In today’s blog, I decided to write the science behind cholesterol and its role in the body. Alot of people in today’s society associate cholesterol with heart disease, illness and early death. However, cholesterol is a vital component in our body and has some extremely important functions for health! I’ll also be discussing the concerns I have with allopathic (conventional) treatment of cholesterol and the problems this may cause for individuals long-term.
What does cholesterol do?
Cholesterol is among the most vital lipids inside of the human body. Its denigration by conventional mainstream dogma over the past several decades defies the actual science that flies in the face of cholesterol’s debased reputation. Not only is there no such thing whatsoever as “good” and “bad” cholesterol, both LDL (the so called “bad) and HDL (the so called “good”) cholesterol are not even cholesterol, they are lipoproteins, transport mechanisms for cholesterol. Efforts to reduce the body’s production of cholesterol and its adjacent lipoproteins, whether through medical intervention, or through nutritional intervention, may have very serious repercussions for one’s health.
The overwhelming majority of cholesterol in the blood is manufactured by the liver and is not derived from dietary sources of cholesterol.
LDL, HDL & Oxidative Stress
LDL and HDL are the lipoproteins that deliver cholesterol to and from the tissues. LDL carries cholesterol out to the different parts of the body, HDL removes cholesterol from the tissues and brings it back to the liver. This is the flow. Neither are good nor bad, they are both essential and normal biological constituents.
Many doctors and researchers have declared LDL to be the so called “bad cholesterol”. First, LDL is not cholesterol at all. LDL transports cholesterol from the liver where it is made to the peripheral tissues where it is used for all of its necessary purposes. LDL transports much more than just cholesterol. LDL also transports essential antioxidants such as Vitamins A, E, D, K, Coenzyme Q10, alpha lipoic acid, as well as phospholipids and various fatty acids.
The current attention in medical research has shifted away from cholesterol per se, and instead has focused on “oxidized” LDL particles as being a cause in vascular inflammation. The term “oxidized LDL” introduces an entirely different discussion. The increase in “oxidation” of certain molecules is reflective of oxidative stress and free radical formation, which inflames and degrades tissues.
The critical point is that oxidizing LDL particles is not being caused by cholesterol. And further, reducing the amount of LDL and cholesterol via a statin drug will not prevent oxidative stress. If anything it will likely increase oxidative stress, because cholesterol is a potent anti-inflammatory, documented in the literature to inhibit pro-inflammatory cascades such as leukotriene via LOX. Cholesterol is needed to synthesize other anti-inflammatory molecules such as the hormone cortisol.
Additionally, recommending statin drugs without concomitantly supplementing with CoQ10 is a very dangerous move, particularly because CoQ10 synthesis will be inhibited when the statin drug blocks a key enzyme in Coenzyme A synthesis. It is well established that CoQ10 plays a pivotal role in the health of the cardiovascular system, and with all cells.
Emerging evidence suggests that more important than the quantity of LDL particles, is the quality of the LDL particles. The quality of an LDL particle will largely prevent the molecule itself from oxidizing, i.e. being more resilient and stable. The quality of LDL molecules will largely be due to factors related to diet and whole food nutrition. An increased consumption of certain oxidative-prone, unsaturated vegetable oils and trans fatty acids will be major ticking time bombs for the degradation of LDL particles.
Increased blood glucose and hyperinsulinism will likely contribute to an increase in oxidative stress as well. The literature has reported extensively on the inflammation induced by glycation. Glycation is the covalent bonding of a sugar molecule with a protein or lipid molecule. This is why normalizing one’s glucose and insulin levels is one of the single most important strategies that exists for preventing vascular risks from developing.
There can be reasons why LDL levels may increase on a blood test, which don’t have to do with inflammation, glycation or oxidative stress. For example:
- Low thyroid function. Many thyroid experts believe that subclinical low thyroid issues are epidemic. It is known that if thyroid hormone is decreased in cells, LDL receptors will not work well, causing elevated LDL in the blood
- Immune response to pathogenic infection. LDL has shown in literature to bind to certain types of bacteria
- High cortisol, Cushing’s syndrome. Because cholesterol makes the adrenal hormone cortisol, and LDL transports cholesterol to the adrenal glands, high cortisol may feature increased LDL
Your Body Cannot Function Without Cholesterol
Among cholesterol’s most essential functions, is its presence in all of the trillions of cell membranes of the body. What is it doing there? It is one of the primary structural components of the membrane of a cell. Without adequate cholesterol, cells will break apart due to a lack of integrity.
