Cholesterol is a Critical Nutrient
Cholesterol kills—everyone knows that, right? Americans A patient I’ll call Bruce came to my office after his twin brother suffered a heart attack. His brother survived, but Bruce had been with him when it happened and saw how close his brother came to losing his life.
As a result, Bruce was very motivated and determined to remove all cholesterol from his body…until I shared the same things with him that I’m telling you now.
Cholesterol kills—everyone knows that, right? Americans spend billions each year on statins, drugs whose only purpose is to lower cholesterol. So it must be true.
Except that it isn’t.
Cholesterol does not cause heart attacks. Approximately half of all heart attacks occur in individuals with low or normal cholesterol levels.
Like many illnesses, heart attacks are caused by a number of different things, not a single factor, like cholesterol. Inflammation, for example, raises your risk of heart attack, cancer, and other ailments. Here are other risk factors that are linked to heart attacks:
- Low blood levels of essential fatty acids DHA and EPA
- Elevated C-reactive protein
- Too much insulin
- Low levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol
- High blood sugar
- Too little vitamin D3
- High blood pressure
- High levels of fibrinogen
- Low levels of vitamin K
- Excess triglycerides
- Oxidized LDL (“bad”) cholesterol
As you can see, LDL cholesterol has been singled out for blame when there are plenty of other threats to your heart health, most of them things your doctor has probably never even mentioned.
So let’s set the record straight on cholesterol. The truth is, without cholesterol in your body, you would die. Yes, it is that important. Every cell and membrane of your body requires cholesterol.
I know that’s radically different than what you’ve been told by the medical establishment, but trust me—it’s the truth. Even some of my own patients don’t believe me until I explain the benefits of cholesterol.
Yes, benefits! Cholesterol helps manage important hormones, like progesterone and testosterone. It also helps produce cell membranes, manages vitamin D, bile, and blood sugar levels, and regulates water and salt in your body. There’s also evidence that cholesterol boosts memory and your immune system.
And I’m not talking about only good, HDL cholesterol. Here are some examples of how important LDL, the so-called bad cholesterol, is to your health.
Frailty—the devastating weakness, sometimes called sarcopenia, caused by muscle loss during aging—lands far too many seniors in the hospital with broken bones and other catastrophes.
Lengthy recovery times can cause patients to end up in long-term care. Often, these debilitated seniors never return home, spending their final days in a facility—all because their muscles are simply too weak.
So what does LDL cholesterol have to do with frailty? Strong muscles are the best antidote. And LDL helps make muscles strong.
Researchers recently tested a group of sedentary older adults, reporting the results in the Journal of Gerontology. After going through a training program, the ones who had gained the most frailty-fighting muscle mass were those with the highest levels of LDL cholesterol.
And there’s more! Other research shows that low levels of cholesterol are a marker for both depression and suicidal behavior.
So with all these benefits, why has LDL cholesterol been demonized? Because when it becomes oxidized, the already waxy substance hardens, creating blocked arteries.
In other words, oxidation is the real problem, not cholesterol. And here’s an easy way to prevent oxidation—eat more antioxidants. Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of these powerful nutrients. Here’s my list of the top nine best food sources of antioxidants:
- Beans, including small red, kidney, pinto, and black beans
- Berries, including blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries
- Artichoke (cooked)
- Sweet cherries
- Apples, especially Red Delicious, Granny Smith, and Galas
- Russet potatoes
- Pecans, walnuts, and hazelnuts
As for Bruce, he’s making sure his brother gets out for his daily “hike and a salad.” “I like the idea that we’re eating our medicine,” he told me recently. “Who needs a prescription when you’ve got Mother Nature!”
Last Updated: August 16, 2018
Originally Published: December 8, 2014