Cholesterol is good for you

Cholesterol has acquired a bad reputation in the past six decades or so and most people seem to think that it is bad in all forms. Certainly people believe there is one kind of “good cholesterol” but in general they believe that numbers should be low.

Recently, certain government organizations have reversed their position on cholesterol claiming that it is no longer “a nutrient of concern,” and that it may not be dangerous when obtained from whole-food sources and non-processed foods. This is something that many doctors and health researchers have known for decades but, it’s good to see an official reversal from regulatory organizations. It is unfortunate that for decades we have been told that it “causes” heart disease and that it is important to avoid sources like butter and eggs. An entire industry of low-fat dairy and yolk-less “eggs” was established and many people dutifully avoided these “bad” foods.  Now it turns out that eggs and butter haven’t been the enemy all along.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is an organic molecule that is essential for all animal life. Classified as a sterol, it is found in the cell membrane of animal tissues and is a necessary precursor for steroid hormones and bile salts in the body. Physically, its texture is often compared to soft candle wax.

Cholesterol can be found in certain foods but, it is also created by the body on a daily basis. In fact, the body creates more than a person consumes through diet synthesizing over 1,000 mg of cholesterol, in total, while obtaining only an average of about 300 mg from food.

This is part of the reason that dietary amounts don’t necessarily relate to total cholesterol in the body and why avoiding dietary sources wouldn’t necessarily be effective, even if cholesterol was problematic, for health. Only about a quarter of the cholesterol used by the body on a daily basis comes from diet, with the majority being created in the body and, when dietary consumption decreases, the body creates more to compensate.

Cholesterol and Heart Disease

This is where things get interesting. As has already been mentioned, this lipid is necessary for the body and is found in the cell membranes of all animal tissue. In short, without it, we would die. In fact, the lower a person’s levels, the higher their risk of death and high cholesterol levels have more recently been correlated to longevity.

As with all aspects of life, it is important to note that correlation does not equal causation, but ironically, this is where the myth of the danger of cholesterol originated.

The Framingham Heart Study began in 1948 and followed over 5,000 people for 50 years. One of the early results of this study was the observation of a correlation between high cholesterol and heart disease. It is important to note that this result was strictly observational and that when we consider the actual data, those with heart disease only had an 11% increase in serum levels. Additionally, the data only held up until the subjects were 50 years old. After age 50, the study found no correlation between heart disease and high cholesterol.

Either something about turning 50 magically increases a person’s ability to avoid heart disease or there is more to the story.

Consider These Points

    75% of people who suffer from a heart attack have normal levels of total serum cholesterol.

    Low serum cholesterol has been linked with higher mortality.

    High levels of serum cholesterol correlate to longevity.

    Cholesterol has never been clinically demonstrated to cause a single heart attack.

    In women, serum levels have an inverse relationship with mortality from all causes.

For every 1 mg/dl (0.026 mmol/l) drop in cholesterol there was a 14% increase in the rise of overall mortality.

    Many countries with higher average cholesterol have lower rates of heart disease.

Low levels are a risk factor for several types of cancer so we must consider the implications of statin drugs to lower cholesterol on cancer risk in light of this research.

¼ of the body’s cholesterol is in the brain and studies have demonstrated higher rates of dementia in people with low cholesterol. Research also found a correlation between higher LDL and better memory in elderly patients.

Even the “dangerous” LDL type doesn’t hold up to scrutiny as a culprit for heart disease. A study conducted in 2015 attempted to clarify the relationship between heart attack and serum levels and after following 724 patients who suffered a heart attack the authors found that:-

“those with lower LDL-cholesterol and triglyceride levels had a significantly elevated mortality risk when compared to patients with higher LDL and triglyceride levels. In fact, LDL of less than 110 mmg/dl (2.85 mmol/l) and triglyceride less than 62.5 mmg/dl (0.7 mmol/l) were identified as optimal threshold values for predicting 30-day mortality. The lower LDL level was associated with a 65% increased mortality and the lower triglyceride level was associated with a 405% increased mortality. Furthermore, as compared to patients with LDL levels less than 110mg/dl (2.85 mmol/l) and triglycerides less than 62.5 mg/dl (0.7 mmol/l), those with lowered LDL and triglyceride levels had a 990% (or 10.9x) increased risk for mortality.”

The Benefits of Cholesterol

It turns out that not only is LDL not as harmful as once believed, it has a variety of benefits to the body. Even writing that cholesterol is beneficial may seem crazy in light of the dietary dogma of the last half century, but its importance is well-supported by research.  Cholesterol has the following benefits in the body:

    It is vital for the formation and maintenance of cell walls

    It is used by nerve cells as insulation

    The liver uses it to make bile, which is needed for digestion of fats

    It is a precursor to Vitamin D and in the presence of sunlight, the body converts cholesterol in to Vitamin D

    It is needed for creation of vital hormones, including sex hormones

    It helps support the immune system by improving t-cell signaling and may fight inflammation

    It is necessary for the absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins (A,D, E and K)

It is a precursor for making the steroid hormones cortisol and aldosterone which are necessary for regulation of circadian rhythms, weight, mental health and more

It is used in the uptake of serotonin in the brain

It may serve as an antioxidant in the body

As it is used in the maintenance of cell walls, including the cells in the digestive system, there is evidence that cholesterol is necessary for gut integrity and avoiding leaky gut

The body sends cholesterol from the liver to places of inflammation and tissue damage to help repair it

Additionally, cholesterol-rich foods are the main dietary source of the b-vitamin choline, which is vital for the brain, liver and nervous system. Choline is vital during pregnancy and for proper development in children.  Only 10% of the population meets the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for choline!

The Bottom Line on Cholesterol

Dietary cholesterol does not significantly affect blood levels and is no longer considered a “nutrient of concern” when it comes to heart disease.

Cholesterol levels do not statistically correlate to heart disease and those with low levels have a higher risk of death from all causes while high levels are linked to longevity. Men under age 50 do have a *slightly* increased risk of heart disease with levels over 300 mg/dl (7.6 mmol/l), but levels just under 300 mg/dl (7.6 mmol/l) removed this risk and maintaining levels at 200 mg/dl (5.2 mmol/l) or lower did not offer any more statistical benefit. Also, since 90+% of heart disease occurs in those over age 60, the big push to lower cholesterol levels (and the corresponding rise in cancer risk) may do much more harm than good.

Low cholesterol is also correlated with mental problems like dementia and several types of cancers so the idea of taking drugs specifically to lower serum levels warrants further scrutiny, especially in segments of the population (like children, women, and men over age 50) when there is no correlation to heart disease to begin with!

In a groundbreaking study published in the American Journal of Cardiovascular Disease in 2015, scientists at the Dr. Rath Research Institute proved that cardiovascular disease is essentially an early form of the vitamin C deficiency disease scurvy. Building on a discovery made by Dr. Rath in the early 1990s, the publication of this study dealt major blows to the cholesterol theory of heart disease and the pharmaceutical industry’s multibillion-dollar annual sales in cholesterol-lowering statin drugs.

People with atherosclerosis or arteriosclerosis and suffering from angina can manage their condition and reverse it by using natural treatments such as combinations of vitamin C, lysine, proline, N-acetyl-glucosamine, chondroitin sulphate and copper in the correct quantities.

At the end of the day, we are each responsible for our own health and with the emerging evidence that exonerates cholesterol as a culprit in heart disease, I hope that many of us will research and question the promotion of cholesterol lowering drugs.  Lowering your cholesterol is not beneficial and can be very dangerous.

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