Government Drops Dietary Cholesterol Warnings, and What Your Doctor Will Never Tell You about Cholesterol
After more than 40 years of demonizing eggs, cheese, butter, and red meat, the nation’s top nutrition advisory panel has decided to drop its long-standing caution about eating cholesterol-laden food.
This is something *I* have been saying for quite some time now, and finally a growing number of doctors and nutritionists are finally recognizing it: nearly 80% of the cholesterol in your body is produced BY YOUR BODY. The cholesterol you EAT has virtually no effect on the cholesterol levels in your bloodstream.
Now is a good time to explain the misinformation we’ve been fed on cholesterol for so long.
Here are 15 things you need to know about cholesterol:
1. We need cholesterol to survive. Without it, we are dead. Literally. We would have no cells, no bone structure, no muscles, no hormones, no sex, no reproductive system, no digestion, no brain function, no memory, no nerve endings, no movement, and no human life.
2. So what IS cholesterol? Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is a basic building block of every cell in our bodies; specifically, it helps maintain the structural integrity and fluidity of our cell walls, enabling nutrients to get in, but toxins to stay out. Cholesterol also enables our bodies to process steroid hormones, bile acids, and Vitamin D. And within the cell membrane, cholesterol acts essentially as a transit system for nutrients, a communications system enabling cells to “talk” to each other (like your wireless phone service), and a bio-electrical conduit enabling our nerves to function (like the electrical wiring in our homes).
3. Cholesterol is so vital to the body that our bodies make it.
4. There is actually no such thing as “good” cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol. Cholesterol is cholesterol. “HDL” is not even cholesterol, let alone “good”. “LDL” is also not cholesterol, let alone “bad”. HDL stands for High Density Lipoprotein. LDL stands for Low Density Lipoprotein. These lipoproteins act essentially as taxi cabs, transporting the cholesterol molecules around the body to where they’re needed. LDL would be more accurately described as the carrier of FRESH cholesterol, and HDL would be described as the carrier of recycled cholesterol.
5. A cholesterol molecule is a lipid, which is a category of water-insoluble substances such as waxes, oils, and fats. Because it can’t dissolve in water or watery substances like blood, cholesterol can’t move around the bloodstream on its own. This is why it catches a ride on the HDLs and the LDLs.
6. So when the cholesterol hitches a ride with the lipoproteins, it actually coats the cholesterol molecule. However, not all lipoproteins are created equal. When the lipoprotein has more protein than cholesterol, it resembles a Ferrari, gunning through your body without stopping until it arrives at your liver, where it’s converted into bile acids. These Ferraris are the HDLs, which most of us call “good” cholesterol.
7. When the lipoprotein has more cholesterol than protein, however, this makes for a rickety ride, and that jalopy doesn’t get too far. These LDLs sputter down the road, careening off the artery walls, running into things and leaving bits all over the place. While the HDL Ferrari sees a pileup and nimbly speeds around it, the LDL jalopy crashes right into it, adding to the jumble of debris (platelets and plaque).
8. As you age, that plaque builds up in the lining of your arteries. Some of these fatty deposits may be made of excess LDLs. This plaque buildup can result in the arteries hardening and narrowing at the site of blockages — a condition called atherosclerosis.
9. The problem is that LDLs are like low-quality spackle. Eventually some of that spackle breaks loose, and when that happens, your body tries to heal that nick that’s developed in the plaque itself. This clotting can totally block your arteries, resulting in a heart attack or stroke. The HDLs can prevent this from happening, since they remove wayward LDLs from these trouble areas and back to the liver. This is why HDLs are considered “good”; they lower the risk of heart attack by trying to rid your blood vessels of excess LDLs.
10. In testing for our total cholesterol levels, we’re all shooting for a level less than 200 mg/dL. People with a total cholesterol level greater than 240 (the score for 17% of all Americans) are twice as likely to have heart disease than people with a count of 200. Breaking the numbers down into HDL/LDL, a high individual count of HDLs is usually a good thing; they usually hover around 50 for men and 60 for women. People generally average a 3:1 ratio fo LDLs to HDLs. You ideally want your LDL (“bad” cholesterol) number to fall below 100; 130 is nudging into the danger zone.
11. Here, however, is where most doctors depart from sound medical judgement. If your cholesterol is high, they tend to prescribe statins. Statins stop the body from producing the cholesterol that it is designed to produce. They literally stop one of our fundamental and vital body processes from being able to function. Statins — in the very limited arena where they appear to have some “benefit” (men over 50 who’ve already had a heart attack), they “work” by having anti-inflammatory properties, but the fact that they artificially lower cholesterol by stopping the body from producing this vital substance is a dangerous side effect. It’s essentially like turning down your house’s furnace because it’s running too much, rather than addressing the real problem, which is your kids keep leaving the back door open. Cutting off the heat-producing function of your home will eventually cause you and your family to freeze to death. (Drug companies should work on developing something that has the anti-inflammatory benefit without this huge and damaging side effect of shutting down cholesterol production — oh wait — we already have that drug — it’s called “aspirin”. So why don’t doctors just prescribe a $4.00 bottle of aspirin — or better yet, encourage their patients to reduce inflammation naturally through dietary changes? Why do that when they can bill you — or your insurance company or Medicare — $200/month for office visits, along with $600 per month for a life prescription of statins? You do the math. ) Now, there are one in 500 people who have familial hyperchoesterolemia, and may ahve a problem clearing cholesterol from their bodies. But for everyone else, using statins to actively lower their vital and life-affirming cholesterol levels is deeply troubling.
12. Dietary cholesterol (the cholesterol we eat) has virtually no impact on the cholesterol in our blood. Nearly 80% of the cholesterol in our bodies is manufactured by our bodies. This explains why so many people for decades who dutifully followed their doctors’ instructions and cut nearly all dietary cholesterol out of their diets (eggs, cheese, red meat, etc.), scrupulously following the dietary advice of the American Heart Association for “heart healthy” diets still ended up with skyrocketing cholesterol levels.
13. That’s because for decades we’ve been urged to focus on low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets, which are essentially a dietary disaster for our bodies. All those carbs — even the “complex” carbs, from whole-grain breads — turn almost immediately to sugar in our bodies, which causes almost immediate inflammation, sending the liver scrambling into overdrive producing cholesterol to mitigate this inflammation. SUGAR is the real culprit here. (And artificial sweeteners are even worse; they create a dangerous insulin imbalance by fooling the brain into thinking sugar is in the system, which also triggers the overproduction of cholesterol in the body.)
14. Fats — in particular, saturated fats — have been given a bad rap. With the exception of trans fats (“hydrogenated” oils), natural fats are actually protective. This includes omega-3 fats, nuts and olive oil, and especially coconut oil (virgin, unrefined), which have been proven to reduce heart attack risk by more than 30%.
Thoroughly confused now? Don’t be. Because here is the bottom line when it comes to food: If God made it, it’s good. If man made it, it’s bad.
Eat those good fats. Limit carbs (especially wheat, which has been genetically modified so much our bodies barely recognize it as natural food anymore, throwing a wrench into our endocrine systems). Avoid refined sugars (white table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc.), and if you must sweeten use whole, natural sweeteners like raw honey (not that crap that comes in the squeezable plastic bear; that’s been heat pasteurized, which kills all the beneficial enzymes), real maple syrup, or dates.
Borrowed heavily from “How Stuff Works” by Tom Scheve, Mark Hyman, M.D., and Zoe Harcombe