Below are the top 20 points to counter-argue the cholesterol myth. They briefly explain the role cholesterol has to play in our body, health and wellbeing.
Table of contents
The Cholesterol Myth - why is cholesterol feared?
When did cholesterol become so feared and so dangerous? How did they get it so wrong?
Is cholesterol in fact, vital for our health and wellbeing and was sugar actually the culprit for heart disease all along?
There are numerous books being published continuously regarding cholesterol and dietary fat as the science and modern understanding develop.
After reading the top 20 points below, I would encourage you to read the following and make up your own mind.
Further reading: Busting the cholesterol myths
Why Is Cholesterol So Vital For Our Health?
There are many points raised in the books below which are imperative to understand, I've written some important take-home messages. But please, read for yourself as I cannot do the above books justice in a few bullet points.
"We must be our own health advocate. Take control of your health. Find what works for you"
The first is The Great Cholesterol Myth: "Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won't Prevent Heart Disease-and the Statin-Free Plan That Will."
Jimmy Moore has also written a fabulous book called Cholesterol Clarity: "Don't you wish someone could just spell it out in simple, easy-to-understand language and tell you what, if anything, you need to do about your cholesterol? Good news! That's precisely what Cholesterol Clarity is designed to do."
Nina Teicholz, an Investigative Journalist for The New Yorker, The Economist and The New York Times, has spent years researching the unthinkable: that everything we knew about dietary fat is wrong. The Big Fat Surprise - Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong In A Healthy Diet. "Nina documents how the low-fat nutrition advice of the past sixty years has amounted to a vast uncontrolled experiment on the entire population, with disastrous consequences for our health."
What Does Cholesterol Do In Our Body?
- Cholesterol is required by almost every cell in our bodies. It is so vital we are able to manufacture it. Cholesterol is predominantly made by your liver. Cholesterol is so vital we manufacture the bulk of the body's requirements.
- Cholesterol is the structure which is the base of all our sex hormones, bile acid and Vitamin D is made from. Cholesterol maintains cell walls, allows cellular communication and transportation of substances.
- Cholesterol aids the body in fighting infection. When there is an infection present in the body, HDL goes down because it is used to fight the toxins, and this may be one of the reasons why cholesterol is found at the site of inflammation. But this is not to say that cholesterol is to blame for the inflammation, in fact, it could be the opposite, it is present to calm the inflammation.
Does Cholesterol Predict Heart Disease Risk?
- Cholesterol is a poor predictor of heart disease. Half of those with heart disease have 'normal' cholesterol levels. Half of those with 'high' cholesterol levels have healthy hearts. Most heart attack victims have cholesterol within the "normal" range.
- It is the carrier of cholesterol (the lipoproteins LDL and HDL) which give a clearer indication of heart health. The concept of "Good" cholesterol HDL and "Bad" cholesterol LDL are outdated. We need to look at our particle sizes and patterns. Type A LDL are large fluffy particles that "looks like a cotton ball and does as much damage". Type B is a small, hard, dense one which becomes oxidised and angry, sticking to the endothelium and creating inflammation. So you really need to know your particle size and how many of Type A or Type B you have. Just knowing your total LDL is not very helpful, to say the least.
- Eating more good healthy fat raises your level of Type A fluffy particles, eating more sugar raises the Type B angry little particles, which really causes the damage. There appears to be some evidence that high amounts of omega 6 oils can also increase LDL type B.
- How do you get higher levels of angry, sticky, heavy, dense LDL particles? Glycation. This occurs when there is too much glucose in the blood, yet again pointing to sugar being the 'bad boy'. Sugar and carbs are far more detrimental to our health than dietary fat.
- Sugar causes inflammation. Sugar raises insulin which raises blood pressure, appetite, triglycerides and Type B LDL. Sugar in the blood attaches to proteins and causes AGE's (advanced glycation end-products). High levels of circulating insulin may cause microvascular damage to capillary walls in kidneys, which increases blood pressure, and causes the kidneys to retain sodium, which collectively increases blood pressure.
- Sugar causes high triglycerides, which is by far the biggest danger sign for heart disease. Lower your sugar, lowers insulin, lowers triglycerides, lowers your risk.
- Cholesterol carriers are only a problem when they are oxidised (damaged). Once they are damaged, they stick to the lining (endothelium) of our blood vessels and starts the process of inflammation. "Cholesterol cannot accumulate in arteries without inflammation."
