Is Cholesterol a Superhero?


Can you imagine? The thought of this statement just a few weeks ago would be ludicrous, despite the years of research and the efforts of some nutrition experts calling for a ceasefire on this incredible and absolutely necessary molecule. Physicians and their diligent patients have been kowtowed into thinking lower is better. Going to excessive lengths to lower our cholesterol numbers, mostly by taking dangerous statin drugs, all while ignoring the reality of cholesterol’s role in our brain health, longevity, and heart health. The hint of the recent changes that will most likely be made by the USDA and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which jointly set national nutrition guidelines, is a long time coming. Even I remember learning the reductionist guidelines in medical school – “LDL is bad, HDL is good “garbage. When I actually started to train myself on nutrition years ago, the overwhelming data was there- cholesterol content in food doesn’t affect our blood cholesterol to any significant extent, higher elevations in cholesterol- even LDL isn’t a significant factor in heart disease, and lowering cholesterol doesn’t guarantee you won’t have heart disease. Also in some populations, especially the elderly and healthy women, higher serum cholesterol may be beneficial for preserving brain function.

There is so much to learn about this wonderful molecule, but I will leave you with a few tidbits to chew on.

Cholesterol is a steroid. Basically that is just a molecular structure that makes up the backbone of many of our sex hormones- testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen to name a few. So think of that, when lowering our levels to miniscule amounts.

Cholesterol makes up 25% of our brain. Studies have shown that in the elderly the best cognitive function was seen in people with higher cholesterol levels. In addition, extremely low cholesterol has been correlated with depression and dementia.

Type and number matter. What we need to be doing is looking at whether or not our cholesterol is oxidized, and what are the particle sizes and numbers. This can be evaluated by advanced lipid testing available by many Functional medicine laboratories. This can then guide you in nutritional and supplement interventions.

Statins are not the answer– They have only ever been proven to help men over 65 who already have risk factors or an MI. They are NOT preventative. They also may cause liver failure, severe muscle cramping and breakdown, confusion and cognitive decline and actually increase the incidence of diabetes especially in women.

So eat your organic eggs with abandon, and if you need a replacement to demonize- I know a guy… and his name is Sugar.