Ginger: An Extraordinary Spice to Combat Heart Disease…
You’ve been lied to for years. Decades, really.
Everywhere you turn, someone is telling you to watch your cholesterol, telling you that one form or another of cholesterol is either “good” or “bad,” and that if it gets too high, you are at serious risk for heart disease or even death.
Even worse, they are selling you drugs to lower your cholesterol… drugs that actually deplete your heart of the very nutrients it needs to run effectively.
As if this wasn’t enough, they are also ignoring the REAL reasons that so many people die unnecessarily of heart disease each year – reasons you likely haven’t heard from your doctor before.
Fortunately, there is an extraordinary natural solution that’s likely sitting inside one of your kitchen cabinets right now, and it’s been proven to help reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
Before we reveal what this natural solution is, let’s start to reverse the brainwashing process by taking a closer look at what REALLY causes heart disease.
The REAL Culprits in Heart Disease…
For years the medical establishment has had us believing that “bad” cholesterol will be our undoing. That evil, dangerous, high cholesterol is one of the leading causes – if not THE leading cause – of heart disease in the United States, despite a preponderance of evidence to the contrary.
There are a million possibilities for WHY doctors are still pushing the cholesterol issue: lack of knowledge, lack of understanding, the fact that it’s easier to stick with what’s “known,” and perverse financial incentives.
However, you don’t have to fall victim to their ignorance. By looking at the research, we find that there are really two primary causes for heart disease, each of which feed off of the other to make a bad situation worse.
The first cause we’ll start with is inflammation – a necessary process that occurs in each of our bodies to help us heal, but when it spins out of control, it can have devastating consequences.
A study from as far back as 2002 has shown that inflammation is one of the primary predictors of coronary artery disease… not cholesterol.1
Researchers tested both LDL cholesterol levels and C-reactive protein levels or CRP (a marker for inflammation) in 28,000 healthy postmenopausal women. They followed the women for about eight years and noted those who had a stroke, heart attack, or blood clot, as well as those who died from cardiovascular causes.
They found that elevated CRP was the best indicator of risk of cardiovascular issues. In fact, they concluded that “the C-reactive protein level is a stronger predictor of cardiovascular events than the LDL cholesterol level.”
In other words, high inflammation is more problematic than high cholesterol when it comes to risk of heart disease. As you’ll see in a second, this makes perfect sense.
But inflammation itself doesn’t act alone – it acts in concert with the second most important cause of heart disease: oxidative stress.
And because it’s the way that oxidative stress interacts with cholesterol that has caused all of the confusion and brainwashing over the years, we need to first take a closer look at cholesterol.
Cholesterol: A Building Block, Not Road Block…
Cholesterol is not the demon most doctors make it out to be. In fact, it is a necessary raw material made by your liver, brain, and virtually every cell in your body, and without it you’d die.
It is critical for the creation of hormones and cells, and it is a major component of the membranes surrounding cells, as well as the structures within them.
If that’s the case, then common sense would have us question conventional medical wisdom that tells us we should reduce our cholesterol levels at all costs. Does this make ANY sense at all?
Of course not – but through a series of somewhat unbelievable events that have spanned nearly half a century, we’ve all been brainwashed into thinking that cholesterol is bad.
Worse yet, as part of this brainwashing, we’ve been told that HDL is “good” cholesterol and “LDL” is bad cholesterol, but nothing could be further from the truth. Take either of those out of your body and you’d literally collapse.
To see why that would happen, consider these simple mechanics. Your liver produces and regulates cholesterol, acting like a central switching station, pushing cholesterol to where it’s needed… which is everywhere.
The problem is, cholesterol is a fat and your blood is mostly water, and fat doesn’t mix well with water. Therefore, cholesterol needs a “shuttle” to help it navigate through your bloodstream to where it’s needed. This is where HDL and LDL come into play.
To create this type of “shuttle,” your body coats the cholesterol with a special protein and the resulting combined substance is called LDL, or low density lipoprotein, which is then zipped on its way through your bloodstream to wherever it’s needed.
Once your cells are done processing the LDL cholesterol, HDL (or high density lipoprotein) then comes in and, like a garbage collector, scoops up the processed or unused cholesterol, coats it in another special protein to prepare it for transport, and zips it back to your liver where it’s either recycled into new cholesterol or excreted from your body.
