Monday, November 11, 2013

The Truth about Cholesterol

Is cholesterol really the bad guy? The answer is yes-and-no: it depends. In this article, we will discuss the myths and facts of cholesterol.

Is Cholesterol Really the Bad Guy?

In [1], Dr. Dwight Lundell said:
As a heart surgeon with 25 years experience, having performed over 5,000 open-heart surgeries,today is my day to right the wrong with medical and scientific fact.
In a nutshell, here are his statements:

What Was Wrong?Heart disease resulted from the simple fact of elevated blood cholesterol. The only accepted therapy was prescribing medications to lower cholesterol (hint: statins) and a diet that severely restricted fat intake.
What Is the Answer?Inflammation in the artery wall is the real cause of heart disease.[1,16,22,25] Without inflammation being present in the body, there is no way that cholesterol would accumulate in the wall of the blood vessel and cause heart disease and strokes.

If cholesterol alone were the bad guy, then the pill named evacetrapib would be the miracle cures for most heart diseases because evacetrapib can:
  • Substantially raises the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol level, reduces the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol level, and enhances cellular cholesterol efflux capacity
But, based on a research, it concludes that:[23]
Treatment with evacetrapib did not result in a lower rate of cardiovascular events than placebo among patients with high-risk vascular disease and the trial was terminated early because of a lack of efficacy.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol[3,6] is a lipidic (or fatty), waxy steroid found in the cell membranes and transported in the blood plasma. Here are the facts of cholesterol:
  • Body needs cholesterol
    • For its structural role in the cell membrane—to maintain membrane permeability and fluidity
    • As a precursor for the biosynthesis of steroid hormones, bile acids, vitamin D, and the adrenal gland hormones cortisol and aldosterone[4]
    • No cholesterol, no sex
      • As a precursor for synthesizing the sex hormones progesterone, estrogens, and testosterone and their derivatives.[4]
    • For muscle mass buildup
      • The research at TAMU revealed that following relatively vigorous workouts, individuals who had the most muscle mass gain also had the highest LDL cholesterol levels.[20]
    • For skin protection
      • In the skin, cholesterol is secreted by glands just below the surface to protect against dehydration and the wear and tear of sun, wind, and water.[3]
    • For healing wounds and protecting against infections.[5]
  • Almost every cell in the body manufactures cholesterol
    • In vertebrates, the liver typically produces greater amounts than other cells.
    • Even you eat foods with little cholesterol ingredients, you body will still manufacture at least 1,000 mg of pure cholesterol each day.
  • Cholesterol may act as an antioxidant[7]
    • It can stand in to perform an antioxidant function when certain vitamins and minerals are in low supply.
      • However, cholesterol is damaged in the process, and oxidized cholesterol is bad for the body.
      • That's why getting antioxidants in a steady supply throughout the day is important. Let your vitamins and minerals protect you from free radicals so they can allow your cholesterol to play all of its other life-saving roles.

What is Inflammation?

By itself, cholesterol does not cause heart disease and stroke. Atherosclerosis is an inflammatory disease. It's what inflammation does to cholesterol that causes arterial plaques.[11]

Inflammation is simply our body’s natural defense to a foreign intruder (i.e., bacteria, toxin or virus).[1] The cycle of inflammation is perfect in how it protects our body from these bacterial and viral intruders. However, if we chronically expose the body to injury by toxins or western diets the human body was never designed to process, a condition occurs called chronic inflammation.


In this article, we have shown you that cholesterol is an essential nutrient. Driving your cholesterol levels down too far can cause serious health problems.

On the other hand, atherosclerosis is an inflammatory disease. Inflammation in general are almost never the presence of too much cholesterol—rather they are too little of many other compounds: antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, etc.

