Is cholesterol such a big deal after all?
Based upon what your doctor and the media declare, you would think that cholesterol has been determined to be the biggest health issue in the developed world today. Many foods and food groups are now shunned and even blamed for the cholesterol epidemic. For me to say that there has been a major misunderstanding of the whole cholesterol question would be an understatement. Cholesterol has to be in the top three medical topics talked about today.
Fats are now demonized and only recently have debates begun to surface about the difference between good and bad fats. We truly need to deepen our understanding of the difference between good fats and bad fats. A good rule of thumb is to stay away from hydrogenated oils and to get more Omega 3’s from chia and flax seeds. Frankly, considering fats to be demons is actually harming your health. Cholesterol is in fact an essential portion of optimal health. Without it our brains do not function properly and even our cell membranes begin to deteriorate.
Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance present in all your cells and also in your blood. It is used to make vitamin D, cell membranes, hormones, and certain liver chemicals that aid in fat digestion. It is also essential for brain and neurological function. A vast majority of the cholesterol in your body is made in your liver. This is one reason why it is so important to protect, rebuild and also cleanse the liver. There are two main types, HDL and LDL. HDL cholesterol brings cholesterol from your arteries and cells to your liver to be reused and sent elsewhere where it is needed. We are told that our total cholesterol should ideally stay below 200 and that 300 is almost a certain sign of heart disease. As many of you have recently heard, in the last 6 years those numbers have become a downwardly moving target, with doctors now recommending statin or cholesterol-lowering drugs to patients that were previously considered normal and risk-free. Obviously, this has become a major boon for the pharmaceutical companies that have seen record sales in this class of drugs that often come with particularly dangerous side effects.
In order for us to be better informed we need to understand that both types of cholesterol are in fact fats and proteins combined. This is why they are called lipoproteins, lipo coming from lipid or fat. Basically, cholesterol is a vehicle for carrying fats bound to proteins from cell to cell. In this bound form, it moves better in the blood. We need to think of cholesterol as our friend rather than our enemy. No life form can exist without it. In fact many within the natural health community believe that abstaining from fats is one of the major reasons for the upsurge in brain and neurologically related disease forms such as MS, Parkinson’s, Lou Gehrig’s and other problems. Many now agree that this obsession with lowering cholesterol has become one of the biggest travesties in modern medical history, and is also responsible for many hormonal disorders since without cholesterol our bodies cannot make essential hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. Cholesterol is also converted in the skin into a precursor compound that the liver and kidneys then make into vitamin D. Adequate safe sun exposure is definitely the optimal way to create optimal levels of vitamin D.
Another misunderstanding is the role of cholesterol in inflammation with some past medical journals naming cholesterol as a culprit in arterial and venal inflammation. Inflammation is not bad by the way. It is the body’s way of mobilizing the immune system to fight invading viruses and bacteria. When there is a wound the site becomes inflamed and immune cells rush there to fight the infection. Many people have weakened immune systems and benefit greatly from immune system boosters derived from potent herbs and often from medicinal mushrooms. Scars form to protect the wound and similarly such scars form in the arteries. They are plaque-like substances. Cholesterol then comes in as a repair agent, because it is necessary in the creation of cell membranes and thus for the repair of all cells, even those in the arteries. Whenever there are damaged cells in the body the liver will make more cholesterol to aid in the repair process.
The main problem here is that many doctors still freak out when they see cholesterol circulating in the blood, believing it to be the precursor to heart disease, rather than realizing that it is in fact being sent by the liver to repair damage and inflammation. For certain, chronic inflammation can contribute to heart disease and there are now tests to determine inflammatory levels in the blood. The test is known as a C reactive protein test. Basically, if your number is above 3 milligrams (mg), you have a high level of inflammation. Boosting your immune system with immune system boosters is very important here. A level of 1 mg is considered normal.
Unfortunately, the obsession with lowering cholesterol may actually be preventing the body from repairing itself and thus contributing to more deaths rather than saving folks. We need to let cholesterol do its job within the picture of a healthy lifestyle that helps prevent damage in the first place. When we have low levels of cholesterol, we are more prone to disorders in the nervous system, from depression, mood disorders and MS to Parkinson’s and even suicide because the nervous system has a high need for cholesterol in its cell membranes. It basically needs more insulation because it is responsible for sending electrical signals from the brain, through the nerves to the rest of the body. Cholesterol also assists in the metabolism of various important brain chemicals. It is by no mean the only compound needed for a healthy nervous system. Good levels of B complex are also essential and these can be found in whole grains and certain supplements.
So let’s reexamine this whole picture. Our doctors are telling us to keep our cholesterol under 200 or so, while I believe that keeping it slightly above 200 would be better. Who benefitted from recommendations for lower cholesterol levels? Basically, big pharma, to achieve such low levels, is recommending that doctors give their patients not just one, but often a cocktail of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. Who pays? The patients. Who benefits? Big pharma.