Cholesterol Essential for Great Health, and Is Not the Mythical Boogy-Man

The Hypothesis
Let us say that an inspector witnessed many large fires and noticed that at every fire, firemen were present, and therefore concluded that just on the weight of their presence, firemen were the cause of fires. This specious logic seems to be the thinking of the mainstream medical community when it arrives at the conclusion that the mere presence of cholesterol in arteries as plaque is the cause of heart disease, stroke and arteriolosclerosis—this has been the prevailing wisdom.

The American Heart Association’s website states, “High cholesterol is one of the major controllable risk factors for coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke.” And, “High blood cholesterol: As blood cholesterol rises, so does risk of coronary heart disease.” This is called the lipid hypothesis, where the only accepted therapy for heart disease was prescribing medications to lower cholesterol and severely restrict the ingestion of saturated fat, and any deviation from this protocol for several decades now, has been considered heresy.

Doubts Abound
Apparently humans have consumed large amounts of saturated fats for centuries in the form of meat, eggs and full-fat diary without the incidence of heart disease… up until about the 1900′s. As we reduced these foods in our diets replacing them with loads of sugar, vegetable oils and processed foods, heart disease made its debut with a vengeance and became the number one killer in America.

Large companies are not nefarious entities, yet it would be prudent to be cognizant of the fact that pharmaceutical and processed-food companies bring in mega-dollars as long as this hypothesis is alive and kicking; reminding me of what Sydney J. Harris wrote “There is no way of proving your point to someone whose income or position depends upon believing the contrary.”

Here are some interesting facts:
-Cholesterol levels in Briton are the 15th lowest among 45 countries in Europe, yet they still have one of the highest rates of heart attacks.
-75% of heart attack victims have normal cholesterol
-Countries with higher than average cholesterol levels than America like the Swiss, French and Spanish have less heart disease.

Role of Cholesterol
I was quite surprised to learn recently that cholesterol is crucial to glowing health. Wow, who would ever think that, with the way we’ve been conditioned for decades to think otherwise.

First of all, cholesterol is an essential component in our cell membranes, and acts as an anti-oxidant where every cell in our body has the ability to manufacture it, manufacturing more or less of it based on how much of it we consume. These are some of the functions of cholesterol contributing to health:

-Enzymes convert it into vitamin D, bile salts for digesting and absorbing fats.
-Enzymes convert it into steroidal hormones like testosterone, estrogen and progesterone.
-One quarter of all cholesterol in the body is in the brain essential for synaptic health.
-The membranes surrounding cells and its structure are mostly made of cholesterol helping to maintain cell integrity and communication.
-One-fifth of the myelin sheath coating every nerve cell and fiber is made of cholesterol.
-It contributes to your immune system able to inactivate more tha 90% of the worst and most toxic bacterial products.

New Hypothesis
Cholesterol performs thousands of bodily functions, a crucial component for life, and many in the medical community have become aware it has suffered a bad rap as the cause of heart disease and stroke. A few years ago it was discovered that the real cause of these diseases is something called inflammation in the artery wall. What causes arterial inflammation? It is your body’s natural defense to a foreign invader such as a bacteria, toxin or virus, and, that cholesterol being the good guy, comes to the rescue as the fireman to put out the fire by forming a scab known as plaque over the area of inflammation.

Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, author of The Great Cholesterol Scam, says, “Essentially cholesterol is there to help repair damage.” Cholesterol is present, but it’s not the perpetrator. Dr. Kendrick also saw that the MONICA study ongoing now for forty-years, shows no association with high cholesterol and heart disease.

Dr. Uffe Ravnskov, author of The Cholesterol Myths, goes through study after study destroying the myth that high cholesterol levels are the cause of heart disease. And, a Canadian study followed 5,000 healthy middle-aged men for twelve-years, and found high cholesterol did not at all contribute to heart disease. Another study from the University Hospital in Toronto looking at cholesterol levels in 120 men that previously had heart attacks, found that just as many men having second heart attacks had low cholesterol levels as those that had high.

