points lower than your natural levels. Give or take, statistically speaking.
Remember, the oxidized, damaged plant cholesterol (phytosterols) causes the immune system to react, send the macrophages, form the foam cells, and contribute to arterial plaquing.
So, no matter the number or the short-term fluctuation, you don’t want those there because they are the problem, not the LDL count, but rather what they have in them.
This is a huge concept and a very brief overview of complex physiology and likely something you have yet to hear, especially from your doctor trying to put you on cholesterol meds. I get it.
Please just read it a couple times.
Think it through.
Look into the different points if interested or if something seems conflicting. The info is just one internet search away.
Still, the understanding took me years of learning, reading thousands of research papers, dozens of books (on this subject alone), clinical experience, testing, and using to put into practical action.
I hope my process helps you in yours.
We can do better!