Are you tired of hearing that cholesterol is bad for your health?
Well, it’s time to debunk the myth and set the record straight.
Contrary to popular belief, cholesterol is not bad.
In fact, cholesterol is a vital nutrient that plays a critical role in numerous bodily functions, from building cell membranes to producing hormones.
So let’s discover the truth about cholesterol and why it’s not the enemy it’s made out to be. We’ll dispel some common misconceptions, discuss the difference between dietary and blood cholesterol levels, the role of the American Heart Association, and provide natural ways to keep your levels balanced.
Table of Contents
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol, a lipid generated by the liver, is a type of fat-like substance found in the bloodstream and all cells of the body.
Cholesterol is a vital element for keeping cells functioning properly, making hormones, and forming bile acids that aid digestion.
Cholesterol also helps transport other lipids throughout the bloodstream.
Eating foods with saturated fat like beef and food items that contain trans fats, can lead to elevated cholesterol levels.
Smoking cigarettes can also contribute to higher cholesterol levels.
HDL (high-density lipoprotein) and LDL (low-density lipoprotein) are two types of cholesterol.
HDL is considered “good” because it helps carry away excess cholesterol from cells while LDL carries it back into them causing plaque build up on artery walls which increases risk of cardiovascular disease if left unchecked.
But not all cholesterol is created the same.
It’s essential to differentiate between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol, since they are not the same.
Some individuals may have a high intake of HDL but normal levels of LDL, while conversely others may consume less HDL but still have LDL concentrations in their bloodstream due to genetic predispositions or habits such as smoking tobacco or not exercising.
Having a proper balance of HDL and LDL can increase energy production, metabolism, and even guard against certain illnesses like cancer or Alzheimer’s.
It can also lead to enhanced blood circulation and improved digestion/absorption rates for essential nutrients.
Fortunately, there are plenty of natural ways we can manage our own individual cholesterol levels without resorting to medications.
This includes many of the things we discuss here at the Wellness Watchdog such as:
- switching out unhealthy processed foods for more whole grain options
- adding more omega-3 fatty acid rich fish into our diets
- exercising regularly
- reducing stress through meditation or yoga practices
- reducing our sugar intake
All these will help keep us feeling fit and healthy in the long term.
Cholesterol is involved in many bodily processes, including the creation of hormones and cell membranes as well as aiding digestion.
Despite that, there have been many misconceptions about cholesterol that must be explored before we can grasp why it has such a bad reputation.
Main Takeaway: Cholesterol is often demonized as an enemy of health, but it actually serves a variety of important functions in the body. Choosing habits that support wellbeing can help to maintain balanced cholesterol levels.
The Misconception of Cholesterol
For years, cholesterol has been falsely linked to heart disease and other health issues.
The American Heart Association (AHA) keeps on advocating that individuals should restrict their cholesterol consumption and abstain from eating food with high saturated fat content.
This is based on the supposition that an excessive amount of dietary cholesterol potentially increases the odds of cardiovascular illness.
The idea that too much dietary cholesterol could potentially lead to a heightened danger of cardiovascular issues is based on the presumption that it can raise blood cholesterol levels.
Rather than heeding the American Heart Association’s recommendation to avoid fats, recent studies suggest that swapping unhealthy fats with healthier alternatives such as olive oil could lower your overall risk for cardiovascular diseases without substantially impacting your total blood lipid profile—which includes both good and bad lipids like triglycerides and phospholipids.
In other words, by trading bad fats for good ones you may be able to dodge any potential harm!
Main Takeaway: Rather than singling out cholesterol as a major factor in heart health, it is more beneficial to prioritize balanced nutrition and exercise. Lowering stress can be key to reducing inflammation, which has been revealed to have a more significant effect on heart conditions than once thought.
Dietary Cholesterol vs Blood Cholesterol
Cholesterol can be divided into two categories: dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol.
Cholesterol in the diet is found solely in animal-sourced items such as meat, eggs, dairy products, and shellfish.
Blood cholesterol is produced by the liver from fats ingested or manufactured internally.
Dietary cholesterol does not significantly affect blood cholesterol levels. Blood cholesterol is impacted mostly by genetics and lifestyle factors like smoking or lack of exercise.
