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Is Your Cholesterol Too Low?

Cholesterol word collage

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t really need to worry about having high blood cholesterol. Your bigger worry is low cholesterol. But how does dietary cholesterol (cholesterol contained in the foods you eat) affect blood cholesterol (the cholesterol numbers that are checked when your doctor orders blood work)? There are no reliable studies that prove dietary levels of cholesterol are connected to disease. Furthermore, the lower your blood cholesterol, the more health problems you are likely to experience.

The Framingham Study, which has been ongoing since 1948 and has studied the dietary habits of fifteen thousand subjects, has found no correlation between dietary cholesterol levels and high blood cholesterol levels. Not only that, the subjects in the study who consumed the most saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories had the lowest weight.

Low cholesterol can lead to a variety of mental and physical health problems like hormone imbalance, adrenal fatigue, hypoglycemia, depression, fatigue, anxiety, sexual disorders, obesity, type 2 diabetes, low blood pressure, cognitive decline, dementia or Alzheimer’s, and poor health overall.

Unbiased studies have demonstrated that the plaque in arteries that causes heart disease consists primarily of unsaturated fats, particularly polyunsaturated fats, not saturated fat from animals. Other studies have demonstrated that mortality rates decrease when the consumption of animal products increases.

Repeated warnings against the dangers of high total cholesterol are based on inconsistent and skewed data. Cholesterol-phobia has generated enormous profits for pharmaceutical companies. Lipitor itself produces revenue exceeding $10 billion each year.

Cholesterol is Vital for the Brain and Body

Cholesterol is used by the body in a variety of important ways.
It is so vital that about 75 percent of it is made by the liver and the
remaining 25 percent is acquired through dietary sources. Astrocytes
(specialized cells in the brain and central nervous system) can make
cholesterol for the brain.

With the help of vitamin A, cholesterol is converted into the hormones pregnenolone, estrogen, progesterone, and androgen, as well as cortisol, aldosterone, and DHEA, which are vital for addressing adrenal fatigue and hormonal imbalances. If you lack sufficient cholesterol, your adrenal glands will be unable to make their hormones.

Cholesterol is a critical component of all cells. Brain and nerve cells have the highest concentrations of cholesterol, and it is essential for the formation of synapses; the small space between neurons that allows them to form connections. It is the basic building block of the cell membrane, serves as a fuel for neurons, and aids in many other neuron functions. Without cholesterol, thought processes and memory will fail to operate correctly. According to Dr. William Shaw, there is a direct correlation “between the concentration of cholesterol in the brain, particularly the myelin, and how well the brain functions.” Nearly 60 percent of the autistic population is found to be deficient in cholesterol. Without adequate levels of cholesterol, “gene expression, neurotransmission, and hormone synthesis are all impaired.”

The brain obtains the cholesterol it needs via LDL (low-density lipoprotein), which carries it through the bloodstream. In Grain Brain, Dr. Perlmutter explains that “sugar molecules attach themselves to LDL,” which changes its shape, making it less usable and increasing free radicals, rendering it unable to transport cholesterol to the neurons. It is oxidized LDL that causes disease, not normal LDL, and LDL becomes oxidized through a diet that is high in sugar and carbohydrates.

Cholesterol is converted into vitamin D when the skin is exposed to ultraviolet rays from the sun, which is critical to strengthen the immune system and to produce the peptides that fight off harmful microbes. Vitamin D also assists in the management of enzymes in the brain and the cerebrospinal fluid that are needed for activating nerve growth and producing neurotransmitters. It protects neurons from the damaging effects of free radicals and decreases inflammation. Vitamin D can boost serotonin production up to thirtyfold. A variety of studies have demonstrated that individuals experience significantly more cognitive decline if they are deficient in vitamin D. In one study, the subjects with the highest level of vitamin D experienced a 77 percent decrease in their risk for Alzheimer’s. Vitamin D also plays a vital role in blood sugar regulation and insulin sensitivity, which means it is needed for managing cravings for sugar and carbs.

Cholesterol acts as an antioxidant, repairs damaged tissue in arteries, and is converted into bile salts by the liver (needed for the absorption
of fats and fat-soluble vitamins).

Conflicts of Interest and Distorted Data Surround Today’s Cholesterol Guidelines

Over 3,800 study subjects were followed over the course of seven to 10 years in The Lipid Research Clinics Coronary Primary Prevention Trial. They hadn’t been treated for high cholesterol, and their cholesterol levels were 290 and above. For this study, one group took cholesterol-lowering drugs and the other group didn’t.

At the end of the trial, 96.4 percent of the treated group was still alive. Of the untreated group, 96.3 percent survived. The authors created a ratio of a ratio in order to come up with an exaggerated survival rate of 24 percent among the treated group.

