A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way. Mark Twain
Many people ask me a question:
WHEN I TEST MY BLOOD CHOLESTEROL, WHAT SHOULD IT BE?
My answer is:
DON'T TEST YOUR BLOOD CHOLESTEROL!
IT IS A POINTLESS EXERCISE AND A POTENTIALLY HARMFUL ONE!
I will explain, why.
Your blood levels of cholesterol are maintained by your liver: when we eat more cholesterol, the liver produces less; when we eat less cholesterol - the liver produces more. That is why low-fat and cholesterol-free diets have no effect on blood cholesterol: your liver will maintain a particular amount of cholesterol in your blood, depending on what your body is doing at the time.
Why does your body need cholesterol?
Our bodies are made out of cholesterol and fats to quite a large degree, and cholesterol is essential for many functions. Cholesterol is such an essential part of our human physiology that the body has very efficient mechanisms to keep blood cholesterol at a certain level at any given moment of your life. However, cholesterol - lowering drugs (statins) are a completely different matter! They interfere with the body's ability to produce cholesterol and hence they do reduce the amount of cholesterol available for the body to use. Let us see just how dangerous that is.
Human brain is hungry for cholesterol!
Every structure in the brain needs cholesterol and saturated fats not only to build itself but also to accomplish its many functions. If you start interfering with the body's ability to produce cholesterol you put the very structure of the brain and the rest of the nervous system under threat. Memory loss and cognitive decline are very common results of statin therapy. In fact it is possible that a considerable part of dementia epidemic in our ageing population is due to our ubiquitous statin prescriptions. Eating fresh eggs and butter daily has been shown to improve memory and cognitive ability in the elderly. Any person with memory loss or learning problems needs to have plenty of these foods every single day in order to recover.
More recently statins have been linked to development of Parkinson's disease. The leading researcher Dr Xuemei Huang from North Carolina University stated: "A surge in Parkinson's disease could be imminent because of the widespread use of statins."
There are people whose bodies are unable to produce enough cholesterol; these people do need to have plenty of foods rich in cholesterol in order to provide their organs with this essential-to-life substance. Low blood cholesterol has been routinely recorded in criminals who committed murder and other violent crimes, people with aggressive and violent personalities, people prone to suicide and people with aggressive social behaviour and low self-control. From the beginning of cholesterol-lowering drug trials increased numbers of deaths from violence and suicide have been recorded. The late Oxford Professor David Horrobin warned us: "reducing cholesterol in the population on a large scale could lead to a general shift to more violent patterns of behaviour. Most of this increased violence would not result in death but in more aggression at work and in the family, more child abuse, more wife-beating and generally more unhappiness." Indeed, one of the fist side effects of statins is the change in mood and personality towards being intolerant, aggressive and short-tempered - a warning sign that the brain is starving for cholesterol.
Cholesterol protects us from infections!
Cholesterol is essential for our immune system to function properly. People with low blood cholesterol are more prone to infections and when they get an infection they are more likely to die from it, compared to people with high cholesterol. Before the discovery of antibiotics mixture of raw egg yolks and cream, very rich in cholesterol, was used as a cure for tuberculosis and other infections for centuries.
Every steroid hormone in the body is made out of cholesterol!
After the brain the organs which are very hungry for cholesterol are our endocrine glands: adrenals and sex glands. They produce steroid hormones, which accomplish a myriad of functions in the body. Without cholesterol we will not be able to cope with stress or to have children.
Cholesterol is essential for babies and children!
The proponents of the diet-heart hypothesis and the public policy makers tell us that our children from the age of two should follow a programme for reducing their blood cholesterol by avoiding natural fats and replacing them with margarine. The pharmaceutical giants are working hard on creating cholesterol-lowering drugs for children. These dangerous guidelines are given out "just in case", without any scientific data to support them. The consequences of this policy can be very serious indeed for our children: aggressive behaviour, learning difficulties, poor memory, poor immunity, poor physical health combined with the future risk of developing cancer, heart disease, stroke and infertility. Children's bodies are generally not able to produce enough cholesterol for growth and development, so eating cholesterol-rich foods is essential for children! That is why human breast milk is very rich in cholesterol!
Cholesterol is essential for the elderly!
Many studies have shown that old people with high cholesterol are healthier and live longer than people with low cholesterol. In fact it is dangerous to reduce cholesterol in old people. And yet that is exactly what our doctors are doing! The older the person is the more their low blood cholesterol poses a risk of stroke, while it has been clearly demonstrated that high blood cholesterol protects older people from strokes, heart disease, infections, cancer and many other health problems.
Vitamin D is made out of cholesterol in the body!
Our recent misguided fear of sun and avoidance of cholesterol have created an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency in the Western world leading to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, mental illness, autoimmune illness, obesity, bone and muscle disease, high blood pressure, chronic pain, poor immunity and susceptibility to infections. As many people are unable to produce enough of their own cholesterol, eating cholesterol-rich foods is essential for them to produce vitamin D.
Cholesterol and saturated fats are essential for healing!
No damage in the body, no wound or scratch can be healed without cholesterol and saturated fats. That is why large-scale studies have found that people who have low levels of cholesterol are prone to cancer, because their bodies cannot heal damaged tissues.
It is this function of healing that brings us back to the testing for cholesterol: all your blood level reflects is how much damage there is in your body at any particular moment, that has to be healed. If you had a cold, an infection, a dental treatment or a surgical procedure, then there is a lot of damage in your body to heal, so your blood cholesterol level will be high until the healing has taken place. If you are tired and under stress, your adrenals have a high demand for cholesterol, as they make their hormones from it. So, your liver has to produce more cholesterol than usual and send it to your adrenals, making blood levels of cholesterol high. In winter cholesterol goes high and in the summer it is generally lower, because cold weather and lack of the sunshine vitamin D places high demands on your immune system, which is very hungry for cholesterol. These are just a few scenarios when your blood cholesterol has to be high to serve your body's needs.
Every day, depending on what your body is doing, your blood cholesterol levels go up and down quite a lot. A blood test for cholesterol will give you a snippet of this activity, completely out of context of your body's needs at the time. If this snippet happens to find it high, then two harmful things can happen to you:
- You are likely to be put under pressure to start a statin therapy, depriving your body from one of the most essential nutrients;
- You will have to live with a new anxiety - a fear of heart disease! And for no good reason at all, because cholesterol levels in your blood have nothing to do with heart disease.
If you really want to know about your risk of heart disease, then these are the tests to do:
- C-reactive protein, which is a marker for inflammation in the body. Heart disease is an inflammatory condition.
- Insulin levels in your blood. The insulin profile will show if you suffer from a metabolic syndrome, which is the underlying condition for heart disease.
To learn more about this whole issue (and see all the scientific references), please read my book Put Your Heart In Your Mouth.
Best wishes and speak to you soon,