The amount of dietary cholesterol you consume has little effect on your total blood levels because the body regulates how much gets absorbed from food sources through processes such as bile acids secretion and reabsorption in the intestines.
Essentially, if you consume more dietary cholesterol than your body requires, it will simply expel the excess instead of taking in all that is available.
Now, even though dietary cholesterol may not have a huge impact on overall levels, excessive consumption of saturated fats can still pose risks, including increased LDL levels if left unchecked.
But it’s not just increased LDL that’s leading to cardiovascular disease, it’s oxidized LDL that’s the real problem.
Said another way, oxidized LDL is the real “bad” cholesterol.
Now, let’s drill down to examine what oxidized cholesterol is and why it is the main culprit in cardiovascular disease.
Main Takeaway: Cholesterol isn't the bogeyman it's been made out to be. Eating animal-based products won't necessarily raise blood levels, but can still pose health risks due to their high saturated fat content. So, it is vital that we make wise decisions when choosing our meals to protect our health.
Oxidized cholesterol is a type of cholesterol that has been chemically altered after being exposed to heat, air, light, and oxidizing agents.
It can be created when low-density lipoprotein (LDL), goes through a chemical reaction in the body.
When cholesterol undergoes oxidation, it forms products that can sometimes be identified and measured in the body.
It can also be caused by exposure to industrial chemicals, cigarette smoke, pollution, ozone and radiation as well as consuming excess glucose or reheated cooking oil.
Having metabolic syndrome is another risk factor for oxidized cholesterol as it is characterized by having at least 3 of the following risk factors:
- a large waistline
- high triglyceride levels
- low HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol)
- high blood pressure
The American Heart Association chooses to vilify ALL cholesterol when in fact cholesterol is not bad; it’s necessary for us to live!
Speaking of the AHA, let’s take a second to discuss how and why they made cholesterol the villain.
Why Does the AHA Vilify Cholesterol?
In her book Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Foods, Dr. Cate Shanahan says it all began back in the 1950s and 1960s when an oceanographer and eel physiologist named Ancel Keys designed a series of highly influential experiments that forever altered the course of American dietary history.
Dr. Shanahan says Keys had a “powerful personality, which he used to influence the American Heart Association leadership.
As a result, a deal was brokered where Proctor & Gamble, makers of hydrogenated vegetable oil, paid the AHA 1.7 million dollars.”
Before Keys, Americans enjoyed real food like butter, eggs, and bacon without worrying about their health.
After Keys was on the cover of Time Magazine on Jan 13, 1961, the American public was introduced to the idea that saturated fats were clogging their arteries.
That idea ultimately led to a HUGE change in the foods we eat.
Real fats would increasingly be replaced by factory-made seed oils, and the era of chronic disease would begin.
In Deep Nutrition, Dr. Shanahan shows how Keys and his allies misled doctors and hid the results of their own studies that would have proved them wrong.
Benefits of Cholesterol
Eel physiologist rhetoric aside, cholesterol is an essential nutrient for the body that facilitates proper brain and nerve function as well as hormone production.
Cholesterol plays a vital role in maintaining healthy brain and nerve function, as well as aiding with hormone production.
Having adequate levels of cholesterol can facilitate cognitive functioning, bolster moods, and enhance overall wellbeing.
The most important benefit of having healthy cholesterol levels is improved cognitive function.
Studies have shown that higher levels of HDL (good) cholesterol are associated with better memory recall and enhanced mental clarity.
Higher HDL cholesterol also helps protect against age-related dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Mood stability is another key benefit of having healthy levels of cholesterol in the body.
Having adequate amounts of LDL can also be beneficial for your immune system functioning correctly. (Yes, the “bad” cholesterol).
it helps produce white blood cells that fight off infection from bacteria or viruses entering your bloodstream from outside sources like food or air particles you inhale daily.
I wonder if my 137 LDL level, which my doctor says is a risk, has something to do with keeping me virus-free during the pandemic?
Cholesterol should not be feared, as it can have positive effects on the body when managed properly.
