What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is NOT the “Monster” You Have Been Led to Believe
You have been deceived, for the primary purpose of creating a mega-profit market to sell cholesterol-lowering drugs (called statins).
See also: Statins Don’t Save Lives
Elevated cholesterol levels are wrongly blamed for causing atherosclerosis in cardiovascular disease. A very “sticky” cholesterol-based protein, called Lipoprotein (a) “seizes” platelets, calcium, fibrinogen (forms fibrin for blood clots) and LDL cholesterol from the blood to create a protective plaque to repair chronic inflammatory damage to arteries as a consequence of:
Oxidized LDL Cholesterol is a small component of atherosclerotic plaque as a consequence of arterial damage to a weakened arterial wall. Arterial plaque contains less than 25% saturated fat and LDL cholesterol (which is oxidized in the process of healing the damaged vessel wall).
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol (C27H46O) is a white, waxy, fat-like substance, found in the tissues of all vertebrates throughout the animal kingdom; some cholesterol is also found in plants. It is the best-known member of the sterols, a biologically important group of lipid alcohols.
A typical 150lb (68kg) body has a total cholesterol content of about 35 g – ~1 tablespoon of water-insoluble cholesterol is carried and circulated in our blood in water-soluble, protein molecular “suitcases”, called lipoproteins.
1g cholesterol / day is produced by the body’s cells and tissues.
20-25% of that production occurs in the liver (from Acetyl CoA via the HMG-CoA reductase pathway). However, cholesterol is so important to the body, that all of the body cells can also produce it according to demand. In particular, the intestines, adrenal glands, placenta, and sex glands have high synthesis rates.
The rate of cholesterol synthesis in the liver is under feedback control, to maintain a normally constant cholesterol level. When the dietary intake is high, liver synthesis is low; when intake is low, synthesis increases.
Typically 200-300mg cholesterol / day is obtained from foods (i.e. only 20-30% of that produced by the body)
We cannot function properly without cholesterol
Consider what you will be missing if you lower your cholesterol levels below what is needed. Present in ALL our cells, cholesterol regulates cell membrane integrity making membranes less permeable to most biological molecules. Cholesterol provides membrane integrity when dietary saturated fat is missing - when excess dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids replace saturated fat in the diet, it causes cell walls to become flabby. When this happens, cholesterol from the blood (or synthesized by the cell) is added into the cell membrane giving watertight protection and structural integrity – this is the reason why serum cholesterol levels go down temporarily when we replace dietary saturated fats with polyunsaturated oils - Cholesterol is removed from the cell membrane when dietary saturated fat provides the required stiffness.
Membrane cholesterol content varies with particular tissue membrane function -
Membranes with high cholesterol-to-phospholipid ratios function as a protective barrier - have high stability and low permeability.
Nerve Function Protection
The highest concentration of cholesterol in the body is found in the critical brain and nervous system. Every second molecule in the myelin sheath surrounding and insulating nerves is cholesterol, where it affects proper nerve conduction and normal brain function, by providing structural balance to their high polyunsaturated content.
Precursor of Sex hormones
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), the “mother” steroid hormone - is synthesized from cholesterol by the adrenal cortex. DHEA is the precursor for estrogen, testosterone and progesterone (to prevent miscarriage in pregnancy, the placenta produces cholesterol, from which it makes progesterone); cholesterol stored in the ovaries and testes is converted to steroid hormones.
DHEA is also called the “anti-aging” hormone - good evidence supports that increasing DHEA blood levels decreases risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, senility, Alzheimer's disease, and premature death. People with a positive outlook actually create a self-sustaining cycle of DHEA production!
Raw material for Vitamin D
Cholesterol provides the raw material to make vitamin D – which regulates calcium and phosphorus metabolism to support bone health. Vitamin D is also required for nerve function, growth, mineral metabolism, muscles, insulin production, reproduction, and the immune system.
Raw material for Adrenal Stress hormones
The more stress we are under, the more cholesterol our body makes - because the corticosteroid stress hormones are synthesized from cholesterol in the adrenal cortex.
Raw material for Bile salts
Required for fat digestion and the metabolism of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K - Cholesterol is oxidized by the liver into bile acids, which along with cholesterol are excreted from the liver into bile and stored in the gallbladder. Fat consumption causes bile to be “squirted” from the gallbladder into the upper small intestine (duodenum) to digest fat. Approximately 95% of bile acids are reabsorbed from the intestines, and the remainder lost in the faeces.
Brain’s serotonin receptors
Need cholesterol for their proper function. Dozens of studies link cholesterol deficiency to:
Low cholesterol linked to violence. Epidemiology 2001 Mar;12:168-72
Cholesterol to the rescue!
Cholesterol is transferred to tissues in lipoprotein carriers to repair damage caused by chronic inflammation - it is the repair “superglue” used to keep cell membranes from falling apart. E.g. when your arteries are damaged or lacking structural integrity due to insufficient dietary vitamin C.
Dietary fat /cholesterol has little effect on blood cholesterol levels
Low-cholesterol (non-enjoyable) diet lowered the serum cholesterol by a mere 0 to 4% - concluded Ramsay and Jackson after reviewing 16 trials using diet in attempt to lower cholesterol levels.
Ramsay LE, Yeo WW, Jackson PR. Dietary reduction of serum cholesterol concentration: time to think again. British Medical Journal 1991;303:953-957.];
No connection was found between the composition of the food and the cholesterol level of the blood in the 1950’s Framington study - almost 1000 individuals were questioned in detail about their eating habits. Drs. William Kannel and Tavia Gordon, authors of the report, wrote: ”These findings suggest a cautionary note with respect to hypotheses relating diet to serum cholesterol levels. There is a considerable range of serum cholesterol levels within the Framingham Study Group. Something explains this inter-individual variation, but it is not diet.”
Their results were never published.
Nichols AB, et al, Daily nutritional intake and serum lipid levels. The Tecumseh study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1976;29:1384-1392.
Article Source: Shirley Emmons BSc. (Hons); Independent Natural and Alternative Health Researcher, reprinted with permission
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