It’s a pretty simple process, but probably something you haven’t heard before. In that context, it’s clear that LDL and HDL are both critical components of our biology and neither is good nor bad.
That said, there IS, in fact, something that can happen to LDL that mutates it into something that can indeed cause heart disease… and this is where we find the connection between oxidative stress, inflammation, cholesterol, and heart disease.
The REAL Problem with LDL…
You’ve likely heard of free radicals. Free radicals are unbalanced molecules that are missing an electron (don’t worry; no degree in physics or biology is required to understand this).
They seek to rebalance themselves by “stealing” that missing electron from other weaker molecules in your body, thus “oxidizing” those molecules and turning them into free radicals as well. This is the “oxidation process.”
This may sound like something that’s not good for you, but this oxidation process is actually a normal part of your biology and involves breaking down the foods you eat and turning that food into energy for your body to use.
Your body has a built-in coping mechanism that automatically rebalances these free radicals by using antioxidants either generated from within your body or derived from the foods you eat (think blueberries, cherries, etc.).
These antioxidants are very generous, biologically speaking, and carry around extra electrons that they happily donate to the free radicals and thus neutralize them.
However, excessive free radicals caused by a variety of toxic lifestyle choices (a diet high in sugar and trans fats, high emotional stress, smoking, lack of exercise, etc.) can overwhelm your body’s ability to keep these free radicals in check, and that can lead to heart disease as well as a whole host of other chronic diseases.
Now we come full circle.
One of the major causes of heart disease occurs when free radicals oxidize smaller LDL particles. After the arteries are damaged by the oxidized LDL particles, inflammation – your body’s natural healing process – then kicks in to help heal the damage by creating scar tissue, more commonly known as plaque.
But this same inflammation intended to heal actually causes more damage to the arteries and then a vicious cycle ensues in which inflammation leads to more oxidative stress and vice versa.
More plaque begins to builds up, blocking the blood flow through the arteries even further, making it more likely that blood clots will form, potentially leading to a heart attack.
So the key point is this: LDL is just a mid-point in this entire process and it is not the core underlying reason for heart disease; instead, we should be focused on oxidative stress and inflammation.
The primary way to combat those two causes is to eat a healthy diet full of nutrient-dense whole foods, exercise, minimize stress, and avoid toxic substances. But in today’s hectic world with the lifestyles that most people lead, it can be difficult to make those changes quickly.
Fortunately, Mother Nature has provided us with a cheap, effective, natural therapy to help immediately reduce oxidative stress and inflammation while we work on making long-term changes to our lifestyle.
Ginger: The Spice of Life…
Ginger has been used medically for decades to treat a variety of cardiovascular conditions, including blood clots and high cholesterol. In theory, this then helps to reduce your risk for heart attack and stroke.
But how does ginger do this?
Studies have shown that ginger contains anti-inflammatory properties that work much like the more common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, often referred to as NSAIDs.2
Specifically, ginger inhibits the action of several of the genes involved in the inflammation process. For those of you who are more scientifically minded, these are the genes that encode cytokines, chemokines, and the inducible enzyme cyclooxygenase-2.
Ginger helps to reduce inflammation by actually blocking the very genes needed to create inflammation in the first place. But how does this work?
In a placebo-controlled animal study, researchers gave both a low dose (50 mg/kg) and a high dose (500 mg/kg) of ginger extract to rats for four weeks.3
Researchers found that rats given the higher dosage of ginger extract orally exhibited a statistically significant reduction in blood-clotting factors and cholesterol levels, as compared to the placebo group. They also had a reduction in inflammation markers.
Researchers concluded that ginger may be useful as a cholesterol-lowering, anti-inflammatory blood thinner.
But, aside from pointing out the inflammation-fighting properties of ginger, the study doesn’t really show WHY ginger had this effect. Could it have anything to do with preventing oxidation?
Another study tries to answer this question.
In a randomized, placebo-controlled animal study, researchers divided 60 mice into groups of three.4 One group received 25 mcg of ginger extract in their water. The second group received 250 mcg of ginger extract in their water, and third group were not given any ginger.
