Updated August 21, 2020. Medical review by Albert J. Hart, MD
Cholesterol Information is a frequent topic of concern for people starting a ketogenic diet, because we have been repeatedly told that cholesterol in our foods and in our bodies is a bad thing. This is not true.
Fact: Half of all heart related deaths occur in people who have normal cholesterol levels.
Many people still believe that consuming saturated fat and having elevated cholesterol are synonymous with death from heart disease. This oft-repeated story is called the Diet-Heart Hypothesis.
Problem is it's not true. It's a failed hypothesis based on flawed studies. New unbiased studies show that saturated fat and cholesterol levels in the blood have very little to do with heart disease. Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, this information still finds it way to the public via the mainstream media's medical ignorance and physicians who get their facts from drug reps instead of the latest scientific literature and cholesterol Information.
Considering the fact stated above, and the studies which suggest that higher cholesterol levels are associated with lower rates of mortality from any cause, we should consider the idea that cholesterol may be a substance we want to encourage, not reduce.
In fact, cholesterol is essential to life, and it provides many substantial benefits to our body's state of health. Below is some cholesterol information of which you may be unaware:
- Cholesterol is required to maintain cellular membrane integrity. Every cell in your body has a membrane which keeps the cell together and maintains the insides from the outside environment. This cell membrane is key to our ability to live and thrive, and cholesterol literally keeps your cell membranes from being destroyed when you get hot or cold. Your body cannot make new cells without cholesterol, and the body uses it to repair cellular damage.
- Cholesterol is the building material from which your body makes bile for the digestion of fatty acids. Without bile, you could not digest the fats you eat and your body would not have the materials it needs to build your cells. Since a large part of your brain is composed of fat (60% by weight), a lack of cholesterol would have a tremendous effect on your well being.
- Cholesterol is the parent substance from which aldosterone and cortisol are made. Without these two hormones, you would die in a matter of days, because these hormones keep the amount of salt and sugar in your blood at the right levels.
- Cholesterol is also the parent for another hormone called calcitrol. Calcitrol is the active form of vitamin D within the body, and it is involved in more than 300 cellular processes. One of the most important is the regulation of calcium levels in our bones. Without calcitrol, calcium would pass right through the body, and our bones and teeth would dissolve. In addition, nerve transmissions would fail, as they depend on calcium. The result would be total paralysis as muscle groups would be unable to respond to nerve impulses. Your heart, which is a muscle, would be unable to contract.
- Cholesterol helps the body fight infections and indeed this may be its most important benefit.
Current research has suggested that heart disease and atherosclerosis may be caused by infectious organisms and the resulting inflammation they cause. Higher levels of cholesterol protect the body from these inflammatory microorganisms.
- Cholesterol acts as a protective substance against stroke and cancer.
- Low cholesterol contributes to mood disorders, such as aggression, violence and depression. A team at the Yale University School of Medicine has theorized that cholesterol somehow regulates and influences brain neurochemistry.
- Your brain, which is the seat of your memories, your personality, your "you-ness" relies heavily on cholesterol. The brain uses about 20% of your total body cholesterol. If the brain doesn't have enough cholesterol, cognitive problems happen. Indeed, some people have reported experiencing loss of memory and even amnesia after taking drugs to lower cholesterol. See Dr. Duane Graveline's book Lipitor: Thief of Memory.
- A study in 2003 by Pfreiger revealed that the brain uses cholesterol to build the synaptic connections between its neurons. In fact, the brain has special cells called glial cells which are specifically adapted to make cholesterol for neuronal connections. Without cholesterol, there would be no brain function.
- A lack of cholesterol can cause dementia. Current research is revealing that lower cholesterol levels are related to the development of Alzheimer's disease. Henry Lorin has written an interesting book on this subject called Alzheimer's Solved: Condensed Edition.
- People with higher levels of cholesterol live the longest. There are multiple studies which support this fact. This is especially true for the elderly.
- Some people suffer from a genetic defect which is called Smith Lemli Opitz Syndrome in which the body doesn't make cholesterol. These people suffer from debilitating health problems including growth retardation, digestive issues, and other serious body damage since cholesterol is essential to these body processes.
- Cholesterol is so important to your body that it will make it if you don’t eat enough. This self-regulation makes it very difficult to use a low fat diet alone to lower your cholesterol. The less cholesterol you eat, the more cholesterol your body makes. If you still want to lower your cholesterol, reduce your carbohydrate intake. Carbohydrates turn into sugar or glucose in the body, and cholesterol is made from glucose. Any basic biochemistry text will confirm this fact.