Without inflammation, cholesterol would move freely throughout the body as nature intended. It is inflammation that causes cholesterol to become trapped. As noted in previous section, chronic inflammation is harmful while acute inflammation is beneficial. To become healthy is to avoid chronic inflammation. As Dr. Dwight Lundell pointed out, the culprits of chronic inflammation is our western diets:[1,8]
What are the biggest culprits of chronic inflammation? Quite simply, they are the overload of simple, highly processed carbohydrates (sugar, flour and all the products made from them) and the excess consumption of omega-6 vegetable oils like soybean, corn and sunflower that are found in many processed foods.
Without much ado, I would refer you to read [1] for the causation of heart diseases:
Western diets -> High blood sugar -> Glycation -> Chronic inflammation -> Heart diseases

Remember this—Avoiding heart disease begins and ends with following a healthy lifestyle, not with pharmaceuticals. Poisoning your cells' ability to make cholesterol isn't the best way to avoid heart disease.

Photo Credit



  1. World renowned heart surgeon speaks out on what really causes heart disease (Dr. Dwight Lundell)
  2. The Healthy Home by Dave Wentz and Dr. Myron Wentz
    • Every patient is different, and every case of heart disease involves a multitude of factors, from diet to activity level to lifestyle, as well as the genetic diversity of the human race.
  3. U. Erasmus, Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill (Burnaby BC, Canada: Alive Books, 1993).
  4. Hanukoglu I (Dec 1992). "Steroidogenic enzymes: structure, function, and role in regulation of steroid hormone biosynthesis.". J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol 43 (8): 779–804.
  5. U. Ravnskov, "High Cholesterol May Protect Against Infections and Atherosclerosis," QJM Internaltional Journal of Medicine 96 (2003): 927-34.
  6. Cholesterol (Wikipedia)
  7. Smith LL (1991). "Another cholesterol hypothesis: cholesterol as antioxidant". Free Radic. Biol. Med. 11 (1): 47–61.
  8. Western Diets and Western Diseases (Travel and Health)
  9. Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Travel and Health)
  10. 10 Things You Didn't Know About Cholesterol (Everyday Health)
  11. Check out "Pathology of Atherosclerotic Plaque" of this article
  12. David Seaman: Inflammation From Our Diet Is Killing Us Slowly (a must-watch video)
  13. Statin Drugs and Diabetes
    • Statin drugs can increase women's risk of diabetes by 48%
  14. The Little-Known Vitamin Essential to Your Health
    • Vitamin K2 deficiency can cause calcium-buildup, which can increase the risk of calcification of the arteries and hence the heart disease.
  15. High Cholesterol Tied to Prostate Cancer's Return in Study
    • But expert doesn't recommend taking statins to prevent recurrence
  16. The Real Cause of Heart Disease
  17. The Overlooked Health Risks of Very Low Cholesterol
  18. New Scientific Analysis Confirms Saturated Fats Have No Link to Heart Disease
  19. The incredible cholesterol-lowering benefits of the Avocado
  20. Bad Cholesterol Not As Bad As People Think, Study Shows (TAMU)
  21. Flaxseed dietary fibers lower cholesterol and increase fecal fat excretion, but magnitude of effect depend on food type
    • Research has shown that consuming flaxseed daily can help to reduce bad cholesterol.
  22. Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
    • Anything that damages the inner lining of a vein may cause DVT -- surgery, an injury, or your immune system. 
    • People who have certain genetic disorders or more estrogen in their system are more likely to have blood clots, too.
    • Higher levels of estrogen during pregnancy may make blood clot more easily
  23. Evacetrapib and Cardiovascular Outcomes in High-Risk Vascular Disease
  24. Heart attack symptoms: Know what's a medical emergency
  25. Novartis Drug Becomes First To Prevent Heart Attacks And Strokes By Targeting Inflammation
  26. The Cholesterol Myth Has Been Busted — Yet Again
  27. Rethinking good cholesterol — A high HDL cholesterol level may not be as beneficial as once believed.
  28. The best food for high cholesterol (Dr Michael Greger)

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