The majority of the following article is excerpts from: Cholesterol: Friend or Foe written by Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD May 4 2008. It had so much great information I felt it was worth summarizing the key points. Thank you Dr Natasha!
(Below everything in italics are Dr. Dan’s statements.)
If you believe the popular media, you would think that there is simply no level of cholesterol low enough. If you are over a certain age, you are likely to be tested for how much cholesterol you have in your blood. If it is higher than about 200 mg/100ml (5.1 mol/l), you will probably be prescribed a "cholesterol pill."
So let’s talk about cholesterol, is it our friend or our foe? Every cell of every organ has cholesterol as a part of its structure. Cholesterol is an integral and very important part of our cell membranes, the membranes that enclose each of our cells, and also of the membranes surrounding all the organelles inside the cell. What is cholesterol doing there? A number of things like structural integrity.
First of all, saturated fats and cholesterol make the membranes of the cells firm—without them the cells would become flabby and fluid. This ability of cholesterol and saturated fats to firm up and reinforce the tissues in the body is used by our blood vessels, particularly those that have to withstand the high pressure and turbulence of the blood flow. These are usually large or medium arteries in places where they divide or bend. This process is beneficial. We want our body to have a way to repair itself. We need to ask "why do the arteries need this repair?".
All the cells in our bodies have to communicate with each other. How do they do that? They use proteins embedded into the membrane of the cell. How are these proteins fixed to the membrane? With the help of cholesterol and saturated fats! Cholesterol and stiff saturated fatty acids form so-called lipid rafts, which make little homes for every protein in the membrane and allow it to perform its functions. Without cholesterol and saturated fats, our cells would not be able to communicate with each other or to transport various molecules into and out of the cell. As a result, our bodies would not be able to function the way they do. The human brain is particularly rich in cholesterol: around 25 percent of all body cholesterol is accounted for by the brain. Every cell and every structure in the brain and the rest of our nervous system needs cholesterol, not only to build itself but also to accomplish its many functions. The developing brain and eyes of the fetus and a newborn infant require large amounts of cholesterol. If the fetus doesn’t get enough cholesterol during development, the child may be born with a congenital abnormality called cyclopean eye.
Human breast milk provides a lot of cholesterol. Not only that, mother’s milk provides a specific enzyme to allow the baby’s digestive tract to absorb almost 100 percent of that cholesterol, because the developing brain and eyes of an infant require large amounts of it. Children deprived of cholesterol in infancy may end up with poor eyesight and brain function. Cholesterol must be pretty important to be in breast milk, nature’s perfect food to develop babies.
When we eat more cholesterol, the body produces less; when we eat less cholesterol, the body produces more. As a raw material for making cholesterol the body can use carbohydrates, proteins and fats, which means that your pasta and bread can be used for making cholesterol in the body. It has been estimated that, in an average person, about 85 percent of blood cholesterol is produced by the body, while only 15 percent comes from food.
After the brain, the organs hungriest for cholesterol are our endocrine glands: adrenals and sex glands. They produce steroid hormones. Steroid hormones in the body are made from cholesterol: testosterone, progesterone, pregnenolone, androsterone, estrone, estradiol, corticosterone, aldosterone and others. These hormones accomplish a myriad of functions in the body, from regulation of our metabolism, energy production, mineral assimilation, brain, muscle and bone formation to behavior, emotions and reproduction. In our stressful modern lives we use up a lot of these hormones, leading to a condition called "adrenal exhaustion." Without cholesterol we would not be able to have children because every sex hormone in our bodies is made from cholesterol.
The liver also puts a lot of cholesterol into bile production. Yes, bile is made out of cholesterol. Without bile we would not be able to digest and absorb fats and fat-soluble vitamins. Bile emulsifies fats; in other words, it mixes them with water, so that digestive enzymes can get to them. Bile is essential for absorbing fat-soluble vitamins: vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin K and vitamin E.