With that being said, there are natural ways to manage cholesterol levels which will help ensure overall health and wellbeing.
Main Takeaway: Cholesterol has a bad reputation, but it is actually essential for optimal health. HDL cholesterol assists with mental functioning and mood regulation while LDL helps to maintain the immune system. To maintain healthy levels of both LDL and HDL there are natural ways to do so such as exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, limiting alcohol consumption, quitting smoking if applicable, and getting adequate sleep each night. All these things will help keep your lipid profile on track.
Natural Ways to Manage Cholesterol Levels
Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels is essential for overall health and wellbeing, contrary to popular belief, it is possible to maintain healthy cholesterol levels without relying on pharmaceuticals.
Maintaining a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables can help maintain optimal cholesterol levels.
It’s also important to limit saturated fats like red meat and butter, as well as trans fats found in processed foods such as chips and cookies.
Choose lean proteins such as fish or poultry instead of fatty cuts of beef or pork, and opt for healthy fats like olive oil over vegetable oils (especially reheated ones) when cooking.
Engaging in physical activity can help diminish LDL cholesterol and bolster HDL levels.
Try to get some kind of moderate exercise for at least a half hour on most days – anything from strolling with your pup to doing an aerobics class.
Stress has been linked to higher levels of LDL so it’s important to find ways to relax.
Whether it’s through yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises or simply taking time out for yourself each day—finding what works best for you is key.
Overall, making lifestyle changes is essential when trying to manage your cholesterol levels naturally without taking medications.
A combination approach including dietary modifications along with regular exercise and stress reduction techniques should be implemented to maintain optimal heart health and avoid oxidized cholesterol.
Main Takeaway: Cholesterol is not bad, it's essential to maintain balanced levels through lifestyle adjustments such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, stress reduction and avoidance of processed foods. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly, reducing stress, and avoiding processed foods can help maintain optimal heart health naturally without the need for medication.
Cholesterol is Not Bad FAQs
Why is cholesterol not bad?
Cholesterol is actually essential for your body to work properly. It helps to create hormones and build cells, among other things. However, too much of the “bad” type of cholesterol (called low-density lipoprotein or LDL) can lead to fatty deposits building up in the arteries, which can increase the risk of heart disease. The biggest influence on blood cholesterol level is the mix of fats and carbohydrates in your diet—not the amount of cholesterol you eat from food. Eating high-cholesterol foods like eggs have been shown to be safe and healthy as long as it’s part of a balanced diet.
Can you be healthy with high cholesterol?
Absolutely! While high cholesterol can lead to serious health problems, you can still remain healthy by making a few changes to your lifestyle. Avoiding processed foods, getting regular exercise, managing stress, and maintaining a healthy weight are all important steps for managing cholesterol oxidation.
Why is high cholesterol good?
High cholesterol is actually beneficial for the body in certain circumstances. It helps to produce hormones, insulate nerve fibers, and aid in digestion of fat-soluble vitamins. Additionally, it serves as a protective factor against stroke by preventing plaque buildup on artery walls. While high levels can be dangerous if left unchecked with other risk factors, moderate amounts are generally seen as healthy and necessary for proper functioning of the body’s systems.
Why doesn’t the American Heart Association distinguish between LDL and oxidized LDL?
The American Heart Association does not distinguish between LDL and oxidized LDL because both are associated with increased risk of coronary artery disease. Oxidized LDL is a form of LDL cholesterol which is particularly prone to oxidation and has been linked to an increased risk of developing CAD. Research has also shown that small dense LDL particles, which are more likely to become oxidized, can trigger inflammation through the activation of macrophages and other cells. Although having high LDL cholesterol increases your chances of having high cholesterol, being thin does not protect you from the risk posed by oxidized LDL.
Cholesterol is an important part of our bodies and not something to be feared.
Research has indicated that dietary cholesterol intake does not significantly influence blood cholesterol levels.
Therefore, understanding how to manage your overall health through natural methods such as diet and exercise are key in maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol without fear or misconception about its effects on the body.
The truth is: Cholesterol isn’t bad.
Discover natural solutions to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and improve your overall wellness.
Learn how nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle changes can help you take control of your health today!