Cholesterol Does Not Cause Heart Disease but Is a Substance Vital to Health

by Joanne

in Heart Disease

We’ve had it hammered into us that cholesterol causes heart disease, and that reducing cholesterol will decrease our chances of dying of a heart attack. We’re told to cut back on foods high in cholesterol and we’re given statins to interfere with our bodies’ ability to form cholesterol. But cholesterol is a vital health-promoting nutrient used in many biological processes. Blaming heart disease on cholesterol is like blaming a fire on the firemen who arrive to put out the fire. Correlation is not causation.

Cholesterol is a fat-soluable substance found in all animals. It regulates cell membrane integrity and is a precursor to the steroid hormones. Our bodies make much more cholesterol than what we consume in our diets, and reducing dietary cholesterol has little effect on serum cholesterol. Cholesterol entering via diet is taken up by all the cells in the body. The liver synthesizes some cholesterol and it is the primary organ responsible for managing blood cholesterol levels.

A common misconception is that there are different types of cholesterol, such as the “good” HDL cholesterol and the “bad” LDL cholesterol. But there’s really only one cholesterol molecule in the entire animal kingdom and it’s transported in many forms throughout the body.

HDL and LDL refer to lipoproteins, which are the structures used to transport cholesterol through the body. Chris likens the structure and function of lipoproteins to a bus carrying cholesterol as passengers. He describes how lipoproteins differ based on size, density, and the type of proteins contained within.

What’s not commonly taught is that high cholesterol was known in the early 20th century as a sign of hypothyroidism, and cholesterol levels were managed by treating the thyroid. Modern medicine has completely abandoned this wisdom in preference to lowering cholesterol via pharmaceutical statins.

Chris shares his vast knowledge of the role of cholesterol in the body, how the different forms of lipoproteins are created, the possible health ramifications of inhibiting cholesterol production, and the particular foods you want to drastically reduce to avoid cardiovascular disease.

Total time: 50 minutes.

Interview

Click to listen to interview or right-click to download MP3 file

Bio

Chris Masterjohn is the creator and maintainer of Cholesterol-And-Health.Com, a web site dedicated to extolling the benefits of cholesterol and cholesterol-rich foods. He is a frequent contributor to Wise Traditions, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, and a recurring speaker at the Foundation’s annual conference. After encountering negative experiences on a vegetarian diet, Chris discovered the importance of including animal products in the diet. He is currently a doctoral student in Nutritional Science and plans to graduate with his PhD in 2011.

Links in Interview

Diet for a New America book by John Robbins
Nutrition and Physical Degeneration book by Weston A. Price
Overcoming Thyroid Disorders book by David Brownstein

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Lillea

Awesome! I appreciate the research Chris has done about the truth about cholesterol. I hope that this will start to hit the mainstream more and finally be accepted. I see it as some of the most important information about health – so much damage has been done with vegetable oils and the push toward a high PUFA diet.

I too became vegan for a while after reading books like Diet for a New America, but something was always missing from those books, and I found the missing pieces in Weston A. Price’s book! I hope that more people will read it. The pictures in it speak for themselves.

Elliot

Great interview. Thanks Joanne for getting this together.

Joanne

You’re welcome. It was my pleasure.

ben nguyen

So if I understand correctly, cholesterol alcohol in the blood (obtained via diet or produced by the body itself) gets picked up by all cells, but the liver is responsible for regulating the total amount in the blood (assuming normal thyroid hormones are present), and for purposes of transporting, it wraps this cholesterol with either high density (hdl) or low density proteins (ldl) , and antioxidants and pufas..

However, does it matter what type of pufa the ldl carries? For example, when it runs out of antioxidants, if the ldl used omega-3 pufas, would it be less likely to oxidize and cause inflammation than if it had used omega-6 ? (I always thought omega-3s were anti-inflammatory, and omega-6 were pro-inflammatory). Also, can pufa’s exist (and therefore oxidize) in the blood without being part of the ldl mechanism?

Finally, it sounds like statins should be avoided, yet many foods contain statins naturally.. should these foods be avoided?

Joanne

Both cholesterol and triglycerides are fat soluble, so they cannot travel alone in the watery blood. They are carried in lipoproteins. Triglycerides are made up of all sorts of fatty acids, not just PUFAs. Both o-3 and o-6 fatty acids are PUFAs, so I believe they would oxidize equally given a lack of antioxidants.*

As for the o-3 vs. o-6, this refers to an inflammatory process different than which occurs with lipoproteins. The body has different pathways for creating inflammatory and anti-inflammatory ecosanoids, which is a normal biological process for healing. Here’s a chart that shows the two pathways.

Pharmaceutical statins should be avoided, just as any antinutrient, but I see no reason for avoiding statins in foods.

*Kilmer McCully writes: “…lipoproteins function as a nonspecific immune system that binds and inactivates microorganisms and their toxins by complex formation….According to our hypothesis, LDL-cholesterol does not enter the artery through the endothelium as suggested previously, but via the capillary web of vasa vasorum in and around the arterial walls. Oxidation of LDL does not take place before LDL has entered the macrophage but occurs after phagocytosis, as part of a normal physiological process explaining why attempts to prevent cardiovascular disease by antioxidants have been largely unsuccessful.

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