The Truth About Cholesterol
There has been so much misinformation concerning cholesterol and statin drugs, that I would like to teach my patients the truth about these two topics. I will begin with what cholesterol is, its importance and role in the body, how it has received a bad name, the studies on cholesterol, and the research on statin drugs and its side effects. Hopefully, by the end of the article I will have opened your eyes to the truth and you can make an educated decision on your health.
Cholesterol is basically a makeup of Hydrogen, Carbon, and Oxygen molecules. It makes up our cell membranes and protects the cell. Cell membranes cannot function without cholesterol. Our body makes 80-90% of our cholesterol, NOT FOOD.
Typically, we break cholesterol down into three types:
- LDL: Low density lipoprotein
- HDL: High density lipoproteins
- VLDL: Very low density lipoproteins.
It is important to break each part down so you know its job in the body and what we are really measuring when we look at cholesterol.
LDL is a carrier protein. It carries around important chemicals for each cell and organ in the body to use. It has gotten the name as “Bad Cholesterol” but it really has an important job to do. LDL carries and delivers:
- Cholesterol - needed for repair
- Phospholipids - needed for the cells ability to function
- Fat Soluble vitamins - needed for antioxidants
- Triglycerides - needed for energy
Remember, LDL is a carrier for these important substances. But LDL’s can have two sides. There are largeLDL’s and there are small LDL’s. The Large particles are GOOD, but the small particles are BAD, causing something we call oxidation. Yet, statin drugs cannot differentiate between the large and the small particles. Remember this statement!
Therefore, I really want you to remember that we make this LDL naturally to help repair and provide nutrients to the cells needed to fix the cell.
HDL is called the “Good Cholesterol”. It picks up the oxidized waste of cholesterol. In other words, it picks up the old cholesterol and LDL from the vessel lining and reprocesses it back into the Liver. HDL is considered GOOD because:
- It lowers blood pressure by reducing angiotensin II
- It is involved in pancreas function and insulin release
- It is an anti-inflammatory
- It is an antioxidant
- It is an antithrombotic: clotting of the blood
- It is an anti-profibrinolytic which prevents fibrin clotting
- It improves endothelial health
- It benefits the immune system (think Vitamin D for immune)
So, now you know the types of cholesterol and its functions, let me tell you why cholesterol is necessary for your bodily processes. Cholesterol allows communications with:
• Vitamin D
• and other cells.
Hormones and Cholesterol:
Cholesterol will turn into pregnenolone and progesterone, which in turns becomes cortisol and then converts to your sex hormones. If we don’t have this cholesterol, then we cannot make these sex hormones and therefore we will see low testosterone, as well as, other lower hormone issues. Cholesterol is the precursor of many of the hormones in the body, not just sex hormones (thyroid).
Digestion and Cholesterol:
The liver makes cholesterol. This cholesterol gets transported into bile, which forms bile acids and bile salts. Bile acids and bile salts (in the gallbladder) are necessary for breaking down the fat we eat. This fat we eat is important to be broken down, because it reaps all sorts of benefits for the body. If we don’t have cholesterol to start these processes, then we cannot breakdown these fats needed for our digestive system.
Vitamin D and Cholesterol:
I have several patients that come in with low vitamin D levels. That is a whole topic on its own, but today we want to demonstrate how cholesterol is converted into vitamin D. I am opposite than most doctors. I think the sun exposure is incredibly important. And I will explain why in this one example:
The Sun is what converts cholesterol into vitamin D. If we don’t get enough sun to do this conversion, then guess what? Cholesterol is floating around in our blood system looking for something to do and Vitamin D is never being made. Studies have even shown that areas where there is more sunshine, had less risk of cardiovascular disease. Also, they have shown that sunshine actually increases your good HDL production. Studies have also shown that people with an increase of natural sunlight helped support the thyroid hormone (which needs cholesterol). Remember, vitamin D supports the immune system.
Brain and Cholesterol
Cholesterol is the most common organic molecule in your brain. It is so important for proper neurological function. It plays a key role for formation of memory, uptake of hormones in the brain including serotonin (your feel-good chemical). I like to explain that your nerves have a protective sheath around it called a myelin sheath. It is made of cholesterol. If you don’t have that cholesterol than that protective cover begins to disintegrate and the nerve fibers become exposed, shorting out the connection. That myelin sheath is necessary for communication between your nerve cell. Without that communication we get dementia, Parkinson’s like symptoms, muscle twitching, and loss of muscle movement. Cholesterol is also involved in the production of collagen and elastin.
