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.
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