- Pamela McBride
Updated: Jun 4, 2020
Cholesterol has become a major issue connected with cardiovascular disease, but how much of the information is actually fact & how much is myth perpetrated by the pharmaceutical companies selling drugs to keep cholesterol levels low? There is so much misinformation that I wanted to pass along the following to help educate people to the actual facts about cholesterol. If you have been told you have "high cholesterol" & need to be on medication, please read the information below.
There is so much publicity and talk about cholesterol and heart health, we are going to begin our discussion on the cholesterol issue.
The Cholesterol Story
With the possible exception of people who have cholesterol readings of over 300, there is no credible link between heart disease and cholesterol. Research reveals that there are as many people with heart attacks whose cholesterol is under 180 as those in the high 200’s. According to Dr. Mogadam, Most heart attack victims have low to moderate levels of cholesterol -- as low as 180! And by concentrating on cholesterol you may be ignoring what's really putting you at risk.
Let us look into the real cholesterol story. Some 30 years ago, high cholesterol was an affliction of middle-aged men with cholesterol over 300 plus other risk factors, such as smoking and obesity. Since then, the massive fear about this non-disease has been created largely by the drug companies. They have done this while simultaneously manipulating the definition of high cholesterol by controlling the government panels that are responsible for the definitions. This combination has led to absolutely spectacular profits of tens of billions of dollars, as their reward for their effective market manipulation. By 1984 anyone (male or female) with cholesterol over 200 could receive the dreaded diagnosis and a prescription for pills. Then it was moved down to 180. Today, we’re down to recommended levels of less than 100 and drugs are prescribed to children as young as 10 years old.
The drug company’s manipulation has resulted in tens of billions of dollars of profit and in loss of life due to the real cause of cardiovascular disease not being addressed. There is no evidence to support their low target numbers, and, what's more, the combination of two or three statin drugs that patients can be prescribed to hit those targets will invariably do far more harm than good in the long run.
The first thing that comes to mind when one hears about heart disease is almost always cholesterol. Cholesterol and heart disease has been almost synonymous for the last half-century. The $26 billion in sales of statin drugs last year played a role in their recommendations.
Cholesterol is NOT the Cause of Heart Disease Cholesterol is not the major culprit in heart disease or any disease. If it becomes oxidized it can irritate/inflame tissues in which it is lodged in, such as the endothelium (lining of the arteries). This would be one of numerous causes of chronic inflammation that can injure the lining of arteries. However, many good fats are easily oxidized such as omega-3 fatty acids, but it does not mean that you should avoid it at all costs. In fact, cholesterol is being transported to tissues as part of an inflammatory response that is there to repair damage. Because the correlation of total cholesterol with heart disease is so weak, many years ago a stronger correlation was sought. It was found that there is so-called "good cholesterol" called HDL, and that the so-called "bad cholesterol" was LDL. HDL stands for high- density lipoprotein, and LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein. Notice please that LDL and HDL are lipoproteins -- fats combined with proteins.
There is only one cholesterol. There is no such thing as a good or bad cholesterol. Cholesterol is just cholesterol. It combines with other fats and proteins to be carried through the bloodstream, since fat and our watery blood do not mix very well. Fatty substances therefore must be shuttled to and from our tissues and cells using proteins. LDL and HDL are forms of proteins and are far from being just cholesterol. In fact we now know there are many types of these fat and protein particles. LDL particles come in many sizes and large LDL particles are not a problem. Only the so-called small dense LDL particles can potentially be a problem, because they can squeeze through the lining of the arteries and if they oxidize, otherwise known as turning rancid, they can cause damage and inflammation. Thus, you might say that there is "good LDL" and "bad LDL." Also, some HDL particles are better than others. Knowing just your total cholesterol tells you very little. Even knowing your LDL and HDL levels do not tell you very much.
A mistake that is rarely made in the hard-core sciences such as physics seems to be frequently made in medicine. This is confusing correlation with cause. There may be a weak correlation of elevated cholesterol with heart attacks, however this does not mean it is the cholesterol that caused the heart attack. Certainly gray hair is correlated with getting older; however one could hardly say that the gray hair caused one to get old. Using hair dye to reduce the gray hair would not really make you any younger. Neither it appears would just lowering your cholesterol. Perhaps something else is causing both the gray hair and aging. Even if elevated cholesterol was significant and heart disease (which many credible doctors and researchers seriously question) perhaps something else is causing the elevated cholesterol and also causing the heart disease.
Cholesterol is a vital component of every cell membrane on Earth.In other words, there is no life on Earth that can live without cholesterol. In fact it is one of our best friends. We would not be here without it. No wonder lowering cholesterol too much increases one's risk of dying. Cholesterol also is a precursor to all of the steroid hormones. You cannot make estrogen, testosterone, cortisone, and a host of other vital hormones without cholesterol.
