Cholesterol does not cause heart disease.
There is more myth and misinformation about cholesterol than almost any other health topic. We are frequently told that:
- cholesterol causes heart disease
- cholesterol sticks to the inside of our arteries causing blockages
- LDL is ‘bad’ cholesterol, while HDL is ‘good’ cholesterol
- we should eat a low fat diet to reduce cholesterol
- we should eat cholesterol-lowering foods
- if our cholesterol is high we need to take drugs to lower it
These statements are believed by the majority of people but all of these statements are wrong. They become completely illogical when you realise what cholesterol does in our bodies.
Cholesterol is vital for human health and we would all die without it. It is an essential component of every cell membrane in the body. The membrane is like the outer wall of a cell and 30% of the membrane is cholesterol. Cholesterol keeps the membrane stable and durable, without being rigid, enabling our cells to change shape and allowing us to move. (Plants don’t have cholesterol and their cells are rigid.) It also allows essential nutrients to travel through the membrane and into the cell from the blood stream.
Almost every cell in the body manufactures its own cholesterol, as does the liver. Eating foods high in cholesterol makes no real difference to blood cholesterol because the liver produces less if we eat more and it produces more if we eat less. Consuming foods that are ‘low in cholesterol’ is a waste of time: you are just giving your liver more work to do.
Cholesterol is necessary to produce our steroid hormones. Steroid hormones help control metabolism, inflammation, immune functions, salt and water balance and all our sexual characteristics and functions. Without cholesterol, there would be no reproduction. When we produce vitamin D in our skin it is made from a cholesterol molecule.
There are thousands of miles of nerve fibres in our body which are covered by a myelin sheath. Cholesterol is an essential component of this protective layer. It is so important to the nervous system that 25% of all the cholesterol in our body is found in the brain. Studies in the elderly show that people with higher cholesterol levels live longer than people with low cholesterol and they have far less mental decline and very little memory loss.
Hundreds of millions of years ago evolution developed the cholesterol molecule, which is vital to so many functions in our body. Why would evolution allow such an important molecule to cause heart disease and kill us? No matter what the ‘experts’ say, I find it impossible to believe that cholesterol causes heart disease. Cholesterol is not the Grim Reaper’s best friend: it is more like our best friend.
This is my complaint to the BBC about ‘Meat: a threat to our planet?’
Whilst I agree that the US Feedlots shown are an awful way to treat cattle and we should not be catching fish to feed to animals, this programme completely failed to show how sustainable farming is done in the UK. If it had pointed out the difference between the worst practise and the best of animal farming it would have been very useful. It did not. It implied that all animal farming is bad and damaging. This is a lie by omission. The programme completely over-used emotion in trying to change people’s perspectives. Many of the statistics given were grossly exaggerated.
The truth, which was completely ignored, is that correctly managed, grass-fed ruminant animals increase soil fertility and biodiversity; they sequester carbon into the soil and can be carbon negative. They provide the most complete and nutrient dense food our species can eat. Methane emitted by cattle is part of a carbon cycle and does not cause global warming. How can it do so when ruminants have been burping methane for 50 million years? Independent UK farmers care for their animals and the land: this programme implied they are pariahs.
The clear instruction that we should all stop eating meat involved absolutely no mention of nutrition. Research from all over the world has shown that children on vegan diets suffer from stunting, failure to thrive, a wide variety of mineral deficiencies and serious, sometimes irreversible, neurological defects. This programme openly encouraged parents to risk severe developmental problems in their children without any word of warning about the removal of meat from their diets.
As a licence fee payer, I insist that you balance this anti-meat propaganda with a programme showing how UK livestock farmers provide nutritious food in a fully sustainable way, whilst improving the soil and sequestering carbon.