Cholesterol: An unjustified bad rap

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Cholesterol Myths Exposed(NaturalHealth365) For years, cholesterol in general – and “bad,” or LDL cholesterol in particular – has gotten a bad rap in the media, taking much of the blame for American’s current heart disease epidemic.

But not all scientists agree that cholesterol deserves its reputation; in fact, multiple studies indicate that the links between cholesterol and heart disease may be exaggerated, and that cholesterol isn’t actually as bad as it’s been portrayed.

Here’s what you need to know about the latest cholesterol findings…

The many myths surrounding cholesterol

For decades, we’ve been told that high levels of cholesterol, specifically low density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol, is a causal factor in heart disease. In order to lower LDL levels, many people avoid foods with high cholesterol content, such as eggs, butter and red meat, while others have turned to cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins.

It’s a common issue; according to the Centers for Disease Control, about one in six adults – or 17 percent of Americans – have high cholesterol. However, according to Harvard Medical School and CNN, more than 42 million people currently take statins to lower their cholesterol, or nearly one in four Americans.

Does LDL deserve its “evil” reputation?

Multiple studies say “no”!

A 2014 study in Future Medicine suggests that dietary sources of cholesterol do not play a role in increased risk of heart disease.

A 2013 metastudy in the British Medical Journal found that higher consumption of foods that contained high levels of LDL cholesterol did not increase the risk of coronary heart disease and, in fact, reduced the risk of developing a hemorrhagic stroke.

A 2011 study in the Journal of Gerontology found a link between higher LDL levels and higher muscle mass amongst adults that exercised regularly.

These and many other studies underlie a key fact that’s often overlooked in the cholesterol discourse: The body actually needs cholesterol, both LDL and HDH – high-density lipoprotein or so-called “good” cholesterol – to function properly.

Diets and drug regimens that severely reduce LDL may not be as healthy as once thought.

All things in moderation

Dr. Steve Reichman, researcher at Texas A&M University, notes that LDL actually serves an essential purpose in the body: helping the body to gain muscle mass.

His 2011 study found that after adults exercised vigorously, those who gained the most muscle mass actually had the highest LDL levels. He attributes this finding to the fact that the body needs LDL in the blood in order to repair and rebuild muscles after exercise.

He also notes that elevated LDL levels not related to exercise serve as an early warning system that something is off – whether that’s an unhealthy diet, smoking or a lack of exercise.

Many experts point to a diet high in trans-fats, sugars and processed foods, all of which lead to inflammation, as the bigger culprit – noting that cholesterol is found throughout each cell in the body and is actually necessary for health.

These recent studies clearly indicate that the cholesterol story may be more complex than previously thought, indicating a need for more research.

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  • Elaine

    When are you going to stop confusing the issues with excess cholesterol and heart disease with these whacky “studies”? The professor in the one article, if you read the study, he talks in circles! Only “oxidized” cholesterol causes buildup in the arteries—if the cholesterol from the typical western diet isn’t there, it won’t be oxidized by the other junk the average person eats! Some of the studies he did were funded by the dairy industry, I quit looking after seeing some of the crap he’s involved in and I’ll bet the other ones are involved in the same. They are trying to defend a diet high in animal products to get “complete proteins” and you can bet, money is involved in this game of muddying the waters.
    We need to quit playing games. The Western diet is a killer diet, we’re seeing this as it is spread around the globe. We need to quit trying to defend our over consumption of animal and dairy products and eat the diet that is PROVEN to reverse disease promote health: a whole-food, plant based diet.
    Dietary cholesterol is NOT needed, our bodies can produce all of the cholesterol we need and even athletes are building muscle without additional cholesterol. The “strongest man” is a vegan! How much EVIDENCE to we need to end this crazy debate over cholesterol?

  • SuperSport1966

    The “Number” for High Cholesterol was created for Statins. If these Statins could reduce the “Number”, then the Drug Companies could sell Trillions of Dollars worth of Drugs.
    In MY opinion, Statins do nothing more than make the “Number” lower. They DON’T change anything in your body to make you healthier, they simply lower the “Number”. That way they can PROVE they are working. Even though the Drug Companies themselves advertise that Statins have NEVER been proven to lower your risks of Heart Attack or Strokes. NEVER!!! They do lower your “Number”, but don’t actually help you in any way, and actually harm your Liver, Kidneys, Heart, Lungs, etc…
    It’s all about the money…

  • Natural Wellness

    A Western diet usually refers to not just animal protein, but processed foods.
    It’s the processed foods that cause all the problems. The ill effects of the Western diet is due to its high sugar, sodium, and chemical make-up, This is what results in heart disease, diabetes, obesity and other chronic conditions.

    Since, we already make cholesterol it means it’s a needed substance.The body needs fat. Many vitamins and minerals are fat soluble and will only be absorbed properly with fats.

    If the body doesn’t get enough fat for regular metabolic and physiological
    processes, the body will make its own. If you eat a low fat diet cholesterol does go down for some people and up for others. Each person is unique and the answer is not always one size fits all.

    The human brain depends on fats which can comes from nuts, flax, hemp,, coconut oil, seeds or protein sources. Fat also help balance proteins and complete the amino acids .

    Cholesterol is needed and that fact can’t be overlooked.