The Brighter Side of Cholesterol
Article by: Marisa Comito 2007
The body needs
cholesterol to ensure proper cell membrane function. From cholesterol the
liver makes up bile acids, vital in digestion and absorption of fats, oils
and fat soluble vitamins. Cholesterol makes up very important hormones such
as; sex hormones, adrenal corticosteroids (aldosterone and cortisol) and
vitamin D are made from cholesterol. The skin uses cholesterol to protect
us against the wear and tear of sun, wind and water.
damaged skin to heal and prevent infections from foreign agents. It also
acts as an antioxidant when needed and protects us from certain cancers.
Without cholesterol, we would die. Too little cholesterol is implicated in
many disease states.
The body's cells
make the cholesterol it needs in response to daily needs. For instance,
when we drink alcohol, it dissolves in and causes the cellular membranes to
become more fluid like. In response cells build more cholesterol into the
membrane bringing it back to a normal (less fluid) state. As the alcohol
wears off the membrane hardens, so some membrane cholesterol is removed to
re-establish normal membrane fluidity, the excess cholesterol is then
attached to to an essential fatty acid (EFA), for example omega-3, shipped
via blood to the liver to be changed into bile salts for excretion.
THE MEDICAL CHOLESTEROL
CAUSES HEART AND VASCULAR DISEASE"
The most commonly
accepted theory of Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) states that when too much
cholesterol builds up in the body it is deposited in the arterial walls
causing atherosclerosis, a narrowing of the arteries and vessels. Excess
cholesterol and saturated fatty acids can make blood platelets "sticky"
increasing the risk of clot thus increasing the risk of heart disease,
heart attack, stroke and kidney failure.
theory that time has honoured has now become dogma. For all cholesterol
lowering of the past 40 years, CVD is still on the increase. All the recent
evidence suggest that we have been barking up the "Wrong Tree". In fact it
is worse than this - "The cholesterol lowering enterprise threatens to turn
a large percentage of the healthy population into patients."
There is NO
SUCH THING as "Good" cholesterol (HDL - High Density Lipoprotein) and
"Bad" cholesterol (LDL - Low Density Lipoprotein).
LDL's (so called - bad cholesterol) is just as important as HDL's (so
called - good cholesterol). LDL's carry cholesterol, triglycerides and fat
soluble vitamins to cells where they are needed, HDL's take them back to
the liver as required. The confusion exists because a high LDL reading
simply means that your system is being overloaded by cholesterol either
from food, from abnormally high synthesis and/or from too slow a removal.
It does not mean we are at greater risk of heart disease or stroke.
Consider the following:
consumption has remained constant over the past 100 years, while CVD has
skyrocketed (in Western Societies).
2) The US
Framington Heart Study found that - "there is no discernible association
between cholesterol in diet and the level of cholesterol in the blood."
3) People in many
other cultures consume far more cholesterol than western societies do, and
have far less heart disease. For example, the Masai consume mostly meat,
blood and milk, up to 2000mg of cholesterol daily, yet maintain a 3.5 mmol/L
serum cholesterol and have an extremely low incidence of heart disease.
4) The Lancet said
in June 1931 - "That heart attack was almost unknown before 1926, before
margarine, when butter, lard, tallow and other saturated fats were eaten
5) The BMJ
reported in 1989 the results of the Renfrew and Paisley survey which showed
that serum cholesterol levels (high or low) made no difference when it came
to fatal heart attacks.
6) The Roseta
study showed that American Italians with high serum cholesterol actually
had less than 50% of deaths from heart attack than the rest of te U.S.A.
Several other more recent studies also show the benefits of the "Mediteranean
Diet", which confirm less death from heart attack and cancer.
7) CVD risk
factors which are important, (if not more so than serum cholesterol)
include; the consumption of refined sugar, animal fats, food additives and
especially trans-fatty acids - eg; margarine.
8) Drugs that
lower cholesterol do not (statistically) reduce heart attacks or deaths
9) Weakened areas
of arteries cause the body to respond with a defense
mechanism to cover and correct the weakness with cholesterol (the body's
attempt to protect the artery), the artery section then hardens thus
causing a problem for blood circulation. Lp(a) and its adhesive protein
apo(a), which looks like LDL, is a strong risk factor. Dissociated from
Lp(a), LDL appears to be only a weak risk factor. This means LDL has been
wrongly blamed for damage done by Lp(a).
