Cholesterol: A Biological Necessity
You’ve heard that cholesterol is “bad” for you and that it is a “major factor” in causing cardiovascular disease, but do you know the following . . . .
1) Cholesterol is considered a nutrient. Unlike fat, protein and carbohydrates, cholesterol cannot be used for energy but it is a vital structural and functional component of your body’s metabolism.
2) Cholesterol is a precursor to steroid hormones. This means that in order for your adrenal glands to produce enough stress hormones such as cortisol and for your body to make enough of the sex hormones estrogen, testosterone and progesterone you must have ample amounts of cholesterol available. Reduction of cholesterol levels can wreak havoc among your hormones and negatively affect your energy level. A low-fat diet only serves to magnify the health issues arising from insufficient hormone production. Remember: Hormones are used to control the functioning of your entire body.
3) Cholesterol in your skin is used by your body to form vitamin D from sunlight. Vitamin D is needed for adequate absorption of calcium from your intestines. Interesting Fact: Animals manufacture vitamin D from the cholesterol in their fur. So next time you see your cat sunning itself, do the same.
4) Cholesterol is one of the raw materials used by the body to heal wounds. This means that cholesterol will be found in areas of the body such as the arteries where damage has already occurred due to the consumption of processed foods such as refined sugar and grains. Therefore, the role that cholesterol plays in our arteries is as a healing substance, not a damaging one.
5) Cholesterol is necessary for the production of bile salts. Bile salts secreted by your liver and gallbladder are required for the proper digestion of fats. The proper digestion of fats allows for absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, F and K.
6) Cholesterol is a major component of the protective covering of nerves that allows for proper functioning of your nervous system.
7) Cholesterol is the main organic molecule in your brain. This nutrient makes up over half the dry weight of your brain. It plays a pivotal role in the formation of memory and the use of feel-good hormones such as serotonin. It is a fact that low cholesterol can lead to depression and memory loss. Important Point: Babies and children need more cholesterol than adults to ensure proper brain function for their growing bodies.
8) Cholesterol is found in every cell membrane in your body, where it helps to regulate the flow of substances into and out of your cells. Cholesterol provides structural integrity to your cells. Porous, weak cells cannot maintain a healthy balance within the body.
9) Your wonderfully intelligent body regulates your cholesterol levels. You are able to manufacture your own cholesterol in your liver to use along with your dietary cholesterol. As your consumption of dietary cholesterol increases your liver reduces its production of cholesterol. The reverse is also true. The body requires the intake of dietary cholesterol because your body cannot form all the cholesterol needed to meet its metabolic demands. The majority of your cholesterol, though, is formed within the body.
10) Stay away from polyunsaturated fats such as canola oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, corn oil and sunflower oil, as these oils tend to overwhelm the liver and other organs. Refined polyunsaturated fats (vegetable oils) are linked to cardiovascular disease. “The fatty acids found in artery clogs are mostly unsaturated (74%) of which 41% are polyunsaturated.” However, there are some oils and healthy fats that you can introduce to your diet such as coconut oil, avocado oil, lard, grass fed butter and extra virgin olive oil (not for cooking, but use it in your salads).
Simply put, cholesterol as a dietary nutrient is a key component of a healthy body.
What is a Statin?
Statins work by inhibiting the metabolic pathway that leads to the formation of cholesterol within your body. The metabolic pathway used by your body to manufacture cholesterol is also used to create other much needed biological products. These products are Coenzyme Q10 and dolichols. Statins inhibit their formation. Coenzyme Q10 is needed for the production of energy and dolichols ensure that your “cells respond correctly to genetically programmed instruction.”
What are the Side Effects of Statins?
Because statins disrupt the normal metabolic functioning of your body they produce a state of imbalance that can result in the following symptoms . . . . . .
1) Muscle Pain and Weakness: This side effect results from the wasting away of your muscles; a condition referred to as rhabdomyolysis.
2) Neuropathy: A disease of the nerves. Symptoms usually manifest in the feet and hands.
3) Heart Failure: Not the same as a heart attack. The heart in this case is so weakened that it cannot circulate blood effectively enough to meet your body’s metabolic needs.
4) Cognitive Impairment: Statins are linked to the progressive decline of your memory.
5) Depression and Anxiety: The normal functioning of the brain and hormones are adversely affected.
1) The normal cholesterol level for the majority of US citizens is between 110 and 350.
2) Sixty-percent of Americans have normal cholesterol levels between 200 and 330.
3) The average cholesterol number is 220.
4) Your cholesterol levels normally increase with age.
5) For those over 75, the higher your cholesterol (within limits) the longer you will live. It’s a fact!
Causes of Heart Disease
If cholesterol is not the culprit in heart disease, what is? Several reasons include deficiency of vitamins A, D, B6, B12, and/or folic acid, trans fatty acids, mineral deficiencies (i.e. copper and magnesium), refined sugar and stress. All of the nutrients mentioned are severely lacking in today’s diet which consists mostly of refined foods and sugar.
Here are some options of healthy foods to introduce to your diet:
- Grass fed butter
- Raw cheese
- Plain full fat yogurt (avoid yogurts with added sugar)
We hope this information is useful. Please do not hesitate to ask any questions you may have.
Sources: “Cholesterol: Facts and Fantasies;” “Know Your Fats;” “Dangers of Statin Drugs” in Health Keepers Magazine; “Health Alert” vol. 24, Issue 7; “Myths and Truths about Cholesterol” from the Weston A. Price Foundation; “Sweet Deception”.