Are you on the list of people who worry about their health because of high
cholesterol? Have you cut out eggs, shrimp and other high cholesterol
foods including saturated fats? Perhaps you’re one of the 56 million adults
in the US for whom statin use is indicated?(1)
Where ever you are on the cholesterol spectrum, there are some facts you
may not be aware of that could be important for your health.
What is Cholesterol and why do we need it?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat like substance produced by your body. In fact
80% of all cholesterol is made by the body while 20% comes from the food
we eat. Cholesterol is found in every cell of your body as a building block of
cell membranes, providing flexibility and allowing lipids to actually pass
through the membrane. Cholesterol is needed to make Vitamin D,
hormones and fat dissolving bile acids. These all have a direct effect on
immune function, detoxification, blood sugar regulation, mineral absorption,
metabolism and reproduction.
Because cholesterol cannot cross the blood brain barrier, 25% of the
body’s total cholesterol is found and produced in the brain. It protects the
axons of nerve cells facilitating quick transmission of electrical impulses.
This has a big impact on thought, movement, and sensation.
Types of Cholesterol

If you wondered why HDL is “good” cholesterol and LDL is “bad”
cholesterol, it all boils down to delivery! Cholesterol is a fat that does not
mix well with blood, similar to oil and water. In order to carry cholesterol
and other fats to various cells they must be packaged with protein carriers
known as lipoproteins. There of 5 different lipoproteins that vary in shape
and form depending on the task at hand.

  • Chylomicrons are made in the intestines. They mainly carry
    triglycerides or fatty acids from the break down of your food to cells for
  • Very-low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) also carry triglycerides but they
    are produced in the liver. As they give up their triglycerides to cells they
    become IDL’s and eventually LDL particles.
  • Intermediate-density lipoproteins (IDL) are intermediates between
    VLDL’s and LDL’s. Some IDL’s are removed by the liver for excretion
    and others are converted to LDL’s.
  • Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are high cholesterol containing particles
    because they have very little triglycerides left. They continue to travel
    through blood to deliver cholesterol to cells.
  • High-density lipoproteins (HDL) remove cholesterol from the blood and
    artery walls and return it to the liver so it can be excreted.
    It is thought that HDL is “good” because it takes cholesterol out of the
    circulatory system while LDL is “bad” because it delivers cholesterol to the
    body and is associated with the buildup of arterial plaque.

    The Nitty Gritty
    While many healthcare practitioners plant red flags on high LDL and total
    cholesterol lab values, it has been shown that cholesterol is not correlated
    with hardening arteries (atherosclerosis) and the build up of arterial
    clogging plaque.(2) In 1936, researchers Landé and Sperry concluded that
    the degree of aortic atherosclerosis at autopsy of healthy individuals who
    had died violently, was independent of their blood cholesterol concentration
    analyzed immediately after death. This lack of correlation between LDL
    cholesterol and total cholesterol and the degree of atherosclerosis has
    been repeatedly confirmed by recent additional studies.
    Unfortunately, the conclusion from the “Seven Countries” study by Ancel
    Keys in 1970 finding a significant association between fat and saturated fat
    intake and heart disease mortality fueled the campaign against saturated
    fat and cholesterol.(3) Additionally the 1984 statement ’The more LDL there
    is in the blood, the more rapidly atherosclerosis develops,’ by Nobel Award
    winners Michael Brown and Joseph Goldstein, thereafter dominated
    research on atherosclerosis.(4) These events lead to recommendations in
    1961 by the American Heart Association to decrease intake of saturated fat
    and high cholesterol foods and in 1987 the FDA approval of statins, a
    cholesterol lowering drug.(5)

Since 1987 tens of millions of individuals use statins to control cholesterol.
Yet our population continues to suffer from heart disease. Perhaps the
conclusions of Lande and Sperry in 1936 should be more highly
considered. Although the use of statin drugs does help decrease the
incidence of heart attacks, it is likely not due to it’s cholesterol lowering
effects, rather some other effect that is not absolutely understood.
Inflammation and irritation of the artery wall trigger the build up of
cholesterol and calcium plaques, similar to a scab, that harden arteries.
It has been theorized that smoking, lack of exercise, stress and obesity are
the culprits and statins have some anti inflammatory effects.(6)

This completely changes the way we view cholesterol, treatment for high
cholesterol, and high cholesterol foods and saturated fats in the diet! In fact
the campaign against cholesterol has effectively stifled knowledge of how
extremely beneficial cholesterol really is for the body! With this in mind
consider these 5 key factors concerning cholesterol:

  • Statins have side effects that are downplayed due to the apparent
    “benefit” of the drug in lowering cholesterol. These side effects include
    headaches, difficulty sleeping, gastrointestinal issues, muscle pain,
    severe confusion or memory impairment, fatigue and new onset of Type
    2 Diabetes. (7)
  • The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) recently published
    new dietary guidelines indicating “cholesterol is not considered a
    nutrient of concern for over-consumption.”(8) Clearly cholesterol is
    produced in the body and needed for critical biological functions.
  • Focus on a healthy diet to decrease heart disease. Avoid processed
    foods and sugar, eat more fiber and choose healthy fats. Remember to
    drink plenty of water.
  • Get more exercise. This is one of the best things you can do to increase
    HDL and decrease LDL. It also helps control blood sugar, manage
    stress and excrete toxins, all of which contribute to better heart health.
  • Eat more vegetables. These are high in antioxidants which help
    decrease inflammation, high in fiber to help excrete toxins and
    cholesterol, and they feed your gut bacteria which play a role in
    cholesterol balance and metabolism.

In conclusion, cholesterol is vital to our bodies to the extent that we make
80% of all our cholesterol. Statins may help decrease heart attacks but
have little correlation to lowering cholesterol while their side effects are
dramatic. Diet, exercise and managing stress are important and effective
alternatives to controlling heart disease. Understanding these nitty gritty
details can direct you on a path to better health and optimal heart health!


  4. Brown M, Goldstein JL. How LDL receptors influence cholesterol and
    atherosclerosis. Sci Am1984; 251:58–66.


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