11 Surprising Truths About Cholesterol – Healthy Living Association

11 Surprising Truths About Cholesterol

Hearing “You have too high cholesterol” is the same thing as hearing “You’re going to have a heart attack!” At least, if you believe the hype put out by the big pharmaceutical companies as they push you to by their latest statin drug.

But is that true?

You may be surprised to find it isn’t.

For years the public has been fed a line of false information about cholesterol. The amazing thing is, even doctors don’t all know the truth.

What Is Cholesterol?

Every cell in your body contains cholesterol. It’s a waxy kind of fatty substance actually made in your liver. In fact, your body makes nearly all of the cholesterol you need.

Of course, cholesterol is found in a lot of the foods you eat also. But that cholesterol doesn’t make a great deal of difference in the total amount of cholesterol in your body.

Because of the properties of cholesterol, it doesn’t move independently through your blood. Instead, it’s ‘packaged’ in a covering of lipoproteins so it can move through the blood. There are two types of these packages: High density lipoproteins (the so-called ‘good’ cholesterol) and low-density lipoproteins (the ‘bad’ cholesterol).

Essential Truths About Cholesterol

There are a number of truths about cholesterol and its treatment that aren’t well-known by the average person. Below is a list of several of those truths.

1. Cholesterol is vital to cell health. Every cell membrane in your body is made from cholesterol. Cells in the skin, liver, brain, nerves, intestines, and heart have it in their membranes. It is essential in forming and keeping the membranes strong. Cholesterol insulates and protects nerve fibers, it aids in regulating the fluidity of the membranes, and assists in resisting changes in temperature that influence cells.

2. Cholesterol is essential in the production of all the steroidal hormones in your body, including the sex hormones and those produced by the adrenal glands. Estrogen and progesterone in women and testosterone in men are synthesized from cholesterol. In addition, the adrenal hormones cortisol and aldosterone are made from cholesterol. Cortisol is the major stress-fighting hormone of your body that helps to regulate blood sugar levels and influences the immune system and fights inflammation. Aldosterone aids in regulating salt and water levels in the body.

3. Cholesterol helps in producing bile salts. These salts are manufactured in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. They are important in digesting and absorbing fats and vitamins A, D, E, and K, all of which are fat soluble.

4. Low cholesterol levels may cause problems. If your cholesterol levels are too low, there may be problems with the metabolism of serotonin. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter involved in mood. Some research has shown too low levels of cholesterol on a long-term basis is associated with higher risk of developing depression. Other research has shown people in the lowest quarter of total cholesterol to have six times the risk of committing suicide compared to those in the highest quarter of total cholesterol. Low levels of serotonin due to low cholesterol levels also increase the risk of violence and aggression.  If your levels of cholesterol are very low, you’ll have problems making enough vitamin D from exposure to the sun.

5. The best cholesterol levels are different for every individual. There is no single level of cholesterol that is the most healthy for everyone. This is a huge misconception that has been perpetrated by the pharmaceutical companies and maintained by ill-informed medical professionals.

6. Total cholesterol levels are not good predictors of heart problems. Research shows the total cholesterol levels of those who have heart attacks are almost the same as those who have not had heart attacks. About half of heart attacks occur in people who do not have high cholesterol.

7. More about high cholesterol levels. Research indicates men in the young to middle age categories with cholesterol levels over 350 have slightly increased risk of heart attack. However, those with cholesterol levels just under 350 are at no greater risk of heart attack than those who have low levels of cholesterol. In elderly men and women high levels of cholesterol are associated with longer life spans, regardless of age.

8. Cholesterol is not the cause. Current research has shown cholesterol is not the factor that causes a buildup of plaque in your arteries and increases the risk of heart disease. Instead, inflammation is the culprit! Inflammation is caused by lifestyle factors such as smoking, stress, consuming refined and/or hydrogenated fats, too much refined sugar in your diet, and an imbalance between Omega-3 polyunsaturated fats to Omega-6 polyunsaturated fats in your diet. Cholesterol actually works as a healing agent when inflammation harms arterial walls. It is deposited, along with other substances, and forms plaque to heal the lining of the arteries.

