Cholesterol has gotten a bad rap, but it’s actually not your enemy. In fact, some cholesterol is necessary for life! First, a word on why everybody thinks you need to avoid it.
Cholesterol Causes Heart Disease – Doesn’t It?
The Standard American Diet (SAD!) is full of sugar and white carbs, which are essentially sugar. That much is self-evident. But here’s what sugar does to you.
Your body is designed to accommodate a couple tablespoons of sugar at a time. More than that (among other things) can cause damage to the walls of your blood vessels. (It’s like getting a paper cut.) If you got a similar cut on your finger, it would scab up… in your bloodstream, the “scab” is called LDL, or “bad” cholesterol.
So LDL is sort of like a band-aid: it’s your body’s attempt to patch up the damage that the sugar has inflicted. The more extensive the damage, the more cholesterol you need to form an adequate band-aid.
With continued high intake of sugar, over time that band-aid plug gets bigger and bigger. Eventually it may impede blood flow, or the plug can become unstable and break off, traveling to some other part of the body until it encounters a blood vessel too small to accommodate it. (That’s called cardiovascular disease, or CVD.) So the cholesterol itself isn’t the problem – it’s actually trying to fix the problem! Blaming cholesterol is like blaming the police for criminal activity because they happen to show up at the scene of a crime.
Why You Need Cholesterol
Medications that lower cholesterol production have a built-in problem, and that is that cholesterol is the precursor for a lot of other stuff that you need.
- Membrane formation: cholesterol is necessary for healthy cell membranes. That might not seem like a big deal, but if your cell membranes aren’t healthy, you won’t be able to effectively let nutrients, oxygen, and glucose in, let waste out, or facilitate intracellular communication. These things set you up for a lot of problems.
- Steroid hormone formation: cholesterol is the precursor for estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and all of the hormones produced by your adrenal glands: DHEA, cortisol, and aldosterone! If you’re a man, you definitely want to have plenty of testosterone. If you’re a woman, you definitely want to have sufficient estrogen and progesterone, especially if you’re peri or post-menopausal.
- Vitamin D production: this is the darling of the nutritional world at the moment – and yes, the active form of it comes from sunlight, but you have to have enough cholesterol in order to make it. Lack of it can lead to poor immune function, poor calcium absorption, and depression.
- Bile Salt production: bile is necessary to absorb fat. If you don’t have it, then you’re going to have trouble with fatty foods, and you won’t be able to absorb fat-soluble vitamins either (those are A, D, E, and K).
Early signs of too-low cholesterol are depression, poor concentration and memory, and lower energy.
The moral of the story? Don’t avoid cholesterol in your diet. AVOID SUGAR and the need for excess LDL will go away.