|People with high cholesterol live the longest. This truth may be difficult for the average person to understand since conventional medicine, “nutrition experts,” and the media have unfairly demonized this natural, life-sustaining molecule. To fully understand the beauty of cholesterol, it is important to learn its function in the human body.
- Cholesterol is a substance vital to our cells and is produced by almost every cell in the body. The liver produces most of the cholesterol in the blood.
- Cholesterol is the body’s repair substance, nature’s way of repairing damage including tears and irritations in the arteries.
- It is an essential component of all cell membranes. Without cholesterol our cells would not be able to communicate with each other or transport various molecules into and out of the cell. As a result, our bodies would lose critical functions.
- Most of the body’s important hormones are made of cholesterol including those that regulate blood sugar, the stress response, and all the sex hormones (estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone).
- The brain is the most cholesterol-rich organ in the body. The cholesterol synthesized in the brain is the primary component of the myelin that surrounds and protects each nerve cell and is vital to the function of the brain and nervous system. It plays a role in memory formation. Seniors with the highest cholesterol levels have the best memory function.
- Cholesterol helps maintain the health and integrity of the intestinal wall.
- Cholesterol is starting material from which our body makes vitamin D from sunlight.
- Recent research shows that cholesterol acts as an antioxidant, which may explain why cholesterol increases with age.
- The bile salts needed for the digestion of fats and the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins are made from cholesterol.
- Cholesterol plays a role in the utilization of serotonin, the “feel good” brain chemical.
- Cholesterol protects against infection. In fact, most gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases have an infectious origin. One 15-year study shows that those who had low cholesterol at the start of the study were admitted to the hospital more often due to an infectious disease.
|Cholesterol deficiency, which is now more common due to the widespread prescription of statin medications, is a major factor in many chronic health disorders. In fact, low cholesterol is associated with depression, mood disorders, anxiety, bipolar disorder, high frequency of violent behavior and suicide, Parkinson’s disease, and cancer mortality. Low cholesterol can also lead to less production of thyroid hormone. Most significantly, the death rate is doubled in older adults with lower total cholesterol. So, do we really want to lower cholesterol? Total blood cholesterol levels between 200 and 240 mg/dl are normal and have always been normal. Within the broad range of cholesterol levels from 180 to 240 mg/dl there is little or no evidence that this alone correlates with heart disease. Seventy-five percent of people who have heart attacks have normal cholesterol levels.
|Cholesterol levels can also vary widely. The same person can have different levels of cholesterol at different times of the day, in different seasons of the year (higher in winter, lower in the summer), and when we have an infection. Blood cholesterol can be elevated after dental treatment or surgery, and when under stress. It can become normal when we are relaxed and well. Depending on the time of day, weather, season, and our exposure to environmental agents, the damage to various tissues in the body also varies. Since cholesterol is a healing agent, the body produces cholesterol and sends it to the sites of damage, thus explaining the wide variations in blood cholesterol.
|So why the push to lower total cholesterol? Sixty years ago, a researcher named Ancel Keys, Ph.D. set us on the path to what has become known as the “lipid hypothesis,” which concludes that excess cholesterol is the cause of heart disease, and saturated fat was the villain that increased cholesterol in the blood. The problem with this belief is that it has never been proven (thus it is still called a “hypothesis”). According to cardiologist Steven Sinatra MD and nutritionist Johnny Bowden Ph.D., authors of the Great Cholesterol Myth, “a weird admixture of misinformation, scientifically questionable studies, corporate greed, and deceptive marketing has conspired to create one of the most indestructible and damaging myths in medical history: that cholesterol causes heart disease.” These authors believe “the real tragedy is that by putting all of our attention on cholesterol, we’ve virtually ignored the real causes of heart disease: inflammation, oxidation, sugar and stress.”
|In 1991, Linus Pauling presented the Unified Theory of Human Cardiovascular Disease, which rests on the premise that the body creates cholesterol buildup as a back-up solution for preventing damaged blood vessels from hemorrhaging. This theory supports supplementation with enough vitamin C, L-lysine, and L-proline, so the body will opt to use these molecules to repair damaged blood vessels instead of producing excess cholesterol. More than 650 documented studies show that coronary artery disease is a form of scurvy that occurs when the body is deficient in vitamin C and subsequently the collagen that is made in the presence of adequate levels of vitamin C.
|In reviewing all that has been written about cholesterol over the years, the following quote from the late Oxford professor, David Horrobin, can prompt some profound thought; “Reducing cholesterol in the population on a large scale could lead to a general shift to more violent patterns of behavior.” Remember, cholesterol is in nature and in our bodies for a reason. Understand its role and recognize its beauty.