In addition to this, all of the steroidal hormones of the body are synthesized from cholesterol. This includes cortisol and corticosteroids, DHEA, the estrogens, testosterone, progesterone, aldosterone, and the master steroidal hormone, pregnenolone. Cholesterol is the precursor to all of these hormones. It is no surprise that some of the many symptoms associated with taking cholesterol-lowering medications are: fatigue, muscle wasting, loss of sex drive and adrenal fatigue.
In addition to this, it is the circulating LDL particles (the so called “bad” cholesterol) that are what deliver cholesterol to the hormone receptor sites of cells.
Cholesterol & Digestion
Cholesterol is the raw material for bile. Bile is an essential water-based substance made by the liver that is necessary for the digestion of fats, fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, K and carotenoids. In addition to this, bile contains conjugated toxins such as the environmental chemicals and toxic metals such as mercury and lead that have been filtered by the liver. Bile is produced as the end result of phase 1 and 2 liver detoxification. Inadequate cholesterol production by the liver and inadequate bile production is indicative of a toxic, over-burdened liver, and an over-all high toxic body burden.
A deficiency in bile will necessarily result in poor assimilation of fat and fat soluble vitamins. In addition to this, bile salts have the responsibility of alkalizing the hydrochloric acid and bolus (partially digested and acidified food) that enters into the duodenum from the stomach. In many instances, a bile insufficiency can produce many symptoms associated with acid reflux, GERD and acid indigestion.
Inadequate levels of bile can damage the normal digestive functions of the body and can prevent the body from detoxifying the thousands of environmental toxins that are often found in high amounts in the average person’s body.
Cholesterol & Immune Function
Among its many primary roles in the body, cholesterol in the tissues is a powerful anabolic lipid, effectively preventing the formation of harmful and destructive free radicals generated when certain immune cell-produced conjugated fatty acids (such as leukotriene) are produced through catalytic mechanisms.
Leukotrienes are among the most virulent and pathological fatty acids that are generated by immune cells. They are produced via the 5-LOX (lipoxygenase) pathway, via arachadonic acid. It is critical to point out that leukotrienes are a primary factor in creating inflammatory processes. Adequate levels of cholesterol is a powerful anti-inflammatory, effectively neutralizing the catalytic conversions of arachadonic acid before the formation of pro-inflammatory lipids such as leukotrienes and certain prostaglandins.
Cholesterol’s powerful anti-inflammatory capabilities is the strongest evidence to demonstrate cholesterol’s vital role in regulating inflammatory diseases such as cardiovascular disease, asthma, autoimmune diseases, and many others. Cholesterol puts out the fires of inflammation. Cholesterol is NOT the cause of inflammation, it is the response TO inflammation!
Cholesterol, Lipo-proteins & Blood Tests
Cholesterol is not actually measured on a blood test. Only the lipo-proteins are measured, and the sum of which is called “total cholesterol”. Even if cholesterol was measured on a blood test, its clinical value comes into question, at least when looking at the actual results at face value. A very important factor is that cholesterol is only active and usable when it is free and unbound. Since the cholesterol in the blood is mostly lipo-protein-bound, it isn’t free to be used, and therefore is not reflective of what the cells are actually using.
In many ways this is the value of the LDL/HDL ratio, to calculate what amount of lipo-proteins are going out to the cells and tissues, versus what is returning from the cells and tissues.
The Conventional View Of Cholesterol Is In Error
Heart disease is found among people with high, low, and normal total serum cholesterol! Elevations in LDL and total cholesterol values are very often indicative of the body’s need for more of it in cells and tissues. Remember that it is LDL that sends cholesterol out to the various locations in the body so that cholesterol can perform its many critical functions. Rather than attempting to lower or inhibit cholesterol values, investigating why cholesterol is elevated is of greater importance. Because it is this investigation that leads to deeper inquiries into the body’s functionality, such as:
- Digestion & bile synthesis
- Immune regulation
- Inflammation, free radicals and oxidative stress
- Hormone synthesis
- Cell membrane formation & integrity
Conventional medicine and conventional nutrition is by nature allopathic, only addressing the level of the symptom, and failing to address causation or the many potential layers of dysfunction, which when investigated can reveal the breakdown of normal physiological homeostasis.
If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me via the contact page on the website for more information regarding cholesterol and implications on health.
Tegan, Nutrition Nourishment
Smith, LL, 1991: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1937129
‘Research In Physiopathology As Basis Of Guided Chemotherapy’, Revici, MD
‘Cholesterol, Friend Or Foe?’, Natasha Campbell McBride, MD
‘The Cholesterol Myths’, Uffe Ravnskov, MD, PhD