The Cholesterol Sting About ‘Bad’ and ‘Good’

A few years ago I received a call from a clinic technician telling me that my cholesterol level was high, over 200. She advised me to make a follow-up appointment. I asked, “What’s over 200, my LDL or HDL?” The technician replied that they only tested for total cholesterol.

 A red flag went up and I decided to find a provider who looked more astutely at the big picture. There, I learned that my “high” cholesterol came from an HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) that was even higher than my LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) count. Of course, this meant another appointment and blood test at my expense to learn that, cholesterolwise, I was pretty healthy. So, what’s all this banter about cholesterol?

 Cholesterol is a vital ingredient in every cell in our bodies, including our brains. We can’t make estrogen, testosterone, cortisone and other hormones, Vitamin D, and bile enzymes to digest fat, without cholesterol. It’s vital for nerve function and more.

 The ‘good’ and ‘bad’ myth got created when health professionals learned how to measure cholesterol levels in the blood. In 2004, the National Cholesterol Education Program Panel came up with guidelines on cholesterol management. At the time, USA Today reported that eight of the nine doctors on the panel who developed the guidelines had been making money from the drug companies that manufacture statin cholesterol-lowering drugs. The ten page report is available on line through NIH. The following year, the Annals of Internal Medicine published a 10 page review that found insufficient research evidence to support the treatment outlined in the panel’s report. Today, nine years later, there is still no evidence to support keeping cholesterol levels low.

 Here’s what happens when cholesterol levels are too low. We aren’t able to use the sun to generate needed levels of Vitamin D. Statin drugs work by inhibiting an enzyme that our liver needs to produce cholesterol for body repairs. Cholesterol has the ability to heal scar tissue that may have formed in our arteries or elsewhere. Statins also deplete us of CoQ10 (Coenzyme Q10), which supports heart health and muscles generally. Without enough CoQ10, we’re subject to fatigue, muscle weakness, and possible heart failure.

As far back as 1985, when the fat scare began, institutions began cutting down on nutritious fats (cattle were fed corn instead of grass; farmed fish were fed grain instead of marine diet). Stores began offering fat-free crackers, dips, frozen dinners and you-name-it. People began eating twice as much grain, vegetable oils and high-fructose corn syrup to satisfy their appetites with the automatic rise in obesity and diabetes. The sedentary lifestyle that followed caused more general inflammation and cell breakdown with not enough cholesterol to repair the damage caused by scar tissue.

 It has taken us all the years in between to finally get to the point of realizing that a natural diet, free of processed foods and sugared drinks, when coupled with plenty of exercise is a simple, affordable road to robust health. Cholesterol does not cause heart problems. Cholesterol levels may rise when there is already damage because it has a job to do, like repairing scar tissue in existing vessels and muscles that could result in heart disease. Reports that promote statin drugs and preoccupation with cholesterol levels without explaining cholesterol’s beneficial effects are suspect. Their charts and numbers serve to confuse the issue and keep pharmaceutical companies happy.

 A simpler route is to be sure we’re getting enough high-quality, nutritious fat from grass-fed animals and wild fish, enough raw fruits and vegetables, organic dairy products, raw nuts and seeds, and eggs from hens that walk the earth, to keep up a healthy supply of cholesterol. We can simply drink plenty of tap water for easy transport of whatever we eat through our digestive tracts. And we can be sure we’re getting plenty of exercise to keep all these nutrients circulating to repair and energize us.

 A fringe benefit in taking small steps to find quality foods is that we can get to know the farmers and grocers right here in NH who are making such foods possible for us. We can support them in our communities, grateful for the privilege.

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4 Responses to “The Cholesterol Sting About ‘Bad’ and ‘Good’”

  1. http://yahoo.com Says:

    What precisely seriously inspired u to write “The Cholesterol
    Sting About Bad and Good elizabethterp’s Blog”? I actuallyabsolutely enjoyed reading the post! Thank you -Shellie

    • elizabethterp Says:

      Thanks for your comments, Shellie. There is so much misinformation being swallowed as real that I try, through my column, to put these health issues in perspective. Fortunately, there are other voices within the medical profession who are also beginning to speak up, at last.
      Elizabeth

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