Lowering cholesterol, particularly with statin medications, is widely known to be a wise decision for health. However, cholesterol plays a vital role in the body. When is high cholesterol a good thing?
First, a word about cholesterol's role in the body.
Cholesterol is the basis for the manufacture of a long list of important hormones. It is also a vital component of animal-cell membranes and assists in the transport and absorption of fatty acids.Credit: Structure and metabolism of cholesterol. From Dorland's, 2000.
Cholesterol and Mortality.
People with high cholesterol live the longest.
I'll stop for a minute so that can sink in. It seems counterintuitive, doesn't it? Why are cholesterol-lowering drugs administered so widely if there is a benefit is having higher cholesterol levels? There are several reasons for this, including the fact that pharmaceutical companies don't stand to benefit by NOT prescribing drugs, AND that some populations can benefit from these prescriptions (namely, middle-aged men that have suffered a previous heart attack).
It has been known since the 90's that low cholesterol is associated with twice the risk of death by heart attack in the elderly. Several additional studies show the same result, indicating that this cannot simply be an exception. Check out the Weston A. Price Foundation for a full list of references.
One of the ways that high cholesterol protects against mortality is by protecting against infection. Review of nearly a score of studies revealed that LOW cholesterol is associated with increased risk of death from gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases. Additional studies proved that low cholesterol led to increased risk of infection (and that infection did not lead to low cholesterol).
A new set of rules.
- Intake of saturated fat is not associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke, and cardiovascular disease (CVD).
- Saturated fat is GOOD for you and necessary for absorbing the fat soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K2.
- Inflammation, not high cholesterol, causes heart disease.
- Industrial vegetable oils (corn, soy, cottonseed, sunflower, and safflower) are NOT "heart-healthy."
How to take action.
1. Switch to saturated fats from pastured/grass-fed animals, i.e. BUTTER.
2. Ask for a particle-size test the next time you have your cholesterol tested.
3. Switch to a new doctor. You may have to find a new doctor that is keeping tabs on what we now know from medical research. You may also just need to find a new doctor that isn't taking notes on a Lipitor ® notepad. These ideas are becoming more mainstream, and have even been publicized on the Dr. Oz show.
4. Reduce the amount of sugar in your diet, which will help raise your HDL. It will also lower your triglycerides.
5. Eat a diet that lowers inflammation in the body.
6. Always eat fat and protein when consuming carbohydrates. This will temper the impact of the carbohydrates on your blood sugar and reduce your risk of becoming insulin resistant.
7. Consume plenty of omega-3 fatty acids.
8. Lower your stress levels.
10. Consume more cholesterol (from healthy animals, i.e. pastured/grass-fed and NOT from a factory farm)!