- Inflammation is the true cause of heart disease. And what causes inflammation? You guessed it, high carb diet, high insulin levels, processed foods, stress, smoking, heavy alcohol use.
- Low cholesterol is not healthy. Low cholesterol is linked with depression, aggression, Alzheimer's, suicidal thoughts to name a few. Cholesterol is required to make brain cells. You need cholesterol for memory and cognitive function. Read Lipitor - Thief of a Memory, written by a former astronaut who lost his memory after taking a statin to lower his cholesterol.
- Omega 3 fats are anti-inflammatory, Omega 6 fats cause inflammation. It's the balance we must get right. Avoid Omega 6 fats (from processed vegetable oils such as canola oil, soy oil), and increase our Omega 3 fats - walnuts, flaxseeds, macadamia nuts, wild fish, grass-fed meat.
- The benefits of statins have been grossly exaggerated, the side effects have been underreported. There is a great debate going on with the statin lobbyists, and pharmaceutical companies to release their figures. There are class actions taking place in America against the statin drug companies, stating they knowingly have underreported side effects such as muscle damage, memory loss and diabetes. There is also research into the fact that statins reduce Co-enzyme Q10, an enzyme required by every mitochondria for energy transfer, causing muscle pain and damage (and what is the most important muscle in your body - ahhh, that would be your heart), may actually contribute to heart disease!!!
- Statins should never be prescribed for the elderly, most women and only in middle-aged men with a history of proven coronary heart disease. Statins are a multi-billion dollar industry, who are now encouraging treating patients with lower "normal" ranges, so to include more of the population. They lobby the notion that reducing cholesterol promotes good health, especially to Health Insurance Companies.
- The biggest side effects of statins are memory loss, muscle damage, diabetes, loss of energy and low immunity. Statins reduce hormone production, bile production and Vitamin D.
- Don't go low-fat and wholegrain. You will not be doing your heart any favours. Eat low-carb, high-fat, unprocessed, real food.
- The bad science that got us into this mess of believing that fat causes heart disease, have all been proven to be inaccurate and flawed. The main two are Ancel Keys Seven Countries Study and the China Study.
- A low-fat diet has been shown to be worse for our health in almost every way. Going low carb high fat leads to better health outcomes and disease prevention.
- Well-meaning researchers wanted to cure the population of heart disease, only they jumped in too fast. They started writing food guidelines before all the research had been done and done well. They jumped the gun. And now the notion that fat makes you fat, eating cholesterol raises your cholesterol are ingrained in our beliefs and seem logical and true. But nothing could be further from the truth. It is this simple concept of "fat makes you fat, and eating cholesterol raises your cholesterol" actually requires a lot of science and understanding to de-bunk it and therein lies the problem. To prove a simple theory wrong, you have to have a great understanding to truly believe what is counterintuitive.
"Dietary factors and therapeutic lifestyle changes have no side effects. They should be considered the first line of defence in preventative cardiology"
Should You Worry About High Cholesterol?
- Is your cholesterol actually high? What are your LDL particle size and pattern? What about your triglycerides?
- Does the risk of taking a statin outweigh the risk of having a heart attack?
- Eat low-carb, high-fat and see your weight drop, insulin resistance reversed, HDL and Type A LDL improve and triglycerides fall.
- Cholesterol treatment and advice has not changed over the past few decades, whereas science has. The message is not getting out there because of the strong statin lobbyists, huge financial gains and rewards but the pharmaceutical industry, and research grants still available. Research is showing that cholesterol is not what we once thought it was, but it is not appearing in the clinical setting.
- What is your CRP reading (C-Reactive Protein is a marker for inflammation, which we know is the true cause of heart disease and all other major diseases).
- What is your calcium score? The true reflection of heart health.
5 Factors For A Healthy Heart
- Don't smoke. Don't drink alcohol to excess.
- Exercise moderately.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat whole, unprocessed foods, with plenty of omega 3 fats and improve gut health.
- Manage stress.
But where is cholesterol mentioned here? It's not, because it is of little real value. The best indicators for long life are high HDL, low triglycerides and low insulin levels.
Stress contributes to almost every disease known. It affects our ability to recover, our immunity, inflammation, blood pressure, overproduction of platelets (which start blood clots which block arteries) and adrenal depletion.
How you deal with stress and cope with stress is vital to your health and well being.
"Food is the most powerful medicine"