Cholesterol 101

Cholesterol 101

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Everything I read speaks of cholesterol and lipids, but those phrases don’t work for me. The reason I called this article abnormal blood fats is that depending on which component we are speaking of-LDL, HDL or Triglycerides-the ideal value is relative to each particular one. But before we go further, I don’t think that cholesterol is evil! In fact, without cholesterol you wouldn’t exist. Yes, you read that right! Your body actually needs cholesterol to keep your body healthy. Some comes from our diet, but our body naturally manufactures the remainder. Cholesterol is a critical part of each cell membrane in your body. It is needed to help with the permeability (ease of substances passing through it). It is also important in the body for helping to produce Vitamin A, D, E and K, bile acids (digestion), steroid hormones such as coritsol (often called the stress hormone), and the sex hormones progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone. As you can see, your body needs cholesterol to function. What makes Cholesterol evil is either an abundance (above what you were genetically predisposed to handle) and/or what happens to cholesterol in your body (I will explain what I mean in a minute).

I mentioned above that our body manufactures cholesterol naturally and we consume some in our daily diet (primary sources: Dairy, Eggs, Meats, Chicken, Fish, Pork, Seeds, and Nuts. The amount of cholesterol in plant sources is significantly lower than the amounts found in animal based foods. The amount of saturated fats and trans fats consumed seems to have a much greater impact on cholesterol levels than the consumption of cholesterol by itself. In fact, consuming plant sourced “fats” in my opinion should have little to no direct negative impact on your cholesterol. The fiber and other nutritional components of nuts and seeds should outweigh the negative effects of the fats found in these foods.

Regretfully, all of this focus on Cholesterol is overblown. If there ever were a place in Modern Medicine for a conspiracy theory, cholesterol medications would be it! As mentioned above, cholesterol is vital for the functionality in every cell of your body. Lowering it to abnormal levels can be just as life threatening (in my opinion) as having levels too high. For example, if you don’t have enough cholesterol in your skin, the UVB rays in sunlight won’t be able to interact with your cholesterol to manufacture the Vitamin D our body’s need so desperately to prevent other disease (Cancer, Osteoporosis, etc.). If cholesterol was so evil to the body, then why does the body recycle cholesterol in the liver? It doesn’t destroy it and remove it, but recycle it to be used again by your body.

Cholesterol testing is not a good indicator for developing heart disease! Yes, this is just my opinion. As I mentioned earlier, a better test would be CRP (C-reactive protein). CRP levels are used to determine if you have chronic inflammation in your arteries. Chronic inflammation in your arteries is what will lead to plaque buildup in your arteries, not cholesterol. Cholesterol is actually part of the healing process.

Inflammation occurs in your arteries due to a pinprick caused by free radicals produced during normal metabolism or from toxins from poor lifestyle (smoking, too much alcohol, pesticides.) As the body heals this pinprick, a scab/scar is known as plaque can form. Combine the scar with thickening blood and your now have increased risk for a heart attack and stroke. So looking at this situation, you can see that it the initial damage that triggers the increase in inflammation that causes the plaque to form is NOT cholesterol. If we live in a state of chronic inflammation, then we are opening ourselves up to more heart attacks, strokes and elevated blood pressure… But NOT because of high cholesterol. Having a CRP test done is a much better indicator of your chances for cardiovascular disease than a standard cholesterol test.

If your cholesterol levels get to low, there are an abundance of possible situations that can and most likely will occur. I mentioned above the issue with formation of Vitamin D. Let’s take a closer look at what else can happen by keeping our cholesterol levels too low. EVERY cell in your body needs cholesterol to function properly. What else do you need to know? All sarcasm aside, take a few minutes to evaluate that statement.

  • Skin Cells: Dryness, eczema, psoriasis, acne, skin cancer, itching, skin ulcers, etc.
  • Nerve Cells: Alzheimer’s, Depression, Anxiety, ADD, ADHD, Parkinson’s Disease, etc.
  • Structural Cells such as Bone, Cartilage, Ligaments, and Tendons: Osteoporosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Arthritis, Sports injuries, Muscular disorders, etc.
  • Hormone Producing Cells: Menopause, ED, Sexual Dysfunction, Andropause (male menopause), Prostate Cancer, Breast Cancer, PMS, Diabetes, Inflammation and pain, etc., Addison’s Disease, etc.
  • Immune Cells: Cancer, Colds/Flu, Allergies, Autoimmune diseases (MS, Lupus, RA), psoriasis, etc.
  • Digestive Cells: IBS, Crohn’s Disease, Colon Cancer, Liver disease, Ulcers, Heartburn, etc.

This may seem dramatic…and maybe it is, but keep in mind that if your cells are not functioning the way they should, anything can go wrong.

Cholesterol is NOT EVIL, the drugs that “treat” it are!