by Amanda Box

The Cholesterol Myth

Cholesterol has become a word that is synonymous with unhealthy.  It is described as a sticky, oily substance that clogs our arteries and causes heart disease.  We have been led to believe that our cholesterol needs to be as low as possible and even extremely low cholesterol numbers have been suggested for “high risk” individuals.

However, these insanely low numbers could never be achieved without the use of prescription drugs.  These cholesterol lowering medications have some of the worst side effects in the pharmaceutical world, including heart attacks and stroke!

Low fat diets have been suggested to keep cholesterol under control. Saturated fats like butter and animal fat have been replaced by refined oils and hydrogenated fats like margarine.  All this is happening while obesity and heart disease rates continue to rise.  Something is seriously wrong here and I truly don’t believe it’s cholesterol’s fault.

We Need Cholesterol

First of all, cholesterol is not our enemy. It is a very useful substance and it has many important jobs in our body.  Some of the many benefits of cholesterol include:

  • It helps to produce cell membranes.
  • Acts as a precursor to the manufacturing of hormones.
  • Is a precursor to the formation of vitamin D.
  • It helps to formulate bile acids to digest fat.
  • It is needed for proper function of serotonin receptors in the brain.
  • It helps form memories in the brain.
  • It is important in maintaining the health of the intestinal wall.

The two forms of cholesterol, HDL and LDL, are now deemed as “Healthy Cholesterol” and “Bad Cholesterol.”  The reality is neither is bad.  They are both needed and have very important roles to play in the body.

LDL cholesterol acts like a bandage and helps repair arterial damage.  HDL takes cholesterol from your body and arteries and shuttles it back to the liver where it can be reused.

Can your cholesterol be too high? Yes, but the reason it’s high is because your body is trying to protect itself.  Remember, cholesterol comes on the scene when there is damage.  It is not the bad guy; it just repairs and bandages.

Inflammation is what’s causing the damage and cholesterol shows up because it’s just doing its job.  If you can get rid of the things causing the inflammation, your cholesterol will naturally normalize.  So, essentially, the key to good cholesterol is lowering your body’s inflammation levels.

Keys to Lowering Inflammation

How to keep inflammation – and cholesterol – levels low:

  • Do not smoke
  • Avoid hydrogenated oils like margarine and shortening
  • Greatly reduce your intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates
  • Avoid refined oils like canola, corn, and soy oil
  • Lower your stress levels
  • Exercise regularly
  • Consume foods rich in A, C, D and minerals, including iodine.
  • Incorporate healthy saturated fats into your diet like extra virgin coconut oil
  • Take a quality fish oil daily

Side Effects of Very Low Cholesterol

Just like having too much cholesterol is not healthy, having too little is just as bad in this cholesterol myth.  Having very low cholesterol can cause many side effects.  Every single cell in your body needs cholesterol to survive.  Some MDs and scientists are now saying that levels of 150 and below can cause psychological problems.

Unfortunately, some doctors are still having their patients shoot for levels as low as 100! This is extremely low and cannot naturally be achieved.  Statins and other cholesterol lowering drugs are prescribed to reach these low levels.  These are some of the most dangerous prescriptions you can take.

If your cholesterol is too low you can experience:

  • Depression
  • Violent and aggressive behavior
  • Fatigue and Lethargy

Reading Your Numbers

I’m sure you’re wondering that if 150 is too low, then what is considered too high?  Your total cholesterol is not your best determining factor.  Your HDL levels play such an important role. If your HDL is high, then your total cholesterol can be higher as well.

Here is the new and improved way of determining your heart disease risk. Take your HDL and divide it by your Total Cholesterol.  It should be above 24%.

  • HDL/Total Cholesterol=  Ideally above 24%

Triglycerides, Lipoprotein, and C-reactive protein levels have shown to be better indicators of heart disease risk than total cholesterol.  If your physician has not run these labs, you can request them.

Don’t live in fear if your cholesterol is above 200.  Take your HDL to total cholesterol ratio into consideration.

You can also change your cholesterol with diet – including saturated fat.  I’m not talking about a low fat, low cholesterol diet.  Part II of the Cholesterol Myth will include some dietary guidelines to help keep you and your heart in good health.