What you should know about cholesterol…it may not be what you think…
We have been well trained by our doctors, media, and pharmaceutical companies to know what our cholesterol levels are. We have been trained to know our “good” numbers and “bad” numbers. Many of us have been prescribed medication to get “good numbers”.
I would like to impart with you the importance of knowing research that may not have been shared with you. As always, it’s good to do your own research as no one will care as much about YOUR health than you will. Let this newsletter serve as a good place to start your research.
What I’m going to share with you may (should) give you pause. As you know I do much reading and research to bring you the latest out there that may or may not be in mainstream news and media. Learning what medical doctors are researching and learning about our cholesterol is one of an important piece of information I want to share with you. You will want to read this and share with friends and family.
I’m going to share with you:
How important cholesterol is
Why levels may be high
Cholesterol is not bad, and other misconceptions
Bad news about statins
As the title of this newsletter alludes to is cholesterol may not be what you think it is.
So what is cholesterol? Why is it important?
Cholesterol is an antioxidant - it helps to protect you against free radical damage that leads to heart disease and cancer. It’s needed for proper function of serotonin receptors in the brain. Serotonin is the body’s natural “feel-good” chemical. Low cholesterol levels have been linked to aggressive and violent behavior, and depression.
Cholesterol gives your cells necessary stiffness and stability. If eating a poor diet, one that includes high vegetable oil and low saturated fats for example, cholesterol goes up to try to give cells structural integrity.
It plays a really important role in maintaining the health of your intestinal wall. That’s why low cholesterol diet, especially like vegan or vegetarian diet, often lead to leaky gut disorders and other intestinal disorders. This can lead to issues when it comes to mental function and well-being.
What about those LDL, HDL, and triglycerides definitions?
LDL-C (low-density lipoprotein) - enables fat molecules to be transported through the bloodstream.
HDL (high-density lipoprotein) - the smallest of the lipoprotein particles. It enables the transportation of triglycerides through the bloodstream; in healthy people, about 30% of fat in the blood is carried by HDL. Men tend to have lower HDL than women.
Triglycerides - fats composed of three fatty acids. Their important job is to transfer the fat and glucose (the energy your body needs) from the liver. The more triglycerides you have in your blood, the greater your chance of developing atheroscleroisis. (the build up of fats, cholesterol, and other substances, in and on the artery walls).
Why might your cholesterol levels go up?
As mentioned, cholesterol will a lot of times go up in a poor diet (a diet that’s high in vegetable oils, even a diet that’s low in saturated fats) because if you don’t have enough saturated fats to give your cells the necessary stiffness and stability, cholesterol has to go up in order for that to occur.
Cholesterol can also go up if you‘ve got a high amounts of vegetable oil because it’s trying to protect the cells and provide more stability to the cells because there’s more pro-oxidants in your body. Cholesterols are precursor to corticosteroids – those are hormones that help you deal with stress, and protect your body against heart disease and cancer, are also a precursor to sex hormones like androgen, testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone.
Cholesterol may go up not in response to diet but just in response to your body churning out more for its anti-oxidant effect. Cholesterol is a type of defense. It’s there to try to take care of an issue in the body.
Why isn’t cholesterol bad and other misconceptions?
We just looked at cholesterol’s importance. Let’s delve a little deeper. Dr. Peter Attia has spent much time researching cholesterol. So much so that he created a nine-part blog series titled, “The Straight Dope on Cholesterol”. In it he states:
One of the biggest misconceptions out there (maybe second only to the idea that eating fat makes you fat) is that cholesterol is “bad.” This could not be further from the truth. Cholesterol is very good!
One of the biggest misconceptions out there (maybe second only to the idea that eating fat makes you fat) is that cholesterol is “bad.” This could not be further from the truth. Cholesterol is very good! In fact, there are (fortunately rare) genetic disorders in which people cannot properly synthesize cholesterol. Once such disease is Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome (also called “SLOS,” or 7-dehydrocholesterol reductase deficiency) which is a metabolic and congenital disorder leading to a number of problems including autism, mental retardation, lack of muscle, and many others.
Cholesterol is absolutely vital for our existence. Let me repeat: Cholesterol is absolutely vital for our existence. Every cell in our body is surrounded by a membrane. These membranes are largely responsible for fluidity and permeability, which essentially control how a cell moves, how it interacts with other cells, and how it transports “important” things in and out. Cholesterol is one of the main building blocks used to make cell membranes (in particular, the ever-important “lipid bilayer” of the cell membrane).
One of the unfortunate results of the eternal need to simplify everything is that we (i.e., the medical establishment) have done the public a disservice by failing to communicate that there is no such thing as “bad” cholesterol or “good” cholesterol. All cholesterol is good!
The only “bad” outcome is when cholesterol ends up inside of the wall of an artery, most famously the inside of a coronary artery or a carotid artery, AND leads to an inflammatory cascade which results in the obstruction of that artery (make sure you check out the pictures in the links, above). When one measures cholesterol in the blood – we really do not know the final destination of those cholesterol molecules!
What is the bad news about statins?
This is what Dr. Catherine Shanahan states about cholesterol-lowering drugs in her book, Food Rules - A Doctor’s Guide To Healthy Eating:
“When your doctor says he wants to put you on a cholesterol-lowering drug, the presumption is you’ll live longer on the drug than off of it. It’s satisfying, the idea that by simply taking a daily pill you are proactively combating heart disease and stroke. The problem is, though the pills lower cholesterol successfully, unless you fall within a very specific patient demographic, these drugs will not, in reality, help you live longer. In fact, they very well may hasten your death. However, since more and more insurance companies are financially penalizing physicians who do not put everyone with an LDL over 100-130 on a cholesterol pill, doctors are incentivized against telling you about side effects of these drugs.”
“…many statin (most popular cholesterol-lowering drug) side effects are severe enough to affect quality of life. But because so few physicians are properly educated about statins, they are mistakenly believe any forms of these medications can be detected in a blood test. I frequently see people who are suffering from what could be statin side effects, such as tendonitis, depression, vertigo, or dementia, which the prescribing doctor has typically attributed to excessive activity, stress, inner ear diseases or aging. When I see such ongoing symptoms in patients on statins, I feel obligated to inform them that stopping statins might help.”
Good to know!
Attia, Peter, MD., “The Straight Dope on Cholesterol”, EatingAcademy.com
Shanahan, Catherine, MD. (2010). Food Rules - A Doctor’s Guide To Healthy Eating
Moore, Jimmy, Westman, Eric C. MD. (2013). Cholesterol Clarity, What the HDL is Wrong with My Numbers?
There you have it. As you can see there is much information on cholesterol and much of it may not be what you have been trained to believe. I will iterate the importance of doing your own research, asking questions, and looking at the bigger picture.
To your journey,