CHOLESTEROL… FRIEND OR FOE?
WHAT IS CHOLESTEROL?
Cholesterol is a waxy steroid metabolite found in all of our cell membranes where it is required to establish proper membrane permeability and fluidity.
It is primarily made in the liver and transported in the blood to other places in the body where it is used to manufacture numerous other chemicals and cell structures.
For example, cholesterol is an important component for the manufacture of bile acids, steroid hormones (such as testosterone, progesterone, estrogen, DHEA and Cortisol), and several fat-soluble vitamins (like vitamins A, D, E and K).
The name cholesterol originates from the Greek ”chole-” (bile) and ”stereos” (solid), and the chemical suffix ”-ol” for an alcohol, as François Poulletier de la Salle first identified cholesterol in solid form in gallstones, in 1769. However, it was only in 1815 that chemist Eugène Chevreul named the compound “cholesterine”.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE FUNCTIONS OF CHOLESTEROL?
The brain needs a high level of cholesterol. The brain represents only about 2 percent of your body weight, but actually has about 20 percent of your body’s cholesterol. There is strong evidence that cholesterol is important for synaptic function and is an essential component of cell membranes in the brain, and it is believed that partial defects in the regulation of cholesterol metabolism in the brain likely contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s.
Cholesterol is also used for repair and is therefore seen at the “scene of the crime” in inflammation and injury and is therefore mistakenly implicated as the cause of diseases such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries leading to heart attacks and stroke), which is now being identified as an inflammatory disease (1). An atherosclerotic plaque is composed of cholesterol, white blood cells and calcium and not just cholesterol.
Although most physicians are obsessed with lowering cholesterol levels with statins, low serum cholesterol has been linked in numerous scientific papers to depression, suicide, accidents, and violence (2).
My favorite question to myself has always been- “Why did the cholesterol elevate in the first place?” Our body was designed to make cholesterol, so why are we always trying to lower it without first knowing why it elevated (i.e., to balance pathologically decreasing hormone levels, for repair of damaged cells and protection against cancer, depression, suicide and Alzheimer’s)? Also, ask yourself this… if the elevation of cholesterol is pathologic to all of us and is implicated in heart disease then why did a recent report find that 50 percent of people diagnosed with heart attacks in the emergency room, also have normal or low cholesterol levels (4) . Maybe we should be looking for the true cause of heart disease instead of blaming an “innocent bystander,” cholesterol.
Therefore, before you are told to go on a drug or natural substance to lower your cholesterol, maybe you should find out first if the cholesterol is causing any disease at all, and if lowering your cholesterol will reduce your risks for heart disease or worsen your risk for other serious medical conditions (5) . Let this be food for thought.
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