Cholesterol, Friend or Foe

by Colleen Baxter


Much like the old scare tactic that dietary fats make you fat, dietary cholesterol is falsely believed to increase serum cholesterol levels.  Cholesterol has been so vilified over the last several decades as being bad news, although no association has in actuality been found between high cholesterol and increased mortality, but instead has been found with low cholesterol levels.  Statin drugs continue to be readily prescribed without evidence of adequate benefit; in fact studies show that they do not prevent first heart attacks, and they greatly increase the chances of developing diabetes (in women) and other comorbidities.  So the tables have finally turned in recent years, giving this lipoprotein the love and recognition it deserves. Some reasons why dietary cholesterol is not to be avoided, but rather deliciously enjoyed are in that cholesterol is:

  • a fundamental component of every cell membrane in the human body including brain cells, aiding in memory formation, attention, concentration, learning, abstract reasoning, and other neurological functioning.
  • essential for Vitamin D synthesis from sunshine, which is crucial for optimal health, cancer prevention, hormone production, gut health, mood stability, etc. 
  • a brain antioxidant, protecting brain cells against the ravages of free radicals.
  • the essential raw material from which we manufacture hormones including estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and cortisol. 

Deficiencies can take years to manifest into serious problems, most often subtly leading to depression, cognitive dysfunction, sex hormone deficiencies, suppressed immune function, cancer, Parkinson's disease, and more.  Remember, dietary cholesterol does not increase your total cholesterol.  In actuality, a higher than 'normal' total cholesterol level demonstrates higher chronic inflammation in the body, as your body produces cholesterol to patch up damage due to ongoing inflammation.  So, if excessive damage is occurring such that it is necessary to distribute extra cholesterol throughout the bloodstream, merely lowering the cholesterol with pharmaceutical measures and ignoring the mechanism of why it is there in the first place is a dangerous and misguided approach that often leads to other subsequent dire consequences.

So how do we naturally and effectively lower our total cholesterol and/or achieve healthy levels? 

  • Take a high quality Omega3 supplement like Nordic Naturals or Metagenics (reduces inflammation).
  • Reduce and preferably eliminate sugars and grains from your diet (these cause consistent inflammatory cascades).
  • Identify food sensitivities with a food elimination diet and/or testing through Alcat or Cyrex labs (reduces inflammation, which is a factor of all diseases).
  • Eat quality fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, pastured whole eggs, raw pastured butter, pastured ghee, avocados, sprouted nuts, and grassfed meats.
  • Incorporate exercise and regular fun activities of play.
  • Eliminate smoking and high alcohol consumption.
  • Reduce stress with breathwork, meditation, gratitude journal, therapy, sleep, etc. 

All these lifestyle factors have a beneficial impact on healthy cholesterol and metabolic health, with the additional side effects of overall reduced inflammation and greatly improved health and vitality.  So perhaps instead of isolating and vilifying an ingredient from natural foods and our own body chemistry, we can better understand why inflammation is there in the first place and choose to make beneficial changes to our lifestyle that lead to a more vibrant and everlasting version of ourselves. Now go get some pastured eggs sunny side up, heavy on the pastured butter and avocado; nourishment for the heart in more ways than one!

Commentary Topics:

Have you taken statins? What has your experience been?

Why do you think the medical establishment prescribes drugs that research shows don't work?


Some References:

Elias, PK, MF Elias, RB D'Agostino, LM Sullivan, and PA Wolf. "Serum Cholesterol and Cognitive Performance in the Framingham Heart Study." Psychosomatic Medicine Jan-Feb (2005): 24-30. National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 2005. Web. 18 Oct. 2014.

Hansson GK Inflammation, Atherosclerosis, and Coronary Artery Disease N Engl J Med 352:1685, April 21, 2005

Hyman, Mark, MD. "Why Women Should Stop Their Cholesterol-Lowering Medication." The Huffington Post., 21 Jan. 2012. Web. 18 Oct. 2014.