Shortly after World War II, doctors and researchers discovered that cholesterol is a component of arterial plaque. It wasn’t long after this discovery that the medical establishment waged war on cholesterol, blaming it as a major contributor to heart disease. Four decades later, many are stumped as to how to increase good cholesterol.

JoggersSimply put: It’s not as straightforward as many people would hope.

In fact, the subject of cholesterol is very controversial. Ask one doctor who follows the mainstream medical liturgy of how to increase good cholesterol and you’ll likely hear the following:

  • Replace saturated fats with monounsaturated fats.
  • Substitute animal-based products with soy foods for heart health.
  • Possibly take prescription drugs to reduce your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels.
  • Perform daily aerobic exercise for 30 minutes most days of the week and you can raise your HDL levels, or “good” cholesterol.
It’s safe to say there are no doctors who would argue with the fact that exercise can boost HDL levels.

However, some doctors disagree with the American Heart Association’s claim that, “High cholesterol is one of the major controllable risk factors for coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke. As your blood cholesterol rises, so does your risk of coronary heart disease.”

The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics lists approximately 80 medical doctor members all of whom disavow mainstream medical advice about how to raise good cholesterol.

Although not a member of the Network of Cholesterol Skeptics, Palm Desert, Calif.-based, Dr. Jon Dunn said back in 2008, “Overall I believe that cholesterol by itself is essential to our health and well-being, and the majority of negative publicity surrounding cholesterol serves only to profit the pharmaceutical industry.”

Cholesterol, Dunn asserts, is not the main culprit for heart disease. So what is? According to Dunn, it’s inflammation, and the following methods — in addition to regular exercise — can reduce your risk for arterial inflammation, and as a side benefit, can increase HDL levels, or what’s commonly called in the mainstream medical realm as good cholesterol:

  • Don’t cook with vegetable oils other than olive oil.
  • Avoid high sugar/processed food; white flour products; alcohol and nicotine.
  • Maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
  • Correct hormonal imbalances.
  • Manage stress levels.

You can increase HDL cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation, according to Dunn by consuming some of the following foods and supplements:

  • Dark fruits (blueberries, dark cherries, blackberries, dark grapes)
  • Omega 3 fatty acids (in the form of whole, coldwater oily fish like salmon or fish oil supplements, 1200-2400 milligrams, 2-3 times per day with meals)
  • Magnesium: 200 mg 1-2 times perday
  • Calcium citrate: 500 milligrams daily
  • Alpha Lipoic: 100–500 milligrams daily
In his book "The Cholesterol Myths," Swedish doctor Uffe Ravnskov, who is the spokesman for the International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics, argues that saturated fat is unjustly blamed for causing heart disease. On the contrary, Ravnskov posits that saturated fats, such as animal protein, which contain cholesterol, are important for overall health.

Dr. Thomas Cowan, another doctor who has doubts that cholesterol should be blamed for heart disease suggests the following for those with high levels of LDLs, and thus want to increase good cholesterol:

  • Take a liver-cleansing supplement
  • Supplement with artichoke extract
  • Lower carbohydrate intake
Drinking water

Bloomfield, Mich.-based Dr. David Brownstein, another member of the International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics, claims that Vitamin C can also reduce inflammation, which, according to him, is more important than worrying about eating foods like organic, all-natural animal-based products that contain cholesterol. His recommendations:

  • 2,000-5,000 milligrams per day of vitamin C
  • Drink enough water
  • Don’t eat refined foods
There are always exceptions to the rule. Some people are just dealt a bad genetic hand of cards and are at risk of dying young while having high cholesterol levels. But an increasing number of doctors are saying that rather than worrying about increasing good cholesterol, worry instead about reducing inflammation in your body.

Judd Handler is a freelance health writer in Encinitas, Calif.

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Photos: Ed Yourdon/Flickr; Identity Photogr@phy/Flickr