Varying Blood Cholesterol Levels
The question is, why do some people have more cholesterol in their blood than others, and why can the same person have different levels of cholesterol at different times of the day? Why is our level of cholesterol different in different seasons of the year? In winter it goes up and in the summer it goes down. Why is it that blood cholesterol goes through the roof in people after any surgery? Why does blood cholesterol go up when we have an infection? Why does it go up after dental treatment? Why does it go up when we are under stress? And why does it become normal when we are relaxed and feel well? The answer to all these questions is this: cholesterol is a healing agent in the body. When the body has some healing jobs to do, it produces cholesterol and sends it to the site of the damage. Depending on the time of day, the weather, the season and our exposure to various environmental agents, the damage to various tissues in the body varies. As a result, the production of cholesterol in the body also varies.
Since cholesterol is usually discussed in the context of disease and atherosclerosis, let us look at the blood vessels. Their inside walls are covered by a layer of cells called the endothelium. Any damaging agent we are exposed to will finish up in our bloodstream, whether it is a toxic chemical, an infectious organism, a free radical or anything else. Once such an agent is in the blood, what is it going to attack first? The endothelium, of course. The endothelium immediately sends a message to the liver. Whenever our liver receives a signal that a wound has been inflicted upon the endothelium somewhere in our vascular system, it gets into gear and sends cholesterol to the site of the damage in a shuttle, called LDL-cholesterol. Because this cholesterol travels from the liver to the wound in the form of LDL, our "science," in its wisdom calls LDL "bad" cholesterol. When the wound heals and the cholesterol is removed, it travels back to the liver in the form of HDL cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol). Because this cholesterol travels away from the artery back to the liver, our misguided "science" calls it "good" cholesterol. This is like calling an ambulance travelling from the hospital to the patient a "bad ambulance," and the one travelling from the patient back to the hospital a "good ambulance."
Just a couple concerns with the statin drugs are memory loss, muscle wasting, liver issues and potential kidney failure. The reason they test the liver every 6 months when you are on a statin drug is to see if your liver enzymes have increased from how hard the statin is on the liver, then the most common recommendation is to get off the drug and make the dietary changes. How about we just make the appropriate dietary changes up front and save us from the side effects of the drug? A book written about the memory effects of statins is Lipitor: Thief of Memory, Statin Drugs and the Misguided War on Cholesterol.
So, when a doctor finds high cholesterol in a patient, what this doctor should do is to look for the reason. The doctor should ask, "What is damaging the body so that the liver has to produce all that cholesterol to deal with the damage?" Unfortunately, instead of this sensible procedure, our doctors are trained to attack the cholesterol.
Many natural herbs, antioxidants and vitamins have an ability to reduce our blood cholesterol. How do they do that? By helping the body remove the damaging agents, be they free radicals, bacteria, viruses or toxins. As a result, the liver does not have to produce so much cholesterol to deal with the damage. At the same time, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, herbs and other natural remedies help to heal the wound. When the wound heals there is no need for high levels of cholesterol anymore, so the body removes it in the form of HDL-cholesterol or so-called "good" cholesterol. That is why herbs, vitamins, antioxidants and other natural remedies increase the level of HDL-cholesterol in the blood.
In conclusion, cholesterol is one of the most important substances in the body. We cannot live without it, let alone function well.
About Our Show Advisor: Dr. Dan Kuehne has a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Rutgers Business School and a Doctorate of Chiropractic from Life University. He also has earned the distinction of Applied Clinical Nutritionist, after hundreds of hours of postgraduate education. Dr. Dan achieves remarkable results with his patients because of his dedication to serve his patients. Dr. Dan learned early on the importance of customizing the care for each patient. Dr. Dan uses the 7 Pillars of Health and the biofeedback system called, System Strength Analysis to achieve results with his Customized Clinical Nutrition program. Using whole food supplements, herbs and empowerment education, Dr. Dan facilitates you reaching your health goals, naturally. Dr. Dan Kuehne also is a gentle and specific chiropractor. He uses instrument adjusting, and light force chiropractic techniques to restore the body’s vital life force from your brain to your body (every cell, tissue, muscle and organ) without any cracks, twists, or pops. Dr. Dan motto is “Empowering People to Reach their God Given Potential.” To learn more about Dr. Dan Kuehne and the techniques he uses visit his website at www.DrDanWellness.com.