The results of the study were released to the media eight days before they were available for peer review. Other scientists weren’t given the opportunity to examine the data themselves before this misinformation went public.

The authors set borderline-high cholesterol levels at 200 to 239. This added 20 million people to the list of those who “needed” statins. Although they claimed no conflict of interest, the authors generated millions of dollars of income from pharmaceutical companies in the forms of grants and stock shares.

Cholesterol Lowering Drugs and Low Cholesterol Generate Mental and Physical Health Problems

Doctors are often quick to tell their patients about the supposed dangers of elevated cholesterol levels, but few share the downside of low cholesterol. There are many side effects created by cholesterol-lowering drugs. Cognitive decline and muscle soreness are two of the most common complaints. Other risks associated with statins include diabetes, brain hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain), cataracts, liver damage, memory loss, and serious muscle damage.

Individuals with low blood cholesterol have higher rates of cancer, depression, suicide, and acts of violence. They also tend to have impaired cognitive function, memory loss, and lower attention spans. Studies show that elderly populations with higher cholesterol numbers actually live longer than those with low cholesterol.

How Low is Too Low?

So when is your cholesterol too low? Dr. Charles Gant, from National Integrated Health Associates, tells us that a cholesterol level below 160 is actually dangerous and you “better get to eating some butter fast.” And he states, higher is actually better. The Framingham Study found that brain function plummets when cholesterol levels are low and improves with higher levels of cholesterol. Participants with cholesterol levels below 200 mg/dl performed worse than those with borderline high or high levels in areas of attention, concentration, word fluency, abstract reasoning, and executive functioning. Subjects with the highest cholesterol levels performed best. Thus, this suggests we would probably be better off staying above 200.

Cholesterol performs many important functions throughout the body. There is insufficient evidence to prove that elevated cholesterol is a significant factor for heart disease. There is evidence, however, that points to the dangers of having cholesterol too low and statins.

As you can see, ensuring that you have adequate levels of blood cholesterol is critical for many aspects of healing regardless of which health condition you are facing, including immune function, brain function, hormone balance, inflammation control, gut health, mental health, and adrenal function. It also plays a vital role in keeping cravings for sugar and carbs under control so that you may remain compliant with a low-carb Paleo diet.

Integrative Holistic Health Coaching

Resources:

Cynthia Perkins. Healing Chronic Candida. Turner Publishing (2018)

Diamond, David. “How Bad Science and Big Business Created the Obesity Epidemic.” YouTube. USF, 20 May 2011. Web. 23 May 2012.

L’Abbe, Kristan A., and Et Al. “The Lipid Research Clinics Coronary Primary Prevention Trial.” The JAMA Network. JAMA, 7 June 1985. Web. 23 May 2012.

Lenfant, C. “Lipid Research Clinics Coronary Primary Prevention Trial Results.” AGRIS Repository Search Result. Nutrition Today, Mar.-Apr. 1984. Web. 23 May 2012.

American College of Cardiology. “Low LDL cholesterol is related to cancer risk.” ScienceDaily, 26 Mar. 2012. Web. 23 May 2012.

Partonen, T., J. Haukka, J. Virtamo, P. R. Taylor, and J. Lonnqvist. “Association of Low Serum Total Cholesterol with Major Depression and Suicide.” The British Journal of Psychiatry 175.3 (1999): 259-62. Print.

Golomb, Beatrice, and Et Al. “Low Cholesterol and Violent Crime.” Journal of Psychiatric Research 34.4 (2000): 301-09. Print.

Elias, P. K. “Serum Cholesterol and Cognitive Performance in the Framingham Heart Study.” Psychosomatic Medicine 67.1 (2005): 24-30. Print.

Kunugi, Hiroshi, Noriyoshi Takei, Hiroko Aoki, and Shinichiro Nanko. “Low Serum Cholesterol in Suicide Attempters.” Biological Psychiatry 41.2 (1997): 196-200. Print.

Dr. Charles Gant, Endocrine Stress Webinar. www.cegant.com

David Perlmutter, Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar —Your Brain’s Silent Killers. New York, NY. Little, Brown and Company (2013)

Great Plains Laboratory. Tourettes, TICS and OCD.http://www.greatplainslaboratory.com/home/eng/tourettetics.asp (Accessed 2014. Page no longer exists.)

{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Debbie March 13, 2011, 12:56 am

    I just read the article on cholesterol being too low and how is shouldn’t be below 160.

    I just had a blood test done – I’ve been feeling lousy since the end of December and the cholesterol numbers are: Cholesterol total 129
    HDL 60 HDL ratio 2.2

    Is this good? from the symptoms above I have fatigue, anxiety taking medication for depression, acid reflux, was diagnosed with celicas.

    I’ve been on 5 different antibiotics since January, first for a bacterial infection – sinus infection with nausea and dizziness – then for ear infection, then for UTI and yest infection. I still feel the same way. now they are running a test for lyme disease. and the ENT wants to to an MRI of my head to see if there is anything there.

