We make 85% of our cholesterol so why panic about the food we eat? Without cholesterol we would be in serious trouble because it is important for so many of the activities within the body that we take for granted. Medical propaganda and media hype keep reminding us to panic about cholesterol and tell us to take drugs to keep the levels down.
A healthy cholesterol level in blood is between 4.9 – 5.4 mmol/l. But according to what reasoning? We know of people with ideal levels who have severe heart problems and die from heart attacks. Then we have examples of people with what would be considered as dangerously high levels who are perfectly healthy. Is it a good idea to give a healthy person a drug that has harmful side effects? Perhaps we need a second opinion about what cholesterol is and why we need it. Perhaps naturopaths and nutritionists are able to enlighten us a bit more.
What exactly does cholesterol do for us?
- The brain is made out of a lot of cholesterol - think about that!
- Cholesterol is also important for the transmission of nerve impulses
- It controls the lipid (fat) permeability across cell membranes, forms part of the structure and helps to fight infections that may enter the cell. It waterproofs blood vessels.
- We need cholesterol to make Vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunshine
- Bile is made by the liver out of cholesterol and is needed for the digestion of fat
- As an oily substance, cholesterol protects the skin by making it waterproof and able to resist dehydration. This helps to keep water-soluble toxins out.
- We need cholesterol to make steroid hormones like testosterone, estrogen and progesterone
- People with higher cholesterol levels have fewer infections
- Cholesterol is an antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory effects
The cholesterol that is called bad is LDL (low density lipid) cholesterol. It is a triglyceride - 3 fat molecules and is a less stable form. But it is made and used for different purposes all the time. It is only suspect if we lack antioxidants because oxidized cholesterol is potentially harmful as is anything else that is damaged. But we need LDL cholesterol to make our hormones. It is thus not bad in any way! The HDL or high density cholesterol is also beneficial in many ways and they say we should have higher levels of this type. Together this cholesterol combination is vital to our health and well-being. All cells contain cholesterol and all tissues can manufacture and regulate it. Even the hollows of our bones are filled with cholesterol! The danger of cholesterol levels being too low is that it will result in a lack of vitamin D, estrogen, testosterone and progesterone. Blood vessels become leaky and our digestion would suffer badly from a lack of bile.
Cholesterol tests but why do - levels fluctuate?
Our cholesterol levels vary during a day and during the seasons. They are higher in winter and lower in summer. Levels may be temporarily raised after surgery, infection and when there is a lot of stress. So there is no need to panic and fall for a drug without establishing the circumstances. There is also no need to medicate until you have made changes to your lifestyle and diet. Many causes of higher or unacceptable cholesterol profiles are due to lousy eating and lifestyle habits that include stress, smoking, lack of exercise and depression. But eggs do not raise cholesterol. They contain a lot of it but are also rich in lecithin - a fat emulsifier.
Drugs like statins are taken to lower cholesterol readings, but are they good for you? The drugs destroy your levels of beneficial antioxidants like co-enzyme Q 10 that help to keep LDL cholesterol from being oxidized. Side effects from taking drugs can include dementia and liver problems. So in fact you are worse off on a doctor's prescription, especially if you are healthy and do not have blood pressure problems or higher blood glucose levels.
Cholesterol is made out of triglycerides (3 glucose molecules) and levels rise mainly from eating carbohydrates that are not responding to insulin. Drugs are prescribed to force down the resultant increase in blood pressure and the higher blood sugar that often precede the high cholesterol readings. But wait! Do the drugs change our eating habits? Without nutritious foods that contain the raw materials required for insulin function such as: chromium, zinc and vanadium, insulin resistance sets in. Even before high blood sugar levels are detected, blood pressure rises. It is a precursor to syndrome X or the insulin resistant cavalcade of: high triglycerides (cholesterol), obesity, secondary diabetes and then heart disease.
Many patients are first prescribed medications to treat high blood pressure instead of confronting the insulin resistance. For the high cholesterol they take statins. For the high blood sugar they take more pills. They eat the same fat, sugar and carbohydrate laden food and then the men complain about: erectile problems, mental fog, weight gain and other problems. How about some nutritional alternatives?
Cholesterol myths and statin drugs
The widespread use of cholesterol lowering drugs to reduce the incidence of death from heart disease has helped many innocent people lose their minds. Mental impairment can be caused by the use of statin-based drugs. Some forms of amnesia (extreme forgetfulness / brain fog) is directly linked to these medications. When people cannot find their way out of a shopping centre or are unable to drive home it is not a mere slip of the mind or a blonde moment. This is because these drugs deplete levels of co-enzyme Q 10. Cells need it for energy production, brain function and to strengthen and stabilize the hearts contractions.
Research has confirmed that mental problems clear up as soon as people stop their cholesterol lowering drugs. When IQ tests are done, people on statin drugs do not do as well as control groups or as they did when not taking the drugs. We need to seriously question the role of lowering cholesterol as an attempt to control death by heart disease. At best, the drug companies claim they can reduce the incidence thereof by 1.4%. But cat owners have a 30% lower incidence of death by heart disease according to a recent study. Now that is a substantial amount, considering that the side effects do not affect your mental capabilities! People who have dogs enjoy the benefits of lower blood pressure, companionship and more exercise. Heart medicine that is healthy and happy!
Statin drugs do not lower blood pressure or prevent blood from clotting so even more drugs are prescribed adding to the burden of side effects that can impair sexual function and lead to depression. To treat these conditions we can take even more drugs until our line-up of pills begins to get very costly indeed! Meanwhile, the first cause of the higher cholesterol count is still largely misunderstood. So is syndrome X, caused by excessive denatured foods like refined carbohydrates, trans-fatty acids and sugar that is consumed between medications. Diet and supplementation can correct the problem by dealing with the cause
Are high cholesterol levels linked to heart disease?
We are told not to eat eggs, because they are high in cholesterol. Medical studies show that even eating 8 eggs a day does not add a single notch to your cholesterol count. The truth is that we make our own cholesterol and it performs a vital function. If a blood vessel becomes damaged, extra cholesterol is produced to repair the vascular epithelium or cell lining. In getting to the cause of such damage, we can blame homocystiene. This aggressive amino acid forms in excess when the breakdown of methionine from eating meat and protein leads to excess levels. LDL Cholesterol builds up when we neglect vitamin B6. Bad cholesterol rises in direct proportion to a vitamin B 6 (pyridoxine) deficiency.
Now ask yourself: is it not easier to supplement with vitamin B6 and other key nutrients that are essential for a healthy heart and they also help to sharpen the mind? Why not tell this to your doctor. Also remind him that it is still not a proven fact that people with high cholesterol levels are more susceptible to heart disease. The fact is that just as many deaths occur in patients with very low cholesterol counts. It depends on the ratio of good = high density HDL versus bad= low density LDL cholesterol you have. When the low density cholesterol oxidizes, it causes damage, so you need to take antioxidants. Expensive urine is a small price to pay for a healthy heart and banishing syndrome X!
Consider heart health on a constant basis. We eat badly so then we feel lousy. There is no reason to neglect a few simple changes to the diet along with sensible supplementation and exercise. Supplements are small change, compared to bypass surgery, stents and drugs that are needed to compensate for the way you are eating. The funny thing is: how many people are not even aware of what cholesterol and how they keep making more and more of it!