Elevated Cholesterol is Healthy, in Context..
There are multiple studies which provide evidence that even high cholesterol levels above 300 mg/dl are not the dire health problem the government, drug companies and other nutritional experts would have you believe.
However, high cholesterol can be a marker for insulin resistance, and is often associated with a chronically high carbohydrate intake. In these cases, the real culprit at the root of the heart disease is the inflammation caused by the elevated insulin and blood sugars associated with eating refined carbohydrates and too many carbs in general. The higher cholesterol indicates the body is trying to repair the damage done to the arteries by the high insulin levels.
Chronically high blood sugar and insulin are at the root of the inflammation associated with so many health conditions, including heart disease, and most autoimmune diseases. Dr. Ron Rosedale writes about this here.
Cholesterol levels, in the context of normal blood sugars and insulin, have never been linked definitively to heart disease in any study, and in fact, many recent studies discussing cholesterol Information have declared no relationship exists.
More Cholesterol Information
If your cholesterol levels are elevated, and your doctor has mentioned statin drugs, please read the following resources, so you can make an informed decision. Statin side effects are real and debilitating. It's my intent that the cholesterol information below will help you make the right decision for you.
- Dave Feldman's Cholesterol Code website
- Cholesterol information from Perfect Health on Levels and Mortality Rates
- Perfect Health Diet post on Cholesterol Information and Health: A great, well research article which shows that poor health and mortality rates increase as cholesterol levels drop.
- Hulley SB, Walsh JMB, Newman TB: Health Policy on Blood Cholesterol -Time to Change Directions. Circulation 86(3), 1026-1029 ( 1992)
- A Doctor Discusses the Dangers of Low Cholesterol
- The Statin Effects Study website
- THINCS: The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics
- Spacedoc.net, a website by Duane Graveline, M.D.
- A study which reports that higher cholesterol levels help build muscle mass.
- Medical Consumers website.
- Cholesterol and Health
- What's Cholesterol Got To Do With It? - article by Gary Taubes
- Dr. Drug Rep: article in New York Times magazine
- Spacedoc.net Forums: Read anecdotal evidence about the damage that statin drugs cause to individual health.
- The Great Cholesterol Con: The Truth About What Really Causes Heart Disease and How to Avoid It by Dr. Malcolm Kendrick
- The Great Cholesterol Con by Anthony Colpo
- Alzheimer's Solved: Condensed Edition by Henry Lorin, DMD.
- Fat and Cholesterol are Good for You by Uffe Ravnskov, MD PhD
- The Cholesterol Myths: Exposing the Fallacy That Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Cause Heart Disease by Uffe Ravnskov, MD PhD. This book is sometimes out of print, but you may be able to find copies on the web.
- Lack of Association Between Cholesterol and Coronary Heart Disease Mortality and Morbidity and All-Cause Mortality in Persons Older Than 70 Years A cholesterol Information study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association
- Dr. Peter Attia's Blog Series on Cholesterol: a comprehensive source of cholesterol Information.
Large volumes of cholesterol Information and evidence support the fact that in addition to having no link to heart disease, borderline high cholesterol levels actually lower your risk of having a stroke or succumbing to an early death from cancer, digestive or respiratory diseases. In addition, there are many documented cases of statin drugs causing serious injury and death to otherwise healthy people. You would be wise to educate yourself, starting with the cholesterol Information on this page.
What to Say to Your Physician
Get your physician involved in a discussion about the cholesterol information on this page and the study results which contradict the mainstream lipid hypothesis:
- Ask him or her to look at the cholesterol information studies which prove there is no relationship between high cholesterol blood levels and arteriosclerosis. Dave Feldman's Cholesterol Code website is a good place to begin.
- Ask why many long term study reassessments like Framingham and MRFIT have shown that people with "elevated" cholesterol levels have the lowest rates of "all cause mortality", and that in fact, lower cholesterol levels are dangerous.
- Ask about natural treatments such as a ketogenic diet plan, Pantethine, and CoQ10 and L-Carnitine for increased heart health.
- Point out that current research models are suggesting that low cholesterol levels are associated with Alzheimer's Disease.
If you get the answer that this contradictory cholesterol information is bunk and the doctor is unwilling to learn more, maybe you need a new physician.
Although I have a Master's degree in Applied Clinical Nutrition, I am not a physician. Do not change your medication or health regimen without speaking to your physician. The advice on this website is not intended to replace the advice of your physician. My intention is to provide the alternative facts, so that you have all the information you need to make informed decisions about your health care.
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