The Importance of Cholesterol
Cholesterol is very important to the body - not having enough is a problem. Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance found in the bloodstream as well as in every cell in the body.
Cholesterol plays a vital role in how every cell in the body works. It is needed to produce some hormones, vitamin D and bile acids (these help digest fat). It also helps in forming memories & for neurological function.
The liver makes about 70% of your cholesterol, the rest comes from food. Cholesterol is actually transported around the body by proteins called lipoproteins. The 2 main forms of lipoproteins are LDL (low density lipoprotein aka “bad cholesterol”) and HDL (high density lipoprotein aka “good cholesterol”).
HDL is protective in that it keeps cholesterol away from your arteries and removes any excess from them. This may help prevent heart disease.
LDL, according to conventional thinking, may build up in arteries & form plaque that narrows them and makes them less flexible (a condition called atherosclerosis). A problem occurs if a clot forms in one of these narrowed arteries as a heart attack or stroke may result.
Cholesterol also combines with other substances which also make up part of your cholesterol count, such as Triglycerides (fats that have been linked to heart disease and diabetes) and Lipoprotein (a) (or Lp(a) - this is made up of an LDL part plus a protein).
Triglyceride levels can rise from eating too many grains and sugars, being physically inactive, smoking, excessive alcohol intake and being overweight or obese.
Lipoprotein (a), if the levels are elevated, poses a strong risk factor for heart disease.
In reality, there is only one type of cholesterol. Dr Ron Rosedale MD (a specialist in nutritional and metabolic medicine and the author of the Rosedale Diet) explains it like this:
“Notice please that LDL and HDL are lipoproteins — fats combined with proteins. There is only one cholesterol. There is no such thing as “good” or “bad” cholesterol.
Cholesterol is just cholesterol. It combines with other fats and proteins to be carried through the bloodstream, since fat and our watery blood do not mix very well.
Fatty substances therefore must be shuttled to and from our tissues and cells using proteins. LDL and HDL are forms of proteins and are far from being just cholesterol.
In fact we now know there are many types of these fat and protein particles. LDL particles come in many sizes and large LDL particles are not a problem. Only the so-called small dense LDL particles can potentially be a problem, because they can squeeze through the lining of the arteries and if they oxidize, otherwise known as turning rancid, they can cause damage and inflammation. Thus, you might say that there is “good LDL” and “bad LDL.”
Also, some HDL particles are better than others. Knowing just your total cholesterol tells you very little. Even knowing your LDL and HDL levels will not tell you very much.”
“First and foremost, cholesterol is a vital component of every cell membrane on Earth. In other words, there is no life on Earth that can live without cholesterol. That will automatically tell you that, in and of itself, it cannot be evil. In fact, it is one of our best friends.”
The good news is that HDL takes cholesterol from your body’s tissues and arteries, and brings it back to your liver, where most of your cholesterol is produced. This is because your liver will reuse it.
Another good thing about cholesterol is that if you have damaged cells that need to be replaced, the liver is notified to make more cholesterol to release into the bloodstream. This process takes place so that your body produces new, healthy cells. So without cholesterol damaged cells would not be replaced. Cells cannot form without it.
If your cholesterol levels have increased, it would be in part because of increased inflammation in your body. The cholesterol is there to help your body repair.
Conventional medicine recommends that lowering cholesterol with drugs is the way to reduce your risk of heart attacks. However, this does not address the cause of the body damage - what actually is causing the increased inflammation and thus increased cholesterol.
There are quite a few studies which support a connection between low or lowered cholesterol levels, depression and violent behaviour.* Lowered cholesterol levels may lead to lowered brain serotonin activity, which may, in turn, lead to increased violence and aggression.
*Annals of Internal Medicine (1998;128(6):478-487) The Journal of the American Medical Association (1997;278:313-321)