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The Importance of Cholesterol

Posted: Sun, June 01, 2014 | By:



by Alexander Kristensen

Just for a moment, think about how a human being evolves in utero. The fetus receives a rich supply of the most essential nutrients needed for development, everything it needs, delivered directly from the mother’s womb.

Now consider an egg, from a hen. Independent from a source of nutrients, an egg is capable - just like a fetus - of developing into a living being. How is this possible? Answer: the egg is created with all the substances needed for developing a healthy body and brain.

Why is the content of cholesterol inside an egg so high, despite the limited space available for nutrients? Logic suggests that cholesterol plays a
very important, necessary role in transforming an egg into a chicken. Reapplying this logic, its obvious that cholesterol is crucial for developing a human body and continuous-developing brain.

Stress, suicidal behavior, cognitive abilities, erectile dysfunction

Numerous studies are linking low cholesterol to a wide variety of mental and physical maladies: stress, depression, suicidal behavior, erectile dysfunction. People with high cholesterol also score higher in cognitive tests. [2,3,4,5,6,7,8] This startles the majority of the public that has been informed all their life that cholesterol is very unhealthy. [1] They’ve been grievously misled. When you look at the functions carried out by cholesterol, you realize it isn’t just a dirty substance flowing in your veins to increase your mortality risk - cholesterol is actually good for you.

Cholesterol has been thoroughly demonized by medical and nutritional professional in the last half-century. Conventional propaganda equates high blood cholesterol to high risk of arteriosclerosis and deadly heart diseases. This idea has become thoroughly widespread, although we know cholesterol is needed in the creation of bile salts and several hormones - components vital for human wellbeing, especially brain health.

Made using www.emolecules.com

Logically, low cholesterol levels would eventually lead to lower levels of the components above. Just for fun, let’s take a short look at what inadequate amounts of these components would lead to:

Vitamin D

Deficiency or low
levels of vitamin D can lead to:

- Rickets(in children)

- Osteomalacia

- Osteoporosis

Deficiency and low levels also contribute to other illnesses like:

- cardiovascular disease

- hypertension

- diabetes mellitus

- some inflammatory and autoimmune diseases

- certain cancers

Research in the last two decades implies that the active form of vitamin D has effects on mechanisms involved in the central nervous system. This includes neurotropic properties and protection from amyloid deposition, to mention a few examples. Yet research hasn’t been able to conclude associations between vitamin D levels and cognitive performances. It is believed that vitamin D plays an important role during development of the central nervous system. Thereby vitamin d insufficiency during childhood would lead to reduced cognitive performance, but no studies have yet tested this hypothesis. [9,10]

The case of hormones

No surprise that an unbalanced hormone level can’t be good - It’s known that a low level of testosterone, which is one of the key steroid hormones, is equal to a bad sex life, both in men and women.

It’s has also been found that lower testosterone levels, in men with coronary heart disease led to higher mortality. – notice that a lower level of available cholesterol, leading to a lower level of testosterone, would actually worsen CHD

The effect of hormones on cognition in general is yet unclear, as most studies of this kind focus on postmenopausal women, middle aged women and brain degenerative diseases. (This will not be further explained here) [11, 12]

The case of bile salts

Bile salts are secreted from the gallbladder and are important for the absorption of certain vitamins in the food you digest. Especially, the ability to absorb A, D and K vitamins is compensated with insufficient amounts of bile salts. – These vitamins are essential for your brain health. Let’s just leave it there and conclude that a poor amount of bile salts isn’t good for you, either. [1]

The link between artery-, heart diseases and cholesterol

Typically, about 75% - 80% of the cholesterol found in your body, has been produced by your body itself. This is a clear indicator that cholesterol is vital for your health in general. And your body tends to use a homeostatic mechanism, keeping the cholesterol levels somewhat constant. This means that a lower intake of absorbable cholesterol, would lead to higher production of cholesterol, vice versa. Therefore, despite of typical doctor recommendations, regulating your cholesterol intake, would hardly lead to change in total body cholesterol.

To better understand how cholesterol is connected to arteriosclerosis, you need to know a bit about how cholesterol is transported through your veins. When cholesterol enters your blood vessels it is transported by various transporters, the so-called lipoproteins. In reference to cholesterol only two lipoproteins are relevant:

Low-density lipoprotein(LDL) – Transports cholesterol from the liver to various cells in the body

High-density lipoprotein(HDL) – Transports cholesterol from the various cells in the body to the liver

LDL has often been referred to as bad cholesterol while HDL has been referred to as good cholesterol. These terms are somewhat misleading, since the transportation of cholesterol to the various cells is essential for creating the components as earlier mentioned. It has been found that patients suffering from arteriosclerosis typical had higher levels of LDL, which resulted that LDL was condemned to be bad. Research starts to point towards the fact that, arteriosclerosis is rather connected with oxidized LDL. Oxidized LDL is LDL that has been damaged by different factors e.g. free radicals, excitation from sunlight, etc. This means that you should rather focus on reducing the oxidation. [1]

Oxidation Is dramatically accelerated, when the target(in this case LDL) of oxidation Is glycated, which happens as sugar molecules attach themselves to the target. Reduce this glycation and you reduce the oxidation of LDL. And you reduce the glycation by reducing your blood
sugar. You reduce your total blood sugar, by reducing your intake of sugar.

You can reduce your blood sugar by alternating your food choices. It’s pretty simple. Prefer foods that are low on the glycemic index scale rather than the other way around. Fat is a great source of energy rather than carbohydrates in general. [1]

So what’s been learned so far:

- eat adequate amounts of cholesterol

- cut down on carbohydrates

- be happy

References:

  1. The “Grain Brain” book, David Perlmutter, MD(2013)
  2. Are cholesterol and depression inversely related? A meta-analysis of the association between two cardiac risk factors. - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18787911
  3. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-breakthrough-depression-solution/201106/low-cholesterol-and-its-psychological-effects
  4. Plasma cholesterol and depressive symptoms in older men. - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8093404
  5. Depressive symptoms, social support, and lipid profile in healthy middle-aged women. - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9316185
  6. Higher prevalence of depressive symptoms in middle-aged men with low serum cholesterol levels. - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10772398
  7. Low serum cholesterol may be associated with suicide attempt history. - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19026260
  8. Serum cholesterol and cognitive performance in the Framingham Heart Study. - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15673620
  9. Vitamin D in childhood and adolescence. - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17403948
  10. Vitamin D and Cognition: An Update of the Current Evidence - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24820017
  11. Do lipid-lowering drugs cause erectile dysfunction? A systematic review - http://fampra.oxfordjournals.org/content/19/1/95.full
  12. The effect of statin therapy on testosterone levels in subjects consulting for erectile dysfunction. - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20141585


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