Six Health Benefits-of-High-Cholesterol – Fact or Fiction?

Health-benefits-of-high-cholesterol – now they tell me. I have been taking statin drugs to lower cholesterol for more than twenty years. We are now hearing that a growing number of health practitioners are saying that there are several health benefits-of-high-cholesterol. This seems to contradict what we have been told for decades that high cholesterol is a major cause of atherosclerosis, heart attacks and strokes.

Could it be that high cholesterol is not the villain that we thought it to be?

About fifty-percent of people with heart attacks or strokes have cholesterol levels within recommended limits. Just about as many with high cholesterol levels have no heart problems.

Cholesterol is an important component of the membrane that surrounds each cell, and it is used by the body to produce bile acids, vitamin D and steroid hormones. Additionally, there is evidence suggesting that low serum cholesterol is associated with depression, suicide, muscle damage, memory loss, serious progressive neurological disorders and general ill-health.

Most people think about cholesterol in connection with heart health. But cholesterol is just as important to the health of our brain as it is to the heart. The brain is rich in cholesterol and has about one fourth of all the cholesterol in our body. Low density lipoproteins (LDL) transport needed cholesterol to the neurons in our brain and other parts of the nervous system.    

God and our bodies must think cholesterol is important because the body that God created produces cholesterol primarily in the liver. The amount of cholesterol that the body produces will be more or less depending on how much cholesterol containing foods that we eat.  

After all that we have been told could there be not one but several health benefits-of-high-cholesterol? I have been reading (see references) that cholesterol is essential to life. We cannot live without it.

Six significant benefits-of-high-cholesterol:

  1. Cholesterol promotes cell health. Cholesterol is an important component of cell membranes. Cell membranes act as a barrier to toxic substances and they allow specific molecules, such as nutrients and wastes to pass between the cell and the outside environment.
  2. Cholesterol is converted into vitamin D by the body. Vitamin D has a significant role in regulating our immune system and aides in the prevention of many chronic conditions including cancer. Adequate levels of vitamin D are essential for both longevity and quality of life.
  3. Cholesterol helps the immune system fight infections. A number of studies have linked low cholesterol to a greater risk of infections.(Page 122 of “The Great Cholesterol Myth”).
  4. Cholesterol is used by the body to produce bile. Bile is needed to aid in the digestion of fats and oils. It has a large role in our body’s ability to absorb fat soluble vitamins such as vitamin D and E.
  5. Cholesterol is necessary for good brain and nerve health. A connection has been found between naturally occurring cholesterol and brain function. A lower level of cholesterol has been linked to poorer cognitive performance.
  6. Could it be that improved longevity is one of the most significant benefits-of-high-cholesterol? High cholesterol has been associated with a reduced risk of death from any cause. Japanese scientists conducted a meta-analysis (study of studies) on five studies involving 150,000 people over a period of five years. They found that those people with the lowest cholesterol levels died at a higher rate than those with higher cholesterol levels.

We know that cholesterol circulates in the bloodstream and is synthesized primarily by the liver and several other organs. It is transported throughout the body by carrier proteins called lipoproteins that are defined by their density that is high density (HDL) and low density (LDL).

HDL cholesterol is routinely defined as good and LDL cholesterol is defined as bad. It is not, however, a universally held belief that all HDL is good and that all LDL is bad. There are two forms of the LDL molecule, one large and one small. The small LDL molecule can be harmful but only when oxidized while the large LDL molecule may actually be beneficial.

The fact is that all cholesterol including HDL can be harmful when oxidized. Another lipoprotein known as lipoprotein [a] or Lp[a] is similar to LDL but denser. This is a dangerous lipoprotein. If you have a family history of heart disease, you need to know your Lp[a] level and discuss it with your physician.

LDL cholesterol is much easier to oxidize than HDL cholesterol. Oxidized LDL ultimately causes inflammation and plague formation. High levels of LDL cholesterol are associated with heart attacks and strokes because the more cholesterol you have in your blood the more likely that it will become oxidized. (Refer to page 22 in “Health and Nutrition Secrets”). Oxidation and inflammation are the culprits.

LDL carries cholesterol to the cells that need it and HDL returns any and all excess to the liver. Therefore the balance of LDL to HDL is important to reduce the risk of heart disease. This can be achieved by increasing HDL levels while lowering LDL.  The American Heart Association suggested guideline is to keep your cholesterol ratio 5-to-1 or lower. An optimum ratio is 3-to-1. A higher ratio increases the risk of heart disease; a lower ratio results in a lower risk.

A review of the reference material reveals that lowering your total cholesterol number may not be the answer to lowering risk of heart disease. And it may have the opposite impact on your health by negating the benefits-of-high-cholesterol including heart and brain health. Some keys to managing the health of your heart, arteries and brain are maintaining a healthy cholesterol ratio, reducing LDL oxidation, raising beneficial HDL levels and lowering triglycerides. Add some lifestyle changes including nutrition and exercise.

While I believe that the benefits-of-high-cholesterol are real, there are some dangers. Each person’s evaluation of his or her level of cholesterol should include personal research, and the professional opinion of that person’s physician. 

If you want to learn more about the benefits-of-high-cholesterol read the reference books listed and check out this web site by Uffe Ravnskov MD, PhD.

Disclaimer and goal

Although Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated. Deut. 34:7

References and suggested reading:  

"cholesterol." Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite.  Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 2011. 

"membrane." Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite.  Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 2011.  

Russell L. Blaylock, M.D., Health and Nutrition Secrets that can save your life, Health Press. 

Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., The Sinatra Solution, Metabolic Cardiology, Basic Health Publications. 

Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D. and Jonny Bowden, PH.D, C.N.S., The Great Cholesterol Myth, Why lowering your cholesterol won’t prevent heart disease and the statin free plan that will. Fair Winds Press, 2012. 

Stephen T. Sinatra, MD et al., Heart sense for Women, Your plan for natural prevention and treatment, Penguin Putman Inc. 

Mary G. Enig, Ph. D, Know Your Fats: The complete primer for understanding the nutrition of fats, oils, and cholesterol, Bethesda Press, 2000, 2013.

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