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Cholesterol, Heart Disease & Myth

Published May 18th, 2011 in Hormones for His & Her Health

By Tammera J. Karr, Ph.D, CNC, BCIH

It is my opinion and that of many others that cholesterol is one of the most heavily maligned, and over treated naturally occurring blood components in the health industry today.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is essential for all animal life; it is primarily synthesized from simpler substances within the body. For a person of about 150 pounds, typical total body cholesterol synthesis is about 1,000 mg per day, and total body content is about 35 g., typical daily additional dietary intake, in the United States is 200–300 mg. The body compensates for cholesterol intake by reducing the amount synthesized by the liver.

Cholesterol is recycled. It is excreted by the liver via the bile into the digestive tract. Typically about 50% of the excreted cholesterol is reabsorbed by the small bowel back into the bloodstream. Cholesterol is required to build and maintain membranes; it regulates membrane fluidity over the range of physiological temperatures.

Within the cell membrane, cholesterol also functions in intracellular transport, cell signaling and nerve conduction. Cholesterol is essential for structure and function of endocytosis. Recently, cholesterol has also been found in cell signaling processes, assisting in the formation of lipid rafts in the plasma membrane. In many neurons, a myelin sheath, rich in cholesterol, provides insulation for more efficient conduction of impulses.

Within cells, cholesterol is the precursor molecule in biochemical pathways. In the liver, cholesterol is converted to bile, which is then stored in the gallbladder. Bile contains bile salts, which solubilize fats in the digestive tract and aid in the intestinal absorption of fat molecules as well as the fat-soluble vitamins, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and Vitamin K. Cholesterol is an important precursor molecule for the synthesis of Vitamin D and the steroid hormones, including the adrenal gland hormones cortisol and aldosterone, the sex hormones progesterone, estrogens, and testosterone, and their derivatives. Current research is indicating cholesterol acts as an antioxidant.

Cholesterol Controversy

In the 1950s, the lipid hypothesis (also known as the “Diet-Heart Idea”) was introduced, which poses that saturated fat and high cholesterol play a role in the causation of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.

The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics responds to this hypothesis with the following quote. “For decades, enormous human and financial resources have been wasted on the cholesterol campaign, more promising research areas have been neglected, producers and manufacturers of animal food all over the world have suffered economically, and millions of healthy people have been frightened and badgered into eating a tedious and flavorless diet or into taking potentially dangerous drugs for the rest of their lives. As the scientific evidence in support of the cholesterol campaign is non-existent, we consider it important to stop it as soon as possible.”

Dr. Mary Enig noted nutrition scientist, researcher and author, in her book “Know Your Fats” states; Intake of cholesterol has no effect on cholesterol levels in 70% of people, and in the other third, it raises LDL and HDL similarly and does not affect the ratio.  Intake of certain fatty acids increases cholesterol levels, but again this is more consistent with greater cholesterol synthesis.  For example the most powerful increaser of total cholesterol is probably lauric acid, but lauric acid is also the most powerful reducer of the LDL-to-HDL-cholesterol ratio — this is consistent with lauric acid being burned for quick energy, thus increasing the energy state of the liver cell and allowing for greater cholesterol synthesis.  In summary, eating traditional saturated and monounsaturated fats does not clog the liver and does not promote LDL oxidation.

Statin Drugs

David Brownstein, M.D. describes familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) as a genetic disorder characterized by high cholesterol levels – usually high LDL cholesterol levels.  It affects less than 1% of the population. He goes on to say the following; “The media and many prominent cardiologists would have you believe that having a diagnosis of familial hypercholesterolemia markedly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and proves the hypothesis that elevated cholesterol levels are responsible for cardiovascular disease.  However, the research actually disproves the hypothesis that elevated cholesterol levels are responsible for cardiovascular disease. Research has shown people with familial hypercholesterolemia live at least as long as people without the condition and fewer die from cancer and other diseases. “

Lipitor an older statin drug came off patent in 2009; sales of Lipitor® topped 13 billion dollars worldwide.  Pfizer applied for a six-month extension of its patent after doing its studies of Lipitor® on younger patients. In the U.S. and EU, drug makers are allowed to apply for an additional six months of patent protection if they test their drug in children.  And indeed Lipitor® has been approved by the FDA for use in children and Pfizer collected additional funds from its patent for an additional six months.

The side effects associated with statins include muscle pain, memory loss and brain dysfunction, premature aging, liver dysfunction, muscle breakdown and weakness, lowered immunity, fatigue, and blood sugar dysregulation and hormone dysfunction.  More information about statin drugs can be found in, “Drugs That Don’t Work and Natural Therapies That Do”, 2nd Edition, by Dr. David Brownstein, M.D. and “Lipitor the Memory Thief” by Duane Graveline

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