Believing all of these cholesterol myths, Americans decreased their intake of good fats and oils (like coconut oil, fish oil, olive oil) and started consuming more vegetable oils and margarine (a “trans fat”). This diet has caused thousands of deaths from heart disease, as have the statin drugs which supposedly prevent heart disease, but in reality have numerous deleterious effects.
Statins are considered to be “HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors”, that is, they act by blocking the enzyme (HMG-CoA reductase) in your liver that is responsible for making cholesterol. There are over 900 studies proving the adverse effects of statin drugs, including anemia, cancer, chronic fatigue, acidosis, liver dysfunction, thyroid disruption, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and even diabetes!
Statins have been shown to increase your risk of diabetes through a few different mechanisms. The most important one is that they increase insulin resistance, which contributes to chronic inflammation (the common element of most diseases) and actually results in heart disease, which, ironically, is the primary reason for taking a cholesterol-reducing drug in the first place!
Perhaps most importantly, cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease. Your body needs cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that’s found in all the cells of our body. It has a hormone-like structure that behaves like a fat in that it is insoluble in water and in blood. Cholesterol travels through your bloodstream in small packages called “lipoproteins” which are made of lipids (fats) on the inside and proteins on the outside.
The cholesterol percentage of each lipoprotein varies depending upon the specific type of lipoprotein. Cholesterol comprises 20% of high density lipoproteins (HDLs), 46% of lipoprotein (a), 46% of low density lipoproteins (LDLs), and 22% of very low density lipoproteins (VLDLs). If your primary care giver is treating you for high cholesterol and does not know these facts, then you should find another primary caregiver. It is imperative for your health that your care giver completely understands all of the ramifications of the treatment as well as the cause for cholesterol blocking your vascular system in the first place. Once again we must stress that treating the cause rather than a symptom is needed to maintain health.
What you are almost never told is that cholesterol supports many extremely important functions in the maintenance of good health. Below is a small list of cholesterol’s functions.
Perhaps one of the most important functions of cholesterol is acting as an essential precursor to all of our steroid hormones, which play a crucial role in our health and without which we cannot live. Even low levels of these hormones can cause serious health problems. The fact is that when cholesterol levels fall below 160 mg/dL, cholesterol deficiency symptoms may begin to be severe enough to be noticed. One of the first problems often noticed is adrenal insufficiency, which may cause allergic reactions (that have never occurred before) to foods or plants. Sex hormones may also become detrimentally affected, thus causing the person to become hypo-gonadal or to have severe imbalances (ratios of testosterone to estradiol) and have very low DHEA levels. All of these may lead to more serious diseases, some of which may be life threatening.
Optimal serum cholesterol levels actually help to prevent some types of cerebrovascular diseases and suboptimal cholesterol levels have been associated with an increased risk of cerebrovascular diseases. Cholesterol is also an essential component of cell membranes and, helps maintain the integrity of cell membrane fluidity (which is constantly changing do to fluctuations of dietary fat consumption). Cholesterol also plays a particularly important function as a major constituent of the myelin sheath, which acts as insulation of neurons. It should be noted that cholesterol is so important to bodily functions that the cell membranes actually manufacturer it in direct response to the body’s demands.
Cholesterol also creates many valuable byproducts that are required for complete digestion. These byproducts include cholic acid, chenodeoxycholic acid, and deoxycholic acid, all of which are essential components of bile, which is needed for fat digestion and their absorption into the intestines. Cholesterol plays a large role in the function of the immune system; low cholesterol levels may increase the risk of several types of cancer. Cholesterol is actually secreted by glands in the skin which help protect the skin from infections from detrimental bacteria and fungi. Cholesterol also acts as an antioxidant and possesses powerful antioxidant properties.
It has also been shown through several studies that optimal cholesterol levels are required in order to prevent aggressiveness (excessively low cholesterol levels increase the incidence of aggressiveness). It would have been interesting if the studies had analyzed sex hormone levels as well, since cholesterol is required for testosterone synthesis and it is well proven that low testosterone levels also increase aggressiveness. We realize that most physicians (and most of the public) have bought into “‘roid rage” theory, implicating excess testosterone with rage. However, science and peer reviewed studies have proven the exact opposite to be true. Aggressiveness increases when testosterone drops below normal levels or when the ratio of testosterone to estradiol becomes low.
Cholesterol is also required to deal with stress, so you can see its importance in our Western society. Cholesterol accomplishes this task by being an essential constituent of all adrenal gland hormones. These hormones include adrenaline, cortisone, and cortisol which are released by the body in response to stress in order to counteract its effects. It should also be noted that excessive stress causes production of high quantities of endogenous cholesterol. Remember that cholesterol is the precursor in the formation of all steroid hormones.
In the presence of sunlight, the body can use the photolytic action of UV light on the cholesterol in the skin cells to make vitamin D (specifically vitamin D3), which is essential for our immune system and also maintains the balance of calcium and phosphorus for strong bones and teeth. Vitamin D3 has also been shown to protect against several cancers as well as being implicated in aiding in the prevention of Rickets, bone loss, cancers, and numerous other illnesses. For more information on vitamin D, please visit http://www.vitamindcouncil.org.
Perhaps most importantly, cholesterol is an essential component in the machinery that triggers the release of neurotransmitters in the brain. Mother’s milk is especially rich in cholesterol and contains a special enzyme that helps the baby utilize it. Babies and children need cholesterol-rich foods throughout their growing years to ensure proper development of the brain and nervous system. Cholesterol is very concentrated in the brain, where it contributes to the functioning of “synapses” (tiny gaps between cells which allow nerves to communicate with each other). Cholesterol may also help to prevent depression, since low cholesterol (under 160 mg/dl) is associated with an increased risk of depression. Once again, remember that cholesterol is the precursor of testosterone and testosterone has been shown to be one of the most effective antidepressants for both men and women.