Is all cholesterol bad?
Cholesterol is a substance needed by the body to create its steroid hormones. Steroid hormones are testosterone, oestrogen, Cortisol. Cortisol is an important adrenal cortex steroid hormone, and it regulates carbohydrate metabolism and has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. Aldosterone is another steroid hormone that comes from the adrenal cortex. It helps maintain blood pressure and regulate the salt and water balance in your body. So these hormones are very important. Without cholesterol you wouldn’t be able to function.
There are in laymans terms three main types LDL, HDL, Triglycerides. Cholesterol is carried around the body in a protein structure called Lipoprotein. The LDL( low density lipoprotein ) is often referred to as the bad cholesterol. It is use by the body to repair arteries and can be sticky if it becomes oxidised. HDL returns to the liver for recycling. Triglycerides are circulating in the blood and directly correlate to carbohydrate intake.
High sugars = high triglycerides. This can push your overall cholesterol number up.
Where does cholesterol come from?
Cholesterol is made in the body by the liver. 80% comes from inside the body, 20 % comes from diet. So reducing cholesterol in diet doesn’t actually make much sense.
What is cholesterol used for?
Cholesterol is needed to make all of your steroid hormones, as stated above. Without cholesterol you could not function, have sex, or think coherently. Infact, your brain is only 2 % of the body but needs 20% of the available cholesterol. Myelin, the white matter that insulates brain circuits, is made from cholesterol. As stated in Psychology today ” Cholesterol also helps guide developing nerve endings to their destinations on “lipid rafts”. If the brain is too low in cholesterol, its membranes, synapses, myelin and lipid rafts can’t form or function properly, bringing all brain activity—including mood regulation, learning, and memory to a screeching halt” .
Lack of memory and function, hmmm doesn’t that sound like something else we all hope we never get, dementia.?? For which we have no known cure. Dr Perlmutter states that you have a higher risk of diabetes with statins and with diabetes comes a 200% increase risk in Dementia
The body uses cholesterol as an antioxidant to repair blood vessels. If there is inflammation in the body, the body will use cholesterol to try to repair the damage, hence the build up of plaques in the arteries. When the LDL becomes oxidised, it is more open to damage.
If cholesterol is an antioxidant, why do levels go up in susceptible people?
If cholesterol levels are high and most cholesterol is made by the body, then there is a high chance of inflammation in the body. We need to look at what is driving the inflammation. ALL DISEASE STARTS WITH INFLAMMATION!
What do we do then to reduce our inflammation and our risk of heart attack and stroke?
- Firstly, we should always look to diet and lifestyle factors. Food is information to the body. It is the only thing that you are doing to your body at least 3 times a day, everyday and so HAS to have an effect. Eat a diet of health fats ( avocados, nuts, seeds) good clean protein and plenty of vegetables and low sugar fruits such as berries.
- Research is showing that certain bacteria can reduce cholesterol. Our microbiome of bacteria that live in synergy with us in our gut, are fundamental to good health. You want them to produce helpful short chain fatty acids for good health.
- Reduce your levels of sugars and carbohydrates in the body. Sugars attach to proteins in the body and they become ‘glycated’. As such they are unable to function properly. They can attach to proteins of the eye, nerves etc and are the main cause of illness in the body for diabetics with uncontrolled blood sugar.
- Get adequate rest. Going without adequate sleep for 4 days in a row puts you at a risk of being pre-diabetic.
- Reduce your stress, or perceived stress. If you are constantly in ‘flight or flight’ your body cannot rest and repair. Constant stress WILL drive inflammation which causes all illness.
- Take regular exercise. It is good for mood, increase BDNF, which is miracle grow for the brain. It also improves insulin resistance and sustains a health weight. Never under estimate the importance of exercise. 20 mins cardio a day is optimum. Just get active !