At the end of 10 weeks, those mice that had 250 mcg of ginger extract had significantly lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels than the other groups. More importantly, however, was the fact that both ginger groups exhibited lower oxidized LDL cholesterol.
In other words, not only did the ginger lower cholesterol levels when given at the higher dosage, but BOTH dosages helped prevent cholesterol from oxidizing, which as we reviewed before, is really one of the true underlying causes of heart disease.
While the researchers didn’t comment on why this was the case, common sense says the antioxidants and phytochemicals found in ginger somehow neutralize free radicals (remember, those are what oxidize the LDL particles) which either directly or indirectly then reduces inflammation.
But What About Ginger’s Effects on Humans?
This is great, but those were animal studies. What about humans?
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 40 people (20 were healthy and 20 had a history of coronary artery disease), participants were equally divided into two groups.5 One group received five grams of ginger powder each day, while the other received a placebo.
At the end of four weeks, those people taking the ginger enjoyed statistically greater reductions in lipoprotein oxidation than the placebo group.
Specifically, it decreased oxidation by 18 percent in the “healthy” participants and 23 percent in those with a history of coronary artery disease. The placebo group showed no significant change in oxidation status in either group.
Or, to say it bluntly, the ginger worked. This is the type of gold standard, human trial that truly helps make the case for nutriceuticals over prescriptions.
How to Use Ginger the Right Way…
To get the amazing cardiovascular benefits of this power-spice for yourself, there are several ways to use ginger.
The two most obvious are to cook with it or to make ginger tea. When cooking with ginger, try to use the actual root to maximize the amount and quality of the phytochemicals that you’ll benefit from.
After peeling off the tough outer skin, you can slice or grate ginger and add it to soups, stir fries, and virtually any chicken, fish, or bean dish for a great shot of flavor, as well as health.
To make ginger tea, peel ginger root and dice a one-inch slice into 15 to 20 pieces. Steep in boiling water for half an hour then enjoy. You can also add a dash of honey and lemon for a little extra zing.
Lastly, you can take ginger in capsule form. The research5 suggests that you take up to five grams of powdered ginger a day in capsule form (you can divide this dosage up by taking 2,500 mg twice a day or 1,250 mg four times a day.)
When choosing a ginger extract product, make sure the manufacturer uses good manufacturing practices (GMP) for the product and be sure the product actually contains real ginger.
Ideally it should also be free of preservatives, fillers, binders, excipients, flow agents, shellacs, coloring agents, gluten, yeast, lactose, and other allergens. Try to find an independent analysis done by a third party to verify the active ingredients and identify any contaminants.
No matter how you use ginger, your heart will thank you.
And, as always, remember that there are no magic bullets when it comes to health. To change your health for good, including overcoming cardiovascular disease, you need to permanently change your lifestyle for the better, including eating nutrient-rich whole foods and getting moderate daily exercise.
1Ridker, PM et al. “Comparison of C-reactive protein and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels in the prediction of first cardiovascular events.” N Engl J Med. 2002 Nov 14;347(20):1557-65.
2Grzanna, R et al. “Ginger – an herbal medicinal product with broad anti-inflammatory actions.” J Med Food. 2005 Summer;8(2):125-32.
3Thomson, M et al. “The use of ginger (Zingiber officinale Rosc.) as a potential anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic agent.” Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2002 Dec;67(6):475-8.
4Fuhrman, B et al. “Ginger extract consumption reduces plasma cholesterol, inhibits LDL cholesterol oxidation and attenuates development of atherosclerosis in artherosclerotic, apolipoprotein E-deficient mice.” J Nutr. 2000 May;130(5):1124-31.
5Verma, SK et al. “Antioxidant property of ginger in patients with coronary artery disease.” South Asian J Prev Cardiology. 2004;8(4).
6Altman, RD and Marcussen, KC. “Effects of ginger extract on knee pain in patients with osteoarthritis.” Arthritis Rheum. 2001 Nov;44(11):2531-8.
7Vutyavanich, T. et al. “Ginger for nausea and vomiting in pregnancy: Randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled trial.” Obstet Gynecol 2001;97: 577-82.
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