On Nutrition by Ed Blonz

Diet Not the Only Source of Cholesterol

DEAR DR. BLONZ: What actually controls how much cholesterol the body makes? Can the body manufacture more cholesterol than it gets in food? -- D.D., Philadelphia

DEAR D.D.: Cholesterol is an essential structural element in every cell of the body. It is also a raw material for many hormones, including estrogen and testosterone. Given these points, you would wonder how vegans survive -- without eating animal products, they have no source of dietary cholesterol.

The answer is that the body does, indeed, make cholesterol on its own. It is a waxy substance and, like other lipids, does not dissolve in our body’s water-based blood. As a result, it needs to be shuttled around the blood inside fat-carrying proteins called lipoproteins.

Most of the body’s cholesterol is manufactured in the liver. When cholesterol is present in the foods we eat, the liver is programmed to make less. There are a number of genetic conditions in which the body makes more cholesterol than it needs, but they are rare. More common is the condition in which a person has an unbalanced diet heavy in meat, fat and simple carbohydrates, and light on whole grains, greens, fresh fruits and vegetables. Couple this with an inactive, stress-filled lifestyle, and elevated blood cholesterol comes knocking at the door.

This is a concern for many, so I encourage you to read more on the topic at tinyurl.com/ya489wua and tinyurl.com/ycu2s63m.

DEAR DR. BLONZ: At least once a day, three fingers on my right hand turn white, then purple. They feel tingly and usually become numb. My doctor has never seen it happen. He has not known how to approach the situation, so it gets ignored. What do you think it could be? Is it related to allergies or anything I am eating? I’m a 78-year-old woman in otherwise great health, but this is quite annoying. -- L.E., via email

DEAR L.E.: I need to remind you up-front that I am not a medical doctor, so I cannot diagnose your problem or dispense medical advice. But I can say that your issue is not likely to be related to nutrition. The National Institute of Health has information about a condition known as Raynaud’s phenomenon at tinyurl.com/y7wm4rcv. I would recommend that you read this and determine if it fits your situation.

Then -- and this is most important -- make an appointment to discuss the issue with your physician. You can take the information from the NIH (or not, if it doesn’t apply). If you don’t get the attention you need from your current health professional, seek another. Your health is on the line, and you should not be ignored.

Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to questions@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.