intake of vitamin C (to several grams daily) and other antioxidants can
keep Lp(a) levels down, build strong artery walls with strong connective
tissue and reverse and repair cariovacular disease (remembering weak
sections of arteries cause the lay down of cholesterol for protection in
Margarine may also
be a factor. Originally many people converted from butter to margarine to
reduce their total dietary cholesterol intake, thinking they were making a
healthy choice. This seemed logical in light of the cholesterol-heart
attack hypothesis, however, it turns out that the use of partly
hydrogenated oils are high in trans forms of fatty acids. This form
inhibits a liver enzyme responsible for converting cholesterol into bile
acids. Bile acids transport cholesterol out of the body. If cholesterol is
not converted to bile, it accumulates in the blood, the exact opposite of
the desired result.
scare is big business for doctors, laboratories and drug companies. The new
generation cholesterol lowering drugs like Simvastatin
and Pravastatin are very expensive, but offer a
risk reduction of heart attack of only 2%.
warns against low levels of serum cholesterol. Indiscriminate lowering of
cholesterol actually increases the risk of cancer, as LDL's transport the
fat soluble antioxidant vitamins E, A and carotene. Studies have shown that
females with cholesterol over 7mmol/L survive longer than those with
cholesterol of 4.5mmol/L or lower. Mortality was five times higher in the
lower group than the the higher 7mmol/L group. Low cholesterol levels also
reduce the numbers of serotonin brain receptors thus increasing anxiety,
depression and psychoses, attempted suicides and possible predisposing to
levels also affect the capacity of the endocrine system to manufacture the
hormones and will create imbalances there as well, which affect libido,
menstrual cycle among other things.
There is no doubt
whatsoever that low levels of serum cholesterol do not prevent heart
attacks. But worse, low cholesterol levels may be associated with causes of
cancer. Cancer patients seem almost invariably to have low serum
cholesterol levels. Cholesterol may be, in fact, part of our defence system
against cancer. Cholesterol for one thing acts as an antioxidant against
We know a lot more
about cholesterol today than we did in 1956 when the cholesterol CVD theory
was spawned. the majority of studies show that there is no truth in the
theory, but for whtever reasons the dogma remains. Cigarette smoking is now
a well documented risk factor in heart disease. Stress, coffee and smoking
all cause vasoconstriction or narrowing of the arteries which is especially
important in cases of angina where atherosclerosis is present.
fat consumption has increased only 10% in the past 100 years, the increase
in refined carbohydrates and sugar has gone up an incredible 700%. This
increase in consumption of refined carbohydrates, especially sugar, is the
single most important factor effecting a rise in blood triglycerides. There
is a definite link between societies with an extremely high sucrose
consumption and coronary heart disease.
A second major
cause of heart disease is a lack of demanding exercise. Lifestyles have
changed drastically over the past 100 years and general physical actvity
levels have decreased and heart disease has increased.
Stress causes an
increase in cholesterol, glucose levels and triglycerides, it also causes
an elevation of blood pressure. There are well known associations between
stress and coronary heart disease. Although all the answers to the
heart disease question are not answered, the only true prevention and cure
is to be found in a total lifestyle change.
studies reveal that the incidence of atherosclerosis is higher in countries
where diets are high in saturated fats. However, vegetarians whose diet is
low in saturated fats may develop atherosclerosis; but Eskimos, who eat
large amounts of saturated fats, seldom develop the disease.
there are other factors besides saturated fat that affect the cholesterol
level of the blood, including stress, anxiety, cigarette smoking,
overeating, lack of exercise and high consumption of refined sugars. Some
people may not efficiently metabolise saturated fats. Other factors may
include high blood pressure, diabetes and gout.
B12, biotin lecithin, pangamic acid, methionine and possible inositol are
lipotropic substances (substances that must be present to prevent
accumulation of fat in the liver). Since the liver regulates cholesterol,
these vitamins may be essential.
magnesium, potassium, manganese, zinc, vanadium, chromium or selenium.
Other vitamin such as C, E, niacin (B3), folic acid or B6 may also be
significant as many of these nutrients are necessary for fat utilisation.
(1) Dr R Trattler.
Dr A Jones. (2001). Better Health Through Natural Healing. Heart Disease.
Dingley Victoria. Hinkler Books Pty Ltd
Medical Journeal, 304; 6824. Page 431
(3) J Bland.
(1993) Medical Applications of Clinical Nutrition. keats Publishing Co.,
New Canaan, Conn.
(4) L. Dunne.
(1990). Nutrition Almanac. Third Edition. Foods, Beverages, Supplementary
Foods and Eating Right. New York - McGraw Hill Publishing Co. (pg 6 & 149)