According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 61 million Americans currently suffer from cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease covers a broad spectrum of disorders, including high blood pressure, coronary heart disease (heart attack and chest pain), stroke, congestive heart failure, and birth defects of the heart and blood vessels.
Every year, heart attacks and stroke cause more than 930,000 deaths in the US, accounting for 40% of deaths from all causes and making cardiovascular disease the nation’s number-one killer. While cardiovascular disease primarily kills people aged 65 and older, the incidence of sudden death from heart disease is rising in people aged 15 to 34.1
Reducing serum cholesterol levels—especially low-density lipoprotein (LDL)—is an effective, well-established strategy for preventing cardiovascular disease and reducing coronary events and mortality.2,3 Unfortunately, a recent report in the journal Circulation found that between 1988 and 2000, average total serum cholesterol concentrations in the US population declined by only 1%.4 And while 91% of those surveyed by the American Heart Association (AHA) felt it was “important to them personally to have a healthy cholesterol level,” fewer than 50% knew their own cholesterol levels, and 53% either did not know or overestimated the recommended cholesterol levels for a healthy adult.5
Compounding the problem, only a fraction of those at risk for cardiovascular disease are using pharmaceutical and nutritional strategies known to reduce cholesterol levels. According to estimates based on data gathered from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III (NHANES III), only 6.6% of the 21.1 million Americans eligible for cholesterol-lowering drug therapy under National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) guidelines were using such therapy.6 When researchers examined responses gathered from 13,990 patients, they discovered that fewer than 4% of those diagnosed with hypercholesterolemia (elevated cholesterol) were taking vitamins or supplements known to reduce cholesterol.7
Concerned with the persistent failure of conventional strategies to significantly improve cholesterol profiles and reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease, a broad coalition of medical researchers and scientists is now calling for a massive increase in the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs, particularly the family of pharmaceuticals known as statins.8
Unfortunately, the statin drugs, while very effective, also have side effects that understandably compromise patient compliance. Additionally, statin drugs are expensive to use; depending on the drug and dosage, the cost of statin therapy ranges from $63 to $228 a month.9
A newly available, all-natural supplement has been shown in human studies to significantly lower cholesterol levels—particularly of LDL, triglycerides, and apolipoprotein B—thus helping to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. This supplement, called Sytrinol™, is an important option for health-conscious people seeking a safe, effective, and convenient way to lower cholesterol levels without the side effects and expense of drugs.
Cholesterol and Human Health
Cholesterol is a fatty (lipid) component found in virtually all cell membranes. In addition to supporting cellular integrity, cholesterol is also required for the transport of phospholipids and the biosynthesis of mineralocorticoids (aldosterone), glucocorticoids (cortisol), and sex hormones (progesterone, pregnenolone, testosterone, and estradiol). Far from endangering health, cholesterol is essential to life. In fact, Italian researchers have shown that when serum cholesterol levels are too low (less than 160 mg/dL), mortality in older adults actually increases.10,11
LDL, popularly known as “bad cholesterol,” is the primary transporter of cholesterol in the blood. In atherosclerosis, LDL is taken up in lesions in endothelial cells lining the inner walls of blood vessels, forming deposits in the arterial walls. The deposited LDL undergoes modification, as free radicals oxidize LDL to form foam cells that create a thick, hard plaque.
Over time, plaque accumulation can constrict vessels, inhibiting blood flow and reducing the supply of oxygen reaching the heart, brain, and other organs.12 If a clot (thrombus) blocks an artery already restricted by plaque, blood and oxygen flow can be cut off entirely, leading to a heart attack (if the occlusion occurs in the heart) or a stroke (if it occurs in the brain).
HDL is commonly referred to as “good” cholesterol because it helps remove excess cholesterol from atherosclerotic deposits and retard the growth of new plaque. Low HDL levels have been shown to be an additional risk factor for increased mortality from coronary artery disease and strokes in the elderly.13
How the Body Manages Cholesterol Levels
While cholesterol levels can be modestly influenced by dietary modification about 80% of cholesterol does not come from dietary sources, but is synthesized by the liver.2 The rate-limiting enzyme HMG-CoA (3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A) reductase controls the biosynthesis of cholesterol.
Normally, the liver regulates cholesterol levels via a biochemical feedback loop. When cholesterol levels are low, liver production of HMG-CoA reductase increases to speed biosynthesis of cholesterol. Conversely, when cholesterol levels are too high, the liver limits HMG-CoA reductase production to reduce cholesterol production. Proper functioning of this feedback mechanism is vital for the maintenance of healthy cholesterol levels.
Unfortunately, modern dietary habits (such as excess intake of saturated and trans fatty acids) and lifestyle contribute to the disruption of this system, leading to elevated cholesterol levels and increased risks for developing cardiovascular disease. Additionally, certain genetic disorders, such as familial hyper-cholesterolemia and autosomal recessive hypercholesterolemia, are known to increase LDL levels and risk for developing cardiovascular disease.14
Not All LDL Is Created Equal
To bind with other molecules for transport through the circulatory system, lipids rely on a specialized class of structural proteins, called apoproteins. LDL exists in two versions, differentiated by their protein components. The first, apolipoprotein A, consists of a large, “fluffy” protein called apoprotein A that is cardioprotective when bound to LDL. The second, apolipoprotein B, consists of a small, dense protein called apoprotein B that plays a major role in cardiovascular disease when bound to LDL. Apolipoprotein-B particles enable cholesterol to penetrate and lodge in vascular walls, an important step in initiating the formation of atherosclerotic plaque.15 Apo-lipoprotein B is the predominant form of apolipoprotein, and over 90% of all LDL cholesterol particles in the blood carry apolipoprotein B, making it an especially accurate (and convenient) marker for measuring the cholesterol-depositing capacity of blood.16-18
The importance of apolipoprotein B was highlighted in a report published in 2001 in the British medical journal The Lancet. In the AMORIS study, researchers evaluated cardiovascular markers in over 175,000 men and women over a period of five and a half years. In addition to conventional lipid markers, such as triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL:HDL ratios, the researchers also measured apolipoprotein-B levels. Their findings revealed that those with the highest ratios of apolipoprotein B to apolipoprotein A were at the greatest risk of dying from a heart attack.19
These findings were supported by a second study, published in 2003 in the journal Circulation. In the IRAS study, researchers again measured apolipoprotein-B levels in 1,522 individuals and compared them with an array of standard lipid markers (such as C-reactive protein, fibrinogen, and carotid artery intima-media thickness) to assess cardiovascular disease risks. They found that elevated apolipoprotein-B levels were strongly associated with cardiovascular disease, and concluded that apolipoprotein-B levels are a better predictor of vascular risk than are LDL levels.20
Given the well-documented link between apolipoprotein B and cardiovascular disease, measuring apolipoprotein-B levels offers clinicians and patients a new, highly specific marker for assessing the precise level of LDL in serum and determining individual risk for developing cardiovascular disease.