Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How Low Can You Go?

Ah, the quest for low cholesterol. It seems like everyone who wants to improve their health thinks lowering their cholesterol will prevent them from getting heart disease or having a heart attack. Never mind the fact that they have excess body fat, eat over 300 carbohydrates from whole grains and sugars everyday, consume massive amounts of trans fats and so-called healthy vegetable oils, and are sedentary.

Now I am not saying it is healthy to have high cholesterol, but it is important to know the vital functions of cholesterol.

Cholesterol is vital to our bodies
  • Cholesterol is found in every cell of the human body
  • Cholesterol is especially abundant in the membranes of the cells, where it helps maintain the integrity of these membranes.
    It plays a role in facilitating cell signaling - meaning the ability of your cells to communicate with each other so you function as a human, rather than a pile of cells
  • Without cholesterol, cell membranes would be too fluid, not firm enough. In other words, it keeps the membrane from turning to mush
  • Cholesterol is abundant in the tissue of the brain and nervous system. Myelin, which covers nerve axons to help conduct the electrical impulses that make movement, sensation, thinking, learning, and remembering possible, is over one-fifth cholesterol by weight.
  • Even though the brain only makes up 2% of the body's weight, it contains 25% of its cholesterol.
  • One of cholesterol's many functions in the body is to act as a precursor to vitamin D
  • We need cholesterol to make bile, which we need to digest our fat. If we don’t digest fat properly, we don’t get the nutrients we need from it.
  • Cholesterol is the precursor to a hormone called pregnenolone, which has important functions itself, but is also the precursor to all other steroid hormones. Pregnenolone is converted to progesterone, a sex hormone, which in turn is converted into cortisol, which regulates inflammation and blood sugar.

Low cholesterol may be the cause behind depression, anxiety, violence and even suicide. In the British Medical Journal published in September of 1996, a French study looked at over 6,000 men. The study revealed that men with low cholesterol were three times more likely to commit suicide.
Just one of the many studies linking low cholesterol to deep depression came from Finland's National Public Health Institute, where a study of almost 30,000 people showed men with lower cholesterol readings were the most likely to suffer from crippling depression.

Unfortunately, most of the medical community still wants you to get your cholesterol as low as you can, because they are influenced by the pharmaceutical companies. In my next post I will talk about the research on cholesterol and it's role (or absence of) in heart disease.

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