Cholesterol gets a bad rap.
Many people don’t realize how incredibly important cholesterol actually is.
In order to get a handle on how important it is, let us reverse engineer our understanding of cholesterol by first looking at the side effects of suppressing cholesterol synthesis with a statin drug:
- Increased risk of developing cancer 
- Increased risk of developing diabetes 
- Increased risk of developing cataracts 
- Increased risk of erectile dysfunction 
- Increased risk of kidney failure 
- Increased risk of liver dysfunction 
- Increased risk of cognitive impairment 
- Increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease 
- Increased risk of developing mood disorders, depression, and anxiety 
- Increased risk of developing myopathy/neuropathy  (including a nasty-sounding condition called statin-induced nectrotizing autoimmune myopathy [3a])
- Increased risk of contracting herpes zoster  and increased risk of infection after stroke [7a]
- Increased risk of developing CoQ10 and Vitamin K2 deficiency 
- Increased risk of developing coronary artery disease and aortic calcification (very ironic) [2, 8]
If decreasing the concentration of a single molecule in the body could cause all of these problems, then it must be vital. Indeed, cholesterol is one of the most important molecules in animal biology.
Let us look at some of its functions:
- Cholesterol is the precursor to all sex hormones. If you want testosterone, estrogen, or progesterone – you need cholesterol.
- Cholesterol is the precursor to Vitamin D. If you want to make Vitamin D from the Sun – you need cholesterol.
- Cholesterol is necessary to make bile salts. If you want to be able to digest fat (or burn fat) and have a healthy gallbladder – you need cholesterol.
- Cholesterol is necessary for a healthy immune system. You need it to fight infection.
- Cholesterol is necessary for a healthy nervous system. It forms part of the myelin sheath. 25% of the cholesterol in your body is found in your brain.
- Cholesterol is necessary for wound healing and for the body to repair itself.
- Cholesterol is embedded in every cell membrane in your body and is required for proper cellular function.
- Cholesterol is anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial (it can kill MRSA).
There is a reason why women’s cholesterol can double or sometimes even triple while they are pregnant – cholesterol is a necessary building block of life.
“The more cholesterol you eat, the less your body has to work hard to produce it.” – Dr. Natasha McBride
Your liver makes 2,000 mg of cholesterol per day. Being a compound only found in animal products, when you eat cholesterol (like from an egg or from butter) the cholesterol is absorbed directly and goes exactly where the body needs it. Eating more cholesterol does not cause elevated cholesterol, it simply allows the liver to occupy itself doing all the other things your liver does.
Well then what does cause elevated cholesterol? This is the 40 billion dollar question.
We now know that what causes abnormally high cholesterol is chronic inflammation, chronic infection, and chronic stress. From an Oriental Medicine perspective, the liver is producing extra cholesterol to bring more yin to the blood in order to cool the blood or to supplement yin. Cholesterol is actually trying to save your life.
When there are glycation end-products (little bits of oxidation) floating around the blood stream, it damages the vessel walls. These bits of oxidation are caused by inflammatory lifestyle and high-carbohydrate diets. Cholesterol, being necessary to repair tissue and for cell-wall integrity, comes to save the day. This is how increased inflammation leads to increased cholesterol.
It is important that we treat elevated cholesterol as a symptom of chronic inflammation rather than a disease in-itself. Once you bring inflammation down, the body’s natural intelligence can regulate cholesterol levels on it’s own.
Elevated cholesterol may also be a sign that you need to get in the Sun! Cholesterol is required for Vitamin D synthesis – one of the (other) most anti-inflammatory substances in your body. Cranking out more cholesterol may the body’s way of reaching for the Sun.
If you have high cholesterol, one of the first lifestyle changes you should make (as we all should) is to reduce oxidative stress on the body. This means, for most people, stopping the consumption of high-carbohydrate and processed foods (especially trans fats). Certain foods, like nightshades, can also contribute to chronic inflammation. It also means stopping inflammatory habits and lifestyle choices (see my articles on plastics and microwaves). Exercise and movement have been shown to normalize cholesterol levels as well (see Qigong).
Here is a great video that can help carry your understanding further:
I hope this article has been informative and even eye-opening for you. If this information is relevant to you or to someone you know, please share it.