Breaking the Cholesterol Myth

Have you seen the latest drug commercial? You know, the one where the guy is walking down a spiral stair case with numbers printed on each step gradually going lower. Heís talking about how your doctors have told you that now you need to get your cholesterol even lower than you did before. Itís a myth; and a dangerous one at that.

Letís start with just a bit of very basic biology.

What is cholesterol? Cholesterol is part of a group of compounds called sterols. Cholesterol is primarily produced by the liver, however, every cell in the human body is also capable of making cholesterol.

What is the role of cholesterol? Cholesterol is used by the body to form cholic acid which is then used to make bile salts. Bile salts are necessary to digest fat. In addition, cholesterol is necessary for the production of adrenal and reproductive hormones such as DHEA, pregnenolone, progesterone, testosterone, estrogen, aldosterone and cortisol. Cholesterol is also used to make the skin impervious to water and other substances that may be harmful to the body as well as to bind with toxins in the blood which will then reduce inflammation protecting the nerves, brain tissue and heart.

Biology lesson over. We can now understand why cholesterol is important. So why has it been give such a bad rap?

The myth started when scientists determined that there was a correlation between cholesterol in the blood and heart disease. If you had the wonderful opportunity to take any sort of research classes in school, you might remember that a correlation doesnít mean anything. It simply means two things are present at the same time. This is like circumstantial evidence, just because someone is found holding the gun, doesnít mean they pulled the trigger.

Working to lower cholesterol as a way to treat heart disease is kind of like getting a bunion removed because you have a headache.

Itís important to note that cholesterol levels that are too high should be addressed. But what is too high? It used to be that what were considered normal were readings between 0 and 200. Anything above 200 was said to indicate heart disease. This was recently lowered to 0 to 169. But why was it lowered? Statistics show that heart disease rates are not improving. Despite statin drugs that are designed to lower cholesterol, people are still dying of heart attacks and more and more individuals are being diagnosed with some form of heart disease. The drug manufacturers certainly donít want to admit that their drugs arenít working as intended (even though they are somewhat successful at lowering cholesterol), so they decide that itís because the cholesterol levels are not low enough. If they drop the normal ranges, then they can sell more drugs and pass the buck for the continuing trend of heart disease.

The natural health experts are still out but there seems to be an unwritten agreement that levels between 175 and 230 are ideal. Levels below 150 or above 250 may indicate the need for more attention but do not necessarily indicate heart disease. There are better methods for determining the risk of heart disease; the ratio between LDL and HDL for example. Better yet is a test gaining popularity and much media attention for something called C-reactive Protein. While it isnít healthy to have extremely high cholesterol, it also isnít healthy to have very low cholesterol.

A short word about statin drugs

Despite no scientific evidence showing that statin drugs reduce the risk of heart disease and despite evidence that they are not as successful in the real world for treating cholesterol as they had shown to be in the studies, statin drugs are one of the most commonly over-prescribed drugs in the US. Statins have many side effects, including increasing the risk for heart disease. Statins deplete CoQ10, an important co-enzyme for cardiac health. In addition they lower antioxidant levels, cause headaches, fatigue, memory loss, difficulty sleeping, and, of course, liver damage.

Itís important to be proactive with your health. Donít let your doctors be the complete authority just as you wouldnít trust the salesman to give you all the details when making a large purchase. Do your own homework.

Nicole Bandes is a Certified Herb Specialist that has been helping others to regain their health and vitality since 1999. Nicoleís weekly blog is a "Dear Abbey" style blog that allows her to share her knowledge to simple questions regarding the use of natural supplements and keep her readers educated on the latest news regarding natural supplements.

Submitted by:

  • Name: Nicole Bandes, Certified Herb Specialist
  • Date: 08/18/05 at 19:06
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