Now we know the importance of Cholesterol and what it does for our body. So, why has it received such a bad rap? Why does everyone want us to lower our cholesterol? Unfortunately, you have been BAMBOOZLED and TRICKED! Current research is now refuting old, non-accurate and pharmaceutical funded studies. There has actually been no proof where reducing cholesterol has reduced strokes and heart attacks. It is quite opposite. Doctors have been perplexed why people are dropping dead at 40 and they have low cholesterol, eat “healthy”, and exercise. It goes against what they have learned. Well, here is why:
You now know what cholesterol does for the body. If we take away this cholesterol with statin drugs and diet/environment, we notice:
- Low testosterone issue
- Increase in memory loss
- Increase in diabetes and blood sugar
- Infertility and hormone issues
- Increase in generalized muscle aches and pain
- Arthritic like symptoms
- Digestive issues
- Immune system issues
WAIT, WAIT, WAIT…you might have been told that high cholesterol causes atherosclerosis which leads to heart attack and stroke. Actually, they have now discovered it is inflammation which is the cause of this and not cholesterol. Remember when I said cholesterol is there to repair? I have explained to my patients that cholesterol is like duct tape. It is there to patch up and repair something that has already been damaged. The issue is, when they began to test atherosclerosis, they found cholesterol in the plaqueing and just jumped to conclusions. Now they know the actual culprit is sugar. This was proven by a Dr. Yudkins in 1960 but another doctor, Dr. Keys, was adamant it was cholesterol and he won the political poll for publishing his study. Unfortunately, the media like Time magazine flourished his study. Yet, today they have found his study was altered and not accurate. After 30 years of following diet and prescriptions for statins, they have realized that cholesterol is not the culprit but actually the lack of good fat, and a high carbohydrate, and refined unsaturated fat diet is the culprit. This lifestyle is the perfect storm for inflammation.
Now, it is important to understand it is the ratio of triglycerides to HDL that is an indicator of heart disease. Cholesterol is good because it is a repairer, it provides energy and antioxidants to the cells that are being damaged. It is normal for the older we get for our cholesterol to increase, because our bodies are slowly declining. Yet, you must remember, after trying to repair, that cholesterol produces free radicals and by products that must be picked up by HDL and sent back to the liver. If we have too much LDL and not enough HDL to pick up that waste, we are in a bad situation. So, what we really want to look at on the tests is not the total cholesterol but the ratio between Triglycerides and HDL. This ratio needs to be 2 or less and our HDL vs total cholesterol needs to be .24 or higher. So, stop looking at just total cholesterol, that is not going to tell you anything. We want to look at other tests measuring our inflammation such as: fibrin levels, homocysteine level, and C Reative Protein, APO A and APO B ratio.
What do statins do besides lower cholesterol?
Statins inhibit two important chemicals needed for the body:
UBIQUINONE which is CoQ10 and DOLICHOLS
Ubiquinone maintains the membrane integrity and needed for nerve conduction and muscle integrity. It also forms elastin and collagen. If statin drugs decrease this, then it leads to weakness of the heart muscle, and arthritic like pains, seizures, muscle pain, intellectual deficiency, muscle spasms, nystagmus, vision loss, hearing loss and much more.
Dolichols directs proteins in the cell to respond correctly to genetically programmed instructions (tells the body what to do). Dolichols is found in the substantia nigra of the brain. Well, this is the area of the brain that effects Parkinson’s. So, if statins reduce dolichols which is mainly found in the substantia nigra, then these people can get Parkinson’s like symptoms and movement disorders. Studies have shown a decrease in Dolichols is associated with Alzheimers.
It is unfortunate that over 75% of Americans who are in the low to moderate risk are being prescribed drugs. That means over 30 million people are taking a drug that won’t offer them the benefit of living longer. Yet, they will lead to side effects and other disease issues because it is stealing the necessary molecules needed for cell function. Studies have even shown only 2 out of 100 people may get some benefit from statin drugs. Do you really want to gamble the rest of your help on a possible 2% chance of benefit? Look at all the side effects of statin drugs due to the reduction of not only cholesterol but other chemicals in the body and you decide:
- Memory loss
- Muscle symptoms
- Achy joints
- Parkinson’s like symptoms
- Insulin issues (blood sugar problems)
- Mineral deficiencies
- Chronic inflammation
- Difficulty healing
- Hormone issues: low testosterone, thyroid issues
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Digestion disorders
- Decrease in serotonin receptors (feel good chemical)
- Loss of antioxidants
- Low immune system
- And the list can go on and on.
Make sure you are tested correctly before going on these drugs. Let’s make sure to reduce our inflammation first to reduce atherosclerosis, make sure we educate ourselves on the importance of cholesterol and how to stop the over production of cholesterol, which is due to the inflammation in the body.
Hope this explanation was helpful! Lookout for my podcast about Cholesterol and High Blood Pressure in the coming week. And as always, feel free to contact our office with any questions. If you want to learn more about your cholesterol, schedule a Functional Medicine Consult with me today!