Archive for the ‘Ask Marilyn – Star Questions’ Category

Ask Marilyn – Star Question: Can you explain the difference between fat and cholesterol?

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Q: Can you explain the difference between fat and cholesterol? 


A: This is an excellent question and one that I am asked about frequently in the clinic. Cholesterol is a type of fat that exists in all our cell membranes. It is vital for such functions as nerve transmission, the formation of vitamin D – needed for bone health, the manufacture of our sex hormones and of some of our stress hormones, and for the formation of bile. So you can see that having enough cholesterol is important. Approximately, 80% of cholesterol is produced in your liver – only 20% comes directly from your diet. 


Cholesterol is only found in animal products such as meat, dairy products, butter and eggs. So foods with fats do not necessarily contain cholesterol. It is not found in vegetable products, for example, so although an avocado or olive contains fat they do not contain cholesterol. 


It is often easy to see if a food contains fat but difficult to know if it contains cholesterol. So an egg can contain good levels of both fat and cholesterol, whereas vegetables contain low levels of both. Then you have the foods like shellfish, which contain very little fat but a high level of cholesterol, and nut butters (like peanut butter), which are high in fat and low in cholesterol. 


Cholesterol has to travel in the bloodstream and in order to do this it is combined with a protein. When combined with this protein, the cholesterol is then called a lipoprotein. There are two main types of lipoprotein that carry cholesterol around your body. Low density lipoproteins (LDL- ‘bad’) are responsible for carrying cholesterol to the artery wall, while the other high density lipoprotein (HDL – ‘good’) helps to return cholesterol to the liver. If you have high LDL then this can deposit on damaged and inflamed arterial walls. These deposits, which also consist of saturated fats and calcium (that is why cardiologists talk about calcification of arteries), are called arterial plaque or atheroma. The balance of these two lipoproteins in the blood is more important than the total cholesterol.


In the Star Question next month, I will cover how to reduce cholesterol and LDL naturally. 



Ask Marilyn – Star Question: my daughter has PCOS – is there anything she can do to increase her chances of conceiving?

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Q: My daughter is about to get married and is keen to start a family. Since the age of 17, she has suffered from Polycystic Ovaries, showing symptoms such as facial hair, hair loss and a weight problem. She has also been warned that conception may be more complicated for her. She used to have infrequent periods but now has them regularly every 5 to 6 weeks. The normal help for her condition, such as the contraceptive pill or metformin, she cannot be prescribed as the first gave her occasional blackouts and the second nausea. She keeps her weight under control by sensible eating but even so is probably a little more than she should be for her height. Is there any advice you would give her to increase her chances of conceiving?

A: In each menstrual cycle, follicles (which contain eggs) grow on the ovaries. One of these follicles will reach maturity faster than the others and be released at ovulation. The remaining follicles will degenerate. In the case of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), the ovaries are much larger than normal, and there are a series of undeveloped follicles that appear in clumps, like a bunch of grapes. This can cause a hormonal imbalance, leading to a series of symptoms including being overweight, having no – or very few – periods, being prone to acne and excess body hair. And with this can come problems with fertility and recurrent miscarriages.

Over the last few years, research into the nutritional approach to PCOS has revolutionised the treatment of this problem. It is known that women with PCOS are more likely to have problems balancing blood sugar and can produce high levels of insulin. The more circulating insulin, the more the ovaries produce testosterone.


So the aim is to balance the blood sugar by eating little and often and going for foods that do not cause the blood sugar to rise quickly. There is not enough space to go into this in detail here but the best recommendation is to either read the PCOS chapter in my Nutritional Health Handbook for Women or, as your daughter’s main focus is to get pregnant, then read my book ‘Getting Pregnant Faster’. 


As her blood sugar stabilises your daughter will lose weight and it has been found that as women with PCOS lose weight, hormone levels start to return to normal. One study found that 11 out of 12 women who had been overweight and not ovulating conceived naturally after reducing their weight.


Certain vitamins and minerals can also be useful to make the dietary recommendations more effective. For fertility it is best to add in the Fertility Plus for Women and the Fertility Plus for Men (see the Resources Page).



Ask Marilyn – Star Question: are epsom salts effective and are they always safe to take?

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

Q: I’ve read up a little about Epsom Salts or Magnesium Sulphate, and they sound great for some skin problems, helping the body to detox, as a muscle relaxant (good for muscle cramp/spasm?) and de-stressor. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the subject and if there are any cases where it would not be recommended (such as during pregnancy?).

A: We think of magnesium generally as nature’s tranquilliser as it has a calming and relaxing effect on the body including the muscles.  Epsom salts are just hydrated magnesium sulphate and when used in the bath, the magnesium is absorbed through the skin, hence the relaxing effect on problems with muscle cramps and spasms.  This relaxant effect is also useful for women who have painful periods because the womb is a muscle and can also be helpful for other conditions where muscles are affected e.g. fibromyalgia.  The magnesium can also help reduce inflammation so may be useful for people with arthritis and general aches and pains.

Epsom salt baths can also be helpful for skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis as it can reduce inflammation in the skin.  Soaking in Epsom salt baths can also be helpful for relieving a flare up of genital herpes and when suffering from shingles. 

It is also thought that Epsom salts can help draw toxins out of the body, so helpful if you are doing a detox and want something to make the detox more effective.  It is not advisable to detox during pregnancy because the toxins will be released into the bloodstream and can pass into the baby.  So I would suggest that in pregnancy only the feet are soaked in Epsom salts.

For a regular bath use one to two cups of Epsom salts in water temperature that is comfortable (not too hot).  You could do dry body brushing before you get in the bath as this will help to open up the pores to increase the absorption of the Epsom salts.  An Epsom salt bath is best at the end of the day because at the end of the bath, just dry yourself off and get into bed, it is better not to rinse off the salts.