Is cholesterol killing us or keeping us alive?
When I worked as a biochemist I did a project on statins and their effects on heart cells and published a paper on our findings, so I have studied cholesterol in detail and have many concerns about the view the public have on this molecule
In 2015 the FDA removed dietary restrictions on cholesterol stating “cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for over-consumption.”
When you are asked to reduce your ‘cholesterol level’, why not ask a question which is fundamental to your health: ‘Why?’
Ask “What does cholesterol do and why do we make and store so much of it in all the cells in our bodies?”
The answer is astonishingly simple: all our cells need cholesterol to function properly and without it we would not be able to survive. Cholesterol, which chemically is an alcohol, not a fat is an important component of the cell membranes, including organelle (e.g. the mitochondria ) membranes inside the cell. If you look in any biochemistry text book you will see there is only one cholesterol, there is no ‘good and bad cholesterol’
- Your body makes 80% of the cholesterol it needs itself and has genes encoding for enzymes which do this, which have been with us for about 3.6 billions of years so we need cholesterol and it is NOT BAD.
- The right proportion of phospholipids, fatty acids and cholesterol in cell membranes allows them to be flexible while maintaining their shape so they can function properly.
- Cholesterol is used by the body as raw material for many healing processes both inside and outside the body.
- Cholesterol is found in large amounts in brain tissue where it is needed for normal brain function and mood. Low levels of cholesterol in the brain have been linked to depression and suicide.
- Cholesterol production often raises as part of a protective immune system response to chronic infection.
- Babies need plenty of cholesterol for proper brain development and cholesterol is normally found in large amounts in human breast milk. (formulas usually contain little to no cholesterol because of myths that cholesterol is bad!)
- Adrenal and gonadal hormones are made from cholesterol eg testosterone, estrogen, cortisol aldosterone . These are the stress managing, energy producing and reproductive hormones.
- Cholesterol is vital for proper nerve function. Three quarters of the myelin membrane is made from fat and of that nearly 25% is cholesterol. This is key for people with MS.
- Vitamin D is made from cholesterol in the skin and vitamin D is needed for hundreds of reactions in the body.
- Cholesterol is converted into bile salts in the liver which are needed to break down and emulsify fats.
- Cholesterol is needed in large amounts in the skin where it is vital for skin health, appearance and strength.
- Cholesterol is key for reactions involving endocytosis and exocytosis such as bone remodeling, thus low cholesterol is now believed to be linked to osteoporosis.
This is why cholesterol lowering drugs are known to cause adverse side effects in anywhere from 10% to 30% of patients and some adverse effects can be very severe.
LDL, HDL and VLDL are lipo proteins, like envelopes which CONTAIN cholesterol, other lipids/fats AND fat soluble nutrients (including vitamins A, D & E ). These fatty droplets and nutrients need to be delivered to all the organs of the body via the blood stream and they have ‘molecular labels’ so they get delivered to the correct organ/destination. More about this in my next video blog.
When you get your cholesterol measured you are actually measuring lipids, so the term ‘cholesterol levels’ have been mis-used by the medical profession.
LDL carries fats and cholesterol from the liver to various organs as they need them to function so LDL is not bad it is just doing its job. HDL carries oxidised / used / waste lipids back to the liver for processing. There is no ‘good or bad cholesterol’
In the next blog I interview biochemist Glyn Wainright who has published papers on cholesterol and has worked with doctors and scientists on cardio vascular disease. He and I aim to educate the public on LDL, HDL and the real cause of heart disease.
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These blog/videos are entertainment and educational purposes only and not to treat or cure any disease or illness. I am a not a medical doctor, I’m a doctor of biochemistry so information given here is not medical advice it is information for you to consider and further research yourself. Please consult your health care profession or doctor before commencing any kind of exercise, supplement or dietary regime if you have any concerns or current health conditions.