You can’t make new cell membranes without cholesterol. Cholesterol is necessary for many body functions. When damage is occurring and inflammation is being initiated, chemicals are being released so that that damage can be repaired. One could speculate that to replace damaged, old and worn-out cells the liver needs to be notified to either recycle or manufacture cholesterol since no cell, human or otherwise, can be made without it. In this case, cholesterol is being manufactured and distributed in your bloodstream to help you repair damaged tissue and in fact to keep you alive. If excessive damage is occurring such that it is necessary to distribute extra cholesterol through the bloodstream, it would not seem very wise to merely lower the cholesterol and forget about why it is there in the first place. It would seem much smarter to reduce the extra need for the cholesterol -- the excessive damage that is occurring, the reason for the chronic inflammation. Cholesterol in turn is a precursor to steroid hormones. (For example, you can’t make testosterone or estrogen, cortisol, DHEA or pregnenalone, or a multitude of other steroid hormones that are necessary for health, without cholesterol.) Removing cholesterol will do nothing to improve the underlying problems, the real roots of chronic disease.
When damage is occurring and inflammation is being initiated, chemicals are being released so that that damage can be repaired. One could speculate that to replace damaged, old and worn-out cells the liver needs to be notified to either recycle or manufacture cholesterol since no cell, human or otherwise, can be made without it. In this case, cholesterol is being manufactured and distributed in your bloodstream to help you repair damaged tissue and in fact to keep you alive.
If excessive damage is occurring such that it is necessary to distribute extra cholesterol through the bloodstream, it would not seem very wise to merely lower the cholesterol and forget about why it is there in the first place. It would seem much smarter to reduce the extra need for the cholesterol -- the reason for the chronic inflammation.
Cholesterol Is The Hero, Not The Villain.
It was determined many years ago that the majority of cholesterol in your bloodstream comes from what your liver is manufacturing and distributing. The amount of cholesterol that one eats plays little role in determining your cholesterol levels. It is also known that HDL shuttles cholesterol away from tissues, and away from your arteries, back to your liver. That is why HDL is called the "good cholesterol;" because it is supposedly taking cholesterol away from your arteries. But let's think about that. Why does your liver make sure that you have plenty of cholesterol? Why is HDL taking cholesterol back to your liver? Why not take it right to your kidneys, or your intestines to get rid of it? It is taking it back to your liver so that your liver can recycle it; put it back into other particles to be taken to tissues and cells that need it. Your body is trying to make and conserve the cholesterol for the precise reason that it is so important, indeed vital, for health.
One function of cholesterol is to keep your cell membranes from falling apart. As such, you might consider cholesterol your cells "superglue." It is a necessary ingredient in any sort of cellular repair.
Your body needs Cholesterol: It waterproofs your cell walls, helps repair cells, is vital for digesting fats, regulating hormone levels, and neurological function.
In 1984 a study was published in the Journal of Holistic Medicine, which showed that cholesterol can function as an antioxidant, protecting the body from free radicals and therefore strengthening the immune system. Cholesterol is a precursor to vitamin D, which is a necessary nutrient for immune system function. It is also a precursor to corticosteroids, hormones that protect the body against stress. Stress, as we know, suppresses the immune system. At the Division of Epidemiology at the University of Minnesota, records of 19 studies were reviewed, examining the causes of death in more than 68,000 cases. The results of these studies showed many patients who died of diseases with infectious origins also had low cholesterol levels. To determine whether low cholesterol caused infection or if infection caused low cholesterol, Professor David R. Jacobs and Dr. Carlos Iribarren looked at more than 100,000 healthy individuals over a period of 15 years. Those who began the study with low cholesterol levels suffered from more cases of infection than those with higher cholesterol levels.
Of course, like all fats, cholesterol does come in both good forms and bad. Highly processed cholesterol that has been exposed to heat and oxygen can become damaged and oxidized. Similar to refined fats, this type of cholesterol is not healthy for the body. It seems as if many studies done today to examine the effects of cholesterol in the body are performed with the preconceived idea that cholesterol can only be harmful. We may benefit from further research that truly examines the causes of high cholesterol and the resulting effects.
Conditions that raise cholesterol levels, such as chronic stress and hypothyroidism, may actually be the primary cause behind diseases for which high cholesterol often takes the blame.
It's around every corner, on television commercials, in health magazines and even in bold print on product labels on the grocery shelves: cholesterol gets plenty of media coverage as the bad guy. It's time to take another look at this mislabeled substance and see if cholesterol is, indeed, the cause of serious health problems such as heart disease. The very thing we've been told to avoid like the plague may be a missing element in today's highly processed diet.
Ravnskov, Uffe. The Benefits of High Cholesterol. (2004)