For the past decades, people have feared cholesterol, avoiding entire categories of food because of it. We’ve been led to believe that we must keep cholesterol levels as low as possible or we will incur high blood pressure and heart disease.
The truth is cholesterol and fats are vital to your health. Without them, you put yourself at a greater health risk. In this natural health news article, Dr. Mercola reveals the truth about cholesterol, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and how the myths are harming your health.
Why Do We Need Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a soft and waxy substance found in every cell in your body and in your bloodstream. It helps produce vitamin D, cell membranes, and bile acids that are essential to digesting fat. Cholesterol is important for neurological functions and helps form memories.
Cholesterol is essential for vitamin D formation. Your body needs sufficient amounts of vitamin D because of its many benefits to your health. UVB rays in sunlight interact with the cholesterol in your skin, converting it to vitamin D. If you have a low cholesterol level, your body won’t generate enough vitamin D from the sun.
There are two kinds of cholesterol:
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) – It’s the “good” cholesterol that prevents cholesterol from going into your arteries. It also removes any excess from the arterial plaque, helping prevent heart disease.
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) – It’s referred to as “bad” cholesterol that circulates in your blood. According to conventional thinking, it can build up in your arteries, making them less flexible and narrow. If a clot occurs in one of the narrowed arteries that leads to your brain or heart, you can be at risk of a stroke or heart attack.
Debunking Cholesterol Myths
Many beliefs and claims cause us to stay away from cholesterol, but most of them are false. Dr. Mercola reveals the truth behind these cholesterol myths.
Myth: “There is Good and Bad Cholesterol.”
According to Dr. Ron Rosedale, M.D., a leading anti-aging physician in the U.S., there’s only one kind of cholesterol. HDL and LDL are just lipoproteins, or fats combined with protein. Cholesterol combines with proteins and fats so it will be carried through the bloodstream, because fat and blood don’t mix well.
LDL particles come in many sizes, although large LDL particles are not a problem. Small, dense LDL particles, however, can cause risks, since they can squeeze through the arteries’ lining. If they oxidize, they can cause inflammation and damage.
Myth: “High Total Cholesterol Level Equals To Heart Disease.”
The total cholesterol, or the sum of the blood cholesterol content, includes the LDLs, HDL, and VLDLs. The American Heart Association recommends this level to be less than 200 mg/dL; but this is actually worthless when determining risk for heart disease, unless it’s more than 330. The AHA also updated their guidelines in 2004, lowering the advisable level of LDL cholesterol from 130 LDL to less than 100. For patients at very high risk, it’s less than 70 LDL.
Dr. Mercola noticed that there are many people with total cholesterol levels above 250 with low heart disease risk because of their HDL levels. He also noticed some had cholesterol levels below 200 that were at a very high risk of heart disease because of their HDL/Cholesterol ratio and Triglyceride/HDL ratio.
The fact is, these low cholesterol guidelines came from a panel made up of individuals profiting from drug companies that manufacture cholesterol-lowering medications. To achieve the “recommended level” they set, you will need to purchase these drugs, increasing their profit.
Myth: “Cholesterol-Lowering Medications are Safe.”
Cholesterol-lowering medication is the second most common type of prescription drug taken by Americans today. Also known as statin drugs, they work by inhibiting a liver enzyme needed to create cholesterol. At the same time, they inhibit production of other intermediary substances that have their own important biochemical functions. This can cause various health conditions and ailments, including fatigue, muscle weakness, and even heart failure.
Myth: “Cholesterol Is the Enemy.”
Cholesterol is an important component of every cell membrane. It’s a precursor to all steroid hormones, and your body cannot produce testosterone, estrogen, cortisone, and other important hormones without it. Therefore, without cholesterol, your body will not perform many of its functions adequately.
The Dangers of Low Cholesterol Levels
Increased cholesterol occurs partly because of increased inflammation in your body. Inflammation is actually a natural response to invaders, and it allows you to heal. If you have damaged cells, your liver is notified to produce more cholesterol, releasing it in the bloodstream, producing new and healthy cells. The same thing happens if the damage is in your arteries, thus, the connection to heart disease.
When doctors recommend that you use statin drugs to lower your cholesterol, they fail to mention that you need to cure whatever’s causing the inflammation and damage, and NOT the increase in cholesterol, which is actually very important for healing and repairing cells.
By targeting and lowering cholesterol production, you open your body to numerous ailments. Dutch researchers revealed that men with low cholesterol levels had a consistently higher risk of having depressive symptoms. Cholesterol affects the serotonin metabolism, a substance that helps regulate mood.
A higher cancer risk is also seen in people with lower cholesterol levels, while some are at risk of getting Parkinson’s disease.
Warning: Statin Drugs Are Actually Harming You
Statin drugs cause many adverse effects to your system. They can reduce the Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) that’s vital to heart health and muscle function. This leads to soreness, muscle weakness, fatigue, and heart failure. Many doctors rarely inform people of this risk, instead of advising them to take CoQ10 supplement.
Rhabdomyolysis is another side effect of statin drugs. This occurs when the atrogin-1 gene, which has a key role in muscle atrophy, is activated. It causes muscle pain and weakness. This can also indicate the breaking down of your body tissues, leading to kidney damage.
Other possible side effects of statin drugs are:
- Risk of polyneuropathy – This is nerve damage that causes pain in feet, hands and trouble walking.
- Decreased immune system function
- Cognitive impairment and memory loss
- Cancer risk
- Liver problems and increase in liver enzymes
The worst part is these drugs are not even effective. In 2008, test results proved that Zetia, a statin drug that works by stopping cholesterol absorption from the intestines, does not work. The same results were found in Vytorin, a combination of Zocor and Zetia. This discovery came after the drugs already acquired almost 20% of cholesterol-lowering drugs in the U.S.
Natural Ways to Lower Cholesterol
There are natural methods to lower cholesterol, without having to take statin drugs. The first step is a change in diet. Saturated, nutritious animal fats are essential to health. Due to poorly-researched hypotheses made in the 1950′s linking dietary fat to coronary heart disease, people are advised to eat a low-fat diet, without saturated fats. As Americans lessened their consumption of nutritious animal fats, they began eating more vegetable oils, processed grains, and high-fructose corn syrup, exposing themselves to more health risks.
To lessen inflammation and cholesterol, you should stick to healthy fats and avoid the foods below.
- Sugar and grains/li>
- Trans fat/li>
- Foods at high temperatures/li>
- Oxidized cholesterol (such as from overcooked, scrambled eggs)
Dr. Mercola also offers these tips to lower your cholesterol naturally.
- Opt for high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fats, such as from krill oil.
- Eliminate dangerous sugars such as fructose.
- Consume foods that suit your nutritional type.
- Add healthy, raw food to your diet as well as raw fat, such as from olive oil, organic raw dairy products, avocados, seeds, lightly-cooked eggs with intact/raw yolks, raw nuts, coconut and coconut oil, and organic, grass-fed meats.
- Exercise to increase circulation and blood flow, improving your immune system’s performance. The Peak Fitness exercise is a good choice.
- Avoid drinking alcohol and smoking.
- Manage your emotional stress. The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) works well for stress management.
Open your eyes to the truth about cholesterol, so you can lead a healthier lifestyle without dangerous statin drugs. For more natural health news and updates, subscribe to Dr. Mercola’s newsletter.