9. Saturated fat is not the villain. For quite a number of years, doctors and clinicians have told you to decrease saturated fat in your diet because it’s a major cause of clogged arteries and heart disease. It’s true saturated fat increases LDL cholesterol, but it also increases HDL cholesterol. Other dietary factors also cause a buildup of the particles that lead to clogged arteries, too much sugar and too many carbohydrates, for example.

Recent research showed no connection between consuming saturated fats and the development of heart disease. The type of food consumed determines whether saturated fats are beneficial, neutral, or harmful. Research has also shown a diet low in carbohydrates contributes to higher levels of HDL cholesterol and lower levels of triglycerides. Healthy fats in the diet from nuts and olive oil can lower the risk of heart attack and stroke.

10. Statin drugs are not the best way to lower cholesterol. People with heart disease may very well require statin drugs to deal with their disease, but there are many people who do not require these drugs nor their side effects. There are natural ways to lower cholesterol levels.

In fact, some research has shown there is no significant decrease in the risk of death by taking statins in people with less than a 20% risk of heart disease over the next 10 years. Lifestyle changes such as increasing exercise, not smoking, and eating a healthy diet are much more effective at reducing risk of heart disease.

11. Eggs are not the enemy. Over the years, physicians and researchers have preached that eggs are terrible and should never be eaten because of their potential for increasing cholesterol. Research has shown consuming eggs has only a small effect on cholesterol. Even those with coronary heart disease showed no elevation of cholesterol levels after eating two eggs a day for six weeks as shown by research at Yale University. Eggs are also good sources of nutrients and antioxidants.

The Dangers of Statins

For years, statins have been the drug of choice for lowering what physicians have considered to be too high levels of cholesterol. Despite research showing the need for statins to be lower than previously thought, they still are prescribed daily.

There are a number of dangers involved in taking statins. First is the issue already touched on in this article. There is no single level of cholesterol that is ideal for every person. But many are placed on statins because their doctor believes in that arbitrary number.

Statin drugs work by inhibiting an enzyme in the liver to prevent the production of cholesterol. Unfortunately, it also inhibits the production of other substances which have significant functions of their own.

For example, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is depleted. This enzyme is important in heart health and the functioning of muscles. Failure to take a supplement when taking statins leads to muscle weakness, soreness, fatigue, and ultimately to heart failure.

Probably the most common side effect of statin drugs is rhabdomyolysis, or muscle pain and weakness. It is thought to be caused by activation of the atrogin-1 gene which is a major factor in muscle atrophy. This may indicate a breakdown of body tissues and can cause kidney damage.

It is possible that taking statins will lower cholesterol levels too much, causing the liver to make more and driving the body into fat preservation mode that significantly increases triglycerides and raises the risk of developing the plaques in arteries that can bring on heart disease.

Conclusions

It is important to keep in mind that there are no absolute levels of cholesterol that are optimum for every individual. Thus, the numbers that physicians use are simply arbitrary levels that mean little for you.

Also important is the fact that cholesterol is necessary for good health. Lowering your levels can lead to more problems than those posed by exceeding these arbitrary levels.

Taking statin drugs for lowering cholesterol is simply not good for the health of a great many people. The side effects of these drugs are significant and will stay with you for a very long time.

There are many natural ways to lower your cholesterol levels if absolutely necessary. Lifestyle choices and diet are the most effective.

References

The Truth About Cholesterol  https://www.activebeat.com/diet-nutrition/the-truth-about-cholesterol/

Arthur Agatston, MD: The Truth About Cholesterol  https://www.everydayhealth.com/heart-health/arthur-agatston-md-truth-about-cholesterol-3442.aspx

Myths & Truths About Cholesterol  https://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/myths-truths-about-cholesterol/

The Hidden Truth About “Reducing Your Cholesterol”  https://www.truthaboutabs.com/cholesterol-myths.html

Everything You Thought You Knew About Cholesterol Is Wrong  https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2015/cholesterol-myths.html

The Cholesterol Myth That Is Harming Your Health  https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/08/10/making-sense-of-your-cholesterol-numbers.aspx The Truth about Healthy Cholesterol Numbers  https://cholesterolnumbers.org/

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