Almost every food or health-related advertisement mentions cholesterol. It is a popular catch-phrase in the media and allopathic doctors who bombard us with pharmaceuticals and artificial foods to lower it. It is often given a bad connotation, but it is wrong to generalize that all cholesterol is bad. In fact it has a crucial function in the body.
What exactly is Cholesterol?
It is a soft and waxy substance found in the bloodstream and the cells. Cholesterol is made by the liver. Hence ancient scientists named it “chole” meaning bile and “stereos” meaning solid or stiff. The suffix “ol,” meaning alcohol, was added by a scientist named Francois Poulletier on 1760.
Is Cholesterol Bad?
Two types of cholesterol exist, Low-Density Lipoprotein and High-Density Lipoprotein. The former, wrongly referred to as “bad cholesterol” is the excess cholesterol in the bloodstream. The latter, HDL, is the so-called “good cholesterol,” cholesterol that is removed from the cells and returned to the liver. Thinking in terms of ‘good and bad cholesterol is wrong thinking. These terms were invented for marketing purposes. In fact, cholesterol is a vital part of the body’s chemistry.
Only the so-called small dense LDL particles can potentially be a problem, because they can squeeze through the lining of the arteries and if they oxidize, otherwise known as turning rancid, they can cause damage and inflammation. Thus, you might say that there is “good LDL” and “bad LDL.” Also, some HDL particles are better than others. Knowing just your total cholesterol tells you very little. Even knowing your LDL and HDL levels do not tell you very much. –Dr. Ron Rosedale
The Functions of Cholesterol
• Cholesterol maintains a healthy cell wall and hinders the cell’s contents from leaking. It is also determines how permeable the cell membrane is. Simply put, it determines what comes into the cells and what doesn’t.
• It helps in the production of adrenal and sex hormones.
• Cholesterol converts sunshine to vitamin D and metabolizes it, as well as the other vitamins A, E, and K.
• It is a major constituent of the myelin sheath, insulating and protecting the nerve fibers.
• It is used to produce the steroid hormones required for normal development and functioning such as the sex hormones testosterone in men, estrogen and progesterone for women.
• Other important steroids are cortisol (regulates blood sugar and aids against infection) and aldosterone (important in helping the body regulate water and salt).
• It helps in bile production.
It is important to note that excess bile is converted into bile acids, to be eliminated through the feces. Some bile is always absorbed back, thus helping to maintain the necessary amounts of cholesterol so vital for the body functions.
Cholesterol and the Brain
A little review: cholesterol is in every cell of the body. Cells make up tissues. Tissues make up organs. The brain is an organ. Thus it should come as no surprise that cholesterol even affects how the brain works.
Studies suggest that if liver-produced cholesterol in the brain is too low, it affects the brain’s release of neurotransmitters which in turn affect memory and data-processing leading to poor memory and less cognitive skills. But it doesn’t work both ways. A high level of cholesterol won’t make you smarter.
It is important to note that cholesterol-lowering medications (statins) affect the liver’s ability to produce cholesterol. People who have used statins complain of being forgetful, losing concentration, general muscle weakness, heel pain and many other problems that have developed over long term use.
An in-depth article on statins is coming soon in another post.