Why is everyone picking on cholesterol !? It is certainly one of the most misunderstood, demonized molecules that our bodies make! It is so important as a precursor to many important molecules in our bodies and even acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory! We produce cholesterol on an ongoing basis, for an ongoing reason. If we make too much or eat too much cholesterol, a feedback loop will kick in and slow down production for most people. Cholesterol drugs called “statins” triger that feedback loop and inhibit cholesterol production. Unfortunately they reduce production of squalene and Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) as well so people on statin drugs often experience side effects such as muscle cramping and exhaustion.
You must be asking why would we produce cholesterol when drug companies are telling us it is bad for us, so let’s review “Cholesterol 101”. We are able to convert cholesterol into “vitamin” D, bile acids, cortisol and other vital hormones including DHEA, progesterone, testosterone and estrogen. Cholesterol is incorporated into our cell membranes and is one of the primary lipids in brain tissue! Does that sound like a poison to you? OF COURSE NOT! Cholesterol is clearly vital to our health.
I put “vitamin” D in quotes for emphasis and to get your attention. Vitamin D is actually a hormone, but that’s another lecture! It is produced from cholesterol in the skin, in the presence of UV light from the sun. We can make up to 10,000 units of vitamin D with 30 minutes or so in the sun. Vitamin D has several target organs including the central nervous system, GI tract, immune system, pancreas and reproductive organs. Vitamin D is thought to protect us from tuberculosis, multiple sclerosis and even some cancers! Make sure you are making or taking plenty of the “sunshine vitamin”!
What about “bad” or “good” cholesterol? People like to call LDL a “bad” cholesterol but that is actually misleading.
The liver produces cholesterol and sends it out for delivery on the “LDL bus.” It can be delivered to the cells that need it at the time. The “HDL taxi” will pick up left over cholesterol and return it to the liver for recycling or disposal. Be aware that LDL and HDL can become elevated in response to toxins such as organic solvents, pesticides, heavy metals or even dry cleaning fluid! Elevated blood lipids should be completely assessed before any drug therapy is initiated!
There is one “bad” cholesterol and that is OXIDIZED cholesterol. This can lead to a cascade of events that build up plaque in our arteries. So, how do we prevent OXIDATION? ANTI-OXIDANTS of course! Vitamin C and full spectrum natural Vitamin E are especially important. No wonder why a deficiency of Vitamin C (master antioxidant) can lead to a type of heart disease known as atherosclerosis (“hardening of the arteries). Apparently heart disease and atherosclerosis are not “statin deficiency” diseases after all!
P.S., eat the yolk of your eggs. Not only do they contain cholesterol that should kick in your feedback loop, but they contain important nutrients such as choline, B12, vitamin E and even vitamin D!
So there, I hope you’ve started to fall in love with cholesterol. I just had to defend that vital, yet defenseless molecule! Stay tuned for more ! Clinical Nutritionist Beth Ellen DiLuglio, MS, RD, CNSD, CCN, LD/N. Metabolism.com