Fresh insights into cholesterol

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Every single cell in the body is comprised of cholesterol. It provides cell membranes with their integrity, so that they don’t fall apart. Why do we continue to think that cholesterol is bad and to be avoided, if it is necessary for life?

1. Cholesterol serves as an anti-inflammatory, by preventing the formation of pro-inflammatory lipids, such as leukotrienes, thromboxanes and prostaglandins, which generate high levels of free radicals, which cause inflammatory damage to tissues.

Low density lipoprotein [LDL] carries cholesterol out to various parts of the body to quell inflammation. High density lipoprotein [HDL] carries cholesterol back to the liver. For years it has been taught that LDL is bad cholesterol and HDL is good cholesterol. This has now been shown to be a big mistake according to Dr MejiaViana, a Cardiology consultant writing in the Journal of Cardiology & Research, Nov 2015. Having a high LDL indicates that there is a greater need for cholesterol in the tissues of the body, i.e. there are inflammatory processes that need to be halted.

The main sources of inflammation today are a diet high in sugar and processed food, stress, heavy metal toxicity [such as mercury from dental fillings] and radiation. By lowering LDL with a statin drug, one is blaming the wrong culprit! Cholesterol is not creating the problem, but trying to solve it, as an important anti-inflammatory tool used by the body’s defence systems. Thus one could regard the high LDL reading as a risk-marker for inflammation.

The lipoproteins can be further sub-divided into Apo-B [apolipoprotein B] and Apo-A1 [apolipoprotein A-1]. Apo-B particles are small and dense, and found mostly in LDL. A higher proportion of these are associated with a higher cardiovascular risk. Apo-A1, on the other hand, are light and fluffy and found mainly in HDL, and are more beneficial.

What raises cholesterol levels?
Stress, cigarette smoking and a high carbohydrate diet generate inflammation in the body. The body then has to produce more cholesterol to deal with this inflammation, and so the LDL cholesterol level rises. Natural fats in the diet do not account for raised cholesterol levels. Natural fats include free-range animal fat, dairy fats, eggs, coconut and its oil, avocado and its oil, olive oil and cold-pressed nut oils. Processed fats, such as refined seed oils like canola and sunflower oils, hydrogenated fats and margarines account for raised cholesterol by causing inflammation.

Elevated triglyceride levels can indicate high fat intake or insulin resistance, according to Prof Tim Noakes.

Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis represents a common response of an artery to a variety of insults. Inflammation of the artery wall manifests as a lesion or erosion. The body’s repair mechanism involves depositing cholesterol on the erosion, thus forming a plaque. If this enlarges sufficiently it can block the artery, causing a heart attack. Thus cholesterol is again not the culprit but the attempt at repair.

Measurement of ultra-sensitive C-reactive protein in the blood can give an indication of how much inflammation there is in the cardio-vascular system, thus is an important indicator of cardiovascular risk.

2. Cholesterol is also the precursor of multiple hormones and vitamins; sexual hormones, adrenal hormones and Vitamin D.

3. Cholesterol is the precursor of five bile acids that help in digestion by facilitating the absorption of fats.

Are there problems with having the cholesterol too low?

Yes, indeed. Very low levels have been associated with depression, violent behaviour, increased rates of suicide, strokes, Parkinson’s disease and cancer. If lowered by means of statin drugs one can experience the problems due to the statin itself, such as depression, memory loss, and muscle pains due to the blocking of the formation of CoQ10.

It appears that cholesterol, like any other substance in the body, should be in a balanced situation; not too high and not too low.

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