    I just don’t know what to do next. I do take a pro biotic acidophiles, cranberry with vitamin c and e, aloe gel caps. but also been prescribed nexium for acid reflux and wellbruton for depression. I’m so tired of taking medication and not feeling any better.

    where does one put the breaks and get answers instead of medication?

  • Admin - Cynthia Perkins March 20, 2011, 7:36 pm

    Hi Debbie,

    129 is entirely too low. No it is not good. As mentioned above, cholesterol is essential for making all the bodies steroid hormones.

    However, your symptoms can be related to a variety of other issues as well, like h pylori bacteria, neurotransmitter disruption of depletion, food sensitivities and adrenal fatigue to name a few.

    The acid reflux is often caused by h pylori. You should have a test called GI effects. Contact me if you’re interested.

    That many antibiotics is sure to cause Candida overgrowth.

    You need to find a physician who practices functional medicine. You can search the database at The Institute for Functional Medicine.

    You should read the following pages.

    Causes of Depression
    https://www.holistichelp.net/causes-of-depression.html

    Candida
    https://www.holistichelp.net/candida.html

    Adrenal Fatigue
    https://www.holistichelp.net/adrenal-fatigue.html

    Neurotransmitters
    https://www.holistichelp.net/neurotransmitters.html

    I offer consultations by phone, you can set up an appointment if you want to talk about these things in more depth.

    Best
    Cynthia

  • Penny March 25, 2011, 4:22 pm

    I just had my cholesterol tested and is was 123 – ratio is 1.8. I have also taken way too many antibiotics (like 6 rounds in the last year and a half) I have had so many terrible symptoms from depression/anxiety and terrible cystic acne, tinnitus, eye floaters, dermitis, etc. I have been thinking that I had candida overgrowth from all of the antibiotics and I have been on the candida diet for 2 months now. I just had my cholesterol checked last week and the results freaked me out. Do you think that the cause for all of my problems (including low cholesterol) is from candida?

  • Admin - Cynthia Perkins March 28, 2011, 9:48 pm

    Hi Penny,

    Well most of your symptoms could certainly be caused by Candida, but probably not the cholesterol. Low cholesterol is probably from not eating enough fat and meat.

    Cynthia

  • Stephnie Schaap-Jones August 10, 2011, 10:32 pm

    I had no idea that low cholesterol could e such a problem! My doctors hounded me for ages to get my cholesterol down below 160, telling me that my cholesterol was too high. I guess its lucky for me that I like red meat!

  • Armand Uyematsu April 15, 2012, 11:11 am

    Hi! I just wish to offer you a huge thumbs up for the excellent info you have got here on this post. I’ll be coming back to your site for more soon.

  • don June 26, 2012, 5:04 pm

    I have a serious sinos problem. The ENT said that is acid reflux. Is there a natural treatment for sinos.

  • Admin - Cynthia Perkins July 13, 2012, 9:19 pm

    The most common cause of ongoing sinusitis is candida overgrowth. This can be treated with an antifungal in the sinuses.
    Best
    Cynthia

  • Kelli October 23, 2016, 4:53 pm

    Hi there,
    Thank you for posting this information. I’ve been having a lot of neurological issues as well as a positive ana test. My cholesterol is 84 – my hdl is 58 and my ldl at a 20. My Dr doesn’t seem worried about it and say the lower the better! Any additional information would be great!

  • Tawnya October 28, 2016, 2:36 am

    Just had blood taken for the first time in about 10 yrs.
    Triglycerides 66
    Cholesteral 123
    HDL 57
    LDL 52
    Cholesterol/HDL 2.2
    LDL/HDL Ratio 0.93

    This is obviously very low. Your article explained a lot of simptoms I have had for a decade or two. Lower blood pressure and extremely poor memory. I also have occasional mini strokes.

    How do I bring these levels up and get healthy?
    I will not consume animal products. I’m a 16 yr vegan.
    My current age is 47, female.

    Thanks in advance! (((hugs)))

  • Admin - Cynthia Perkins November 19, 2016, 1:31 pm

    Hi Tawnya,

    These numbers will normalize when one eats the proper diet. The proper diet is one that is low in carbs and rich in animal protein and fat.

    A vegetarian diet is the worse thing one can do for themselves. I encourage you to read the following page.

    https://www.holistichelp.net/why-you-shouldnt-be-vegetarian.html

    Best,

    Cynthia

  • Admin - Cynthia Perkins November 19, 2016, 2:03 pm

    Hi Kelli,

    I would say it’s time to find a different doctor. Find a doctor who practices functional medicine.

    Read Dr. Perlmutter’s book, Grain Brain, to learn about the importance of cholesterol and the brain.

    Best,

    Cynthia

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