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.