This new prevailing wisdom seems to be saying in no uncertain terms, that if inflammation isn’t present in the arterial walls, cholesterol levels are irrelevant, and that eating saturated fats like steak, eggs and diary bear no threat to health… and the science that says it does is very weak. Now that it’s known cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease, the concern with saturated fat is, as one doctor put it, “even more absurd today.”

Statins
There has been extensive pharmaceutical marketing of statins to both doctors and patients to the tune of $28 billion a year. In 2004 the National Cholesterol Education Program expanded guidelines by recommending that people who don’t suffer from heart disease should take statins to prevent heart disease, increasing the number of people taking them from 13 million to 40 million.

Eight of the nine people on the panel had financial ties to the drug industry. Without side effects from these drugs, it may be justifiable to take the risk, but they’re known to cause muscle damage, sexual dysfunction, and liver and nerve damage among other problems in 10 to 15% of those patients.

If no inflammation is present, despite if your cholesterol count is high, taking statins has zero benefit-statins should only be used for inflammation reduction, and the test to monitor inflammation is called C-reactive protein.

The Main Culprits of Inflammation
Dr. Stephen Sinatra is a convert from a pro-statin, anti-cholesterol, paid consultant of statin drug manufacturers to being a cholesterol skeptic, and is the author of, The Great Cholesterol Myth. He says, “I was doing angiograms on people with [cholesterol levels of] 150 who had far advanced heart disease, and the converse, I was doing angiograms on somebody with cholesterol of 280 and they had no heart disease.” The main culprit he identifies is small dense LDL particles, making your typical total LDL number count meaningless. This is the only lipid you need be concerned about, and there is a test for it known as the particle test. In an interview with Dr. Oz, he explains the process in this three-minute video: Dr. Oz and Dr. Sinatra interview.

Another culprit is sugar, especially high fructose corn syrup. Inflammation is caused when extra sugar molecules attach to some proteins that in turn injure the blood vessel wall, and repeated injury to the wall sets off inflammation. Heart surgeon Dr. Dwight Lundell who has performed over 5,000 open heart surgeries and has looked into at least as many arteries, now is a vehement convert to inflammation being the cause of heart disease. He states,dr. Lundell “When you spike your blood sugar level several times a day, every day, it is exactly like taking sandpaper to the inside of your delicate blood vessels.”

A third main culprit is omega-6 oils. While they are essential and part of every cell membrane, they must be in balance with omega-3 oils. Dr. Lundell goes on to say, “If the balance shifts by consuming excessive omega-6, the cell membrane produces chemicals called cytokines that directly cause inflammation. Today’s mainstream American diet has produced an extreme imbalance of these two fats. The ratio of imbalance ranges from 15:1 to as high as 30:1 in favor of omega-6. That’s a tremendous amount of cytokines causing inflammation. In today’s food environment, a 3:1 ratio would be optimal and healthy.”
Some of the foods containing high amounts of omega-6 are corn oil, canola oil, soy oil, hydrogenated fats, margarine and shortening. One infamous example that holds a ton of this fat is French fries, of which we consume about 28 pounds each year per capita. Foods loaded with sugars and omega-6 oils for long shelf-life have been the mainstay of our diet for six decades, and are slowly poisoning us. The lipid hypothesis led to the no-fat, low-fat recommendations that created the foods now causing an epidemic of inflammation.

Conclusion
While all of this may seem confusing at first, we need remember only a few things. As Dr. Lundell writes, “Without inflammation being present in the body, there is no way that cholesterol would accumulate in the wall of the blood vessel and cause heart disease and strokes. Without inflammation, cholesterol would move freely throughout the body as nature intended. It is inflammation that causes cholesterol to become trapped.”

Inflammation is the bad guy. Stay away from sugar and omega-6. And, the two tests to help us monitor inflammation are C-reactive protein and the particle test. This new hypothesis recommends using statins only as a mechanism to alleviate inflammation, not just to lower cholesterol levels-used specifically for the purpose of interfering with cholesterol levels may be detrimental to health. Also, statins aren’t the only game in town to mitigate inflammation, diet modification and other life style changes such as exercise are also effective.