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Why Cholesterol is Not Bad

Bacon and cholesterol

According to the National Center for Health Statistics at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, some of the most prevalent health issues facing the world today are heart disease, cancer, stroke, AIDS, diabetes, pneumonia/influenza, chronic pulmonary diseases (asthma, bronchitis), and infant mortality. Neurological diseases such as the autism spectrum, ADD and ADHD, bipolar syndrome, and schizophrenia are just the latest in a long run of potentially life-threatening ailments that humans (and their pets) have been facing since the modernization of agriculture and food processing techniques “advanced” us into the 20th century.

Most modern diseases are brought about by chronic inflammation, not the kind that occurs when you’re injured and the injury sight begins to swell, but the kind that is wreaking havoc at the cellular level in the bodies of most people every day. Low immune response due to lack of nutritional support does not allow the body to protect and heal itself.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fatty substance produced by the liver that performs or assists in thousands of bodily functions such as building cell membranes, nerve sheaths, and much of your brain. It’s vital to hormone production and metabolizes all the fat soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D, E and K, among other things. Without it you would die.

Despite previous medical and pharmaceutical consensus, however, new studies are showing that dietary cholesterol may actually stop inflammation, prevent blood clots from forming, support the immune system, and prevent disease causing mutations in cells.

Aim for high HDL and low triglycerides

Triglyceride is the name we give to the fatty acids once they are circulating in the bloodstreams. High levels are a bad thing and are caused mainly by chronically high carbohydrate intake from grains and legumes.

Cholesterol and the Heart

With heart disease being at the top of the list of modern diseases, the heart-diet theory is a good place to begin looking at the connection between cholesterol and heart disease.

The modern hypothesis about heart disease – the heart-diet theory – assumes that a diet rich in saturated fat and cholesterol contributes greatly to heart disease. Statistics vary by source and are affected by age, race and gender, but the existing suggestions about the heart and diet assume cholesterol as the causation for clogged arteries leading to heart disease.

Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is a term which encompasses a variety of conditions including the buildup of plaque within the walls of the arteries that supply the heart, inflammation and a breakdown of the operation of the heart muscle, and high blood pressure.

In the early part of the 20th century, most heart disease was caused by infection and immune system compromise. Heart disease was rare and contributed to only 8% of all deaths. With the discovery of antibiotics, this cause of heart disease had virtually been eliminated.

Cholesterol and the Brain

Cholesterol has received a bad reputation in the past 50-60 years. Could it be that the studies done on cholesterol are misleading, even to the scientists who performed them? The latest studies and some of the leading experts in brain plasticity and health show us that cholesterol is not bad; it’s actually something the human brain needs.

25% of the cholesterol in our body is found in the brain. It works to facilitate membrane function and is the raw material for making progesterone, estrogen, cortisol, testosterone and vitamin D. When we think of antioxidants, we think of colorful berries and green leafy vegetables, but cholesterol also acts as an antioxidant.

Inflammation is the root of the problem

Elevated serum levels of cholesterol are a symptom of the underlying problem in your body, not the cause of the problem, which is inflammation. Cholesterol is sent to the artery to heal the inflammation. If it is successful, everything returns to normal. If the inflammation doesn’t subside, more cholesterol is sent and starts to accumulate around the artery as a band aid. This is how plaque starts to form.

The real cause of inflammation is high levels of insulin, a reaction to excess carbohydrate/refined sugar consumption that creates blood sugar spikes. Trans-fats and industrially processed vegetable seed oils also cause inflammation. We only really see any negative effects of LDL when it becomes oxidized by free radicals. A diet high in antioxidants (vegetables and fruits) and low in carbohydrates will reduce factors of oxidation in the body.

Eggs, full of healthy cholesterol

Natural Health: Understanding Food

Some scientists are trending toward a belief that lifestyle, including food, influences and controls a whopping 95% of our overall condition.

According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, the following are the politically correct dietary guidelines currently in vogue:

The danger of these modern guidelines is that the recommended limitations have been established based on foods that are prepackaged, adulterated and modified, contain artificial chemicals, and high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners, all of which may cause inflammation. This led to the assumption that it’s the type of food that causes problems, with no thought given to industrial processing.

Let’s take a look at these same foods from a different perspective.

So how do we make sense of the foods available to us? Eat food in its most natural state and enjoy every part of it including cholesterol and fat from healthy animals. Stay away from the processed, prepackaged, prepared stuff. Go organic and grass fed if you can and don’t worry about counting calories. Eat to live!

Photo of Ashley Noël

Hi I’m Ashley, I’m an ADAPT Certified Functional Health Coach

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