Despite what you may have heard, cholesterol is not an enemy. Cholesterol is vital. Your body needs cholesterol and was designed to not only consume and metabolize it, but produce it as well. In fact, this wax-like substance is found in every cell of the body and plays a vital role in bodily functions such as brain development and hormone production.
I’m sure you, like many others, have associated the consumption of cholesterol with heart disease and plaque build up in the arteries. Surprisingly, however, half of the people with high cholesterol levels do not have heart disease. What’s more, half of the people with heart disease do not have high cholesterol.
Let’s explore more truths about cholesterol:
The Role of Cholesterol
Cholesterol is so vital to our wellbeing that every cell in the body is able to produce its own supply. It can be found in the adrenal glands, nerve sheaths, and white matter of the brain.
Here are a number of other important roles cholesterol plays in our body:
It’s the primary structure of the cell walls and helps cell membranes remain permeable;
It allows cells to communicate with one another;
In regards to the nervous system, it aids in nerve transmission;
Helps the brain both develop and function and is particularly important for memory formation;
It helps regulate electrolyte balance;
No hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, vitamin D, etc.) can be produced without it;
Stabilizes neurotransmitters thereby stabilizing mood;
Helps reduce permeability of the gastrointestinal tract;
Acts as an anti-inflammatory as well as antioxidant;
Helps the body produce bile acid that absorbs fat from the intestines;
Helps produce a series of stress-fighting hormones; and
Serves as a metabolic aid.
Historically, cholesterol has always been present in the human diet. And despite our body’s ability to manufacture its own supply, it’s critical we consume cholesterol from dietary sources as producing it is extremely taxing on the body. Consuming it gives our liver (the liver produces 75 percent of our body’s cholesterol!) a break. In fact, our bodies are so efficient at utilizing cholesterol that 90 percent of it is reabsorbed by the gut so it may be reused.
Reducing–or eliminating–the consumption of dietary cholesterol sends our bodies into “crisis mode.” Not only does consuming too little cholesterol cause our body to budrensomely overproduce this vital substance, but levels that are too low increase the risk of cancer, depression, sexual dysfunction, stroke, Parknison’s dsease, hormonal imbalances, and memory loss. Additionally, women and older persons in particular have a higher risk of death and dementia when their consumption is too low.
Despite taking the blame for contributing to the occurrence of cardiac events, studies reveal the more likely predictor for such events is chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation, not cholesterol, may cause heart disease by damaging the coronary arteries. (Thankfully, not only does cholesterol act as an anti-inflammatory, but it is also present at the sight of bodily injury–damaged arteries, for example–to help repair).
Much like saturated fat, cholesterol has been villainized in recent decades. However, we now know we cannot achieve optimal health without consuming cholesterol. In fact, we cannot live without it.
If you need help incorporating cholesterol into your diet, or have questions, comments, or concerns about your overall health, contact us today at Total Body Health.