Part II of the Great Cholesterol Con: Why This Falsely-Vilified Substance is Actually Your Body’s Greatest Ally

Now that we’ve defined ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol, it has to be said that there is actually only one type of cholesterol. Ron Rosedale, MD, who is widely considered to be the leading anti-aging doctor in the United States, does an excellent job of explaining this concept:

“Notice please that LDL and HDL are lipoproteins — fats combined withproteins. There is only one (type of) cholesterol. There is no such thing as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ cholesterol. Cholesterol is just cholesterol. It combines with other fats and proteins to be carried through the bloodstream, since fat and our watery blood do not mix very well. Fatty substances therefore must be shuttled to and from our tissues and cells using proteins. LDL and HDL are forms of proteins and are far from being just cholesterol.

“In fact we now know there are many types of these fat and protein particles. LDL particles come in many sizes and large LDL particles are not a problem. Only the so-called small, dense LDL particles can potentially be a problem, because they can squeeze through the lining of the arteries and if they oxidize, otherwise known as turning rancid, they can cause damage and inflammation.

“Thus, you might say that there is ‘good LDL’ and ‘bad LDL.’ Also, some HDL particles are better than others. Knowing just your total cholesterol tells you very little. Even knowing your LDL and HDL levels will not tell you very much.”

Cholesterol is your friend, not your enemy.  In the United States, the idea that cholesterol is evil is very much ingrained in most people’s minds. But this is a very harmful myth that needs to be put to rest right now.

“First and foremost,” Dr. Rosedale points out, “cholesterol is a vital component of every cell membrane on Earth.

“In other words, there is no life on Earth that can live without cholesterol.

That will automatically tell you that, in and of itself, it cannot be evil. In fact, it is one of our best friends. Cholesterol is also a precursor to all of the steroid hormones. You cannot make estrogen, testosterone, cortisone, and a host of other vital hormones without cholesterol. No wonder lowering cholesterol too much increases one’s risk of dying.

I hope the message is starting to become clear:  We would not be here without cholesterol.

Consider the role of “good” HDL cholesterol. Essentially, HDL takes cholesterol from your body’s tissues and arteries, and brings it back to your liver, where most of your cholesterol is produced. If the purpose of this was to eliminate cholesterol from your body, it would make sense that the cholesterol would be shuttled back to your kidneys or intestines so your body could remove it.

Instead, it goes back to your liver. Why? Because your liver is going to reuse it.

“It is taking it back to your liver so that your liver can recycle it; put it back into other particles to be taken to tissues and cells that need it,” Dr. Rosedale explains.

 “Your body is trying to make and conserve the cholesterol for the precise reason that it is so important, indeed vital, for health.”

Still not ready to give up your egg-white omelette in exchange for the real deal?  If all of the reasons up to this point are still not convincing enough, perhaps this next piece of the puzzle will complete the picture illustrating cholesterol’s benefit and necessity in the body.

You are probably aware of the incredible influence of vitamin D on your health.  When the level of vitamin D in the body is optimal, it can help protect against:

    • Cardiovascular disease. Vitamin D is very important for reducing hypertension, atherosclerotic heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. According to Dr. Holick, one of the leading vitamin D researchers, one study showed that vitamin D deficiency increased the risk of heart attack by 50 percent. What’s worse, if you have a heart attack and you’re vitamin D deficient, your risk of dying from that heart attack creeps up to 100 percent!
    • Autoimmune diseases. Vitamin D is a potent immune modulator, making it very important for the prevention of autoimmune diseases, like MS and inflammatory bowel disease.
    • Infections, including influenza. It also helps you fight infections of all kinds. A study done in Japan, for example, showed that schoolchildren taking 1,200 units of vitamin D per day during the winter time reduced their risk of getting influenza A infection by about 40 percent. It’s far more prudent, safer, less expensive, and most importantly, far more effective to optimize your vitamin D levels than to get vaccinated against the flu. According to Dr. Holick:

“We know that the immune cells use vitamin D and that they activate vitamin D. There’s good evidence that it will help kill tuberculosis bacteria, for example, if you have adequate vitamin D on board… We think that the immune system is primed with vitamin D in order to help fight infections.”

  • DNA repair and metabolic processes. One of Dr. Holick’s studies showed that healthy volunteers taking 2,000 IUs of vitamin D per day for a few months upregulated 291 different genes that control up to 80 different metabolic processes; from improving DNA repair to having effect on autoxidation (oxidation that occurs in the presence of oxygen and /or UV radiation, which has implications for aging and cancer, for example), boosting the immune system, and many other biological processes.

What does this fat-soluble vitamin have to do with cholesterol? What most people do not realize is that the best way to obtain your vitamin D is from safe exposure to sun on your skin.  The UVB rays in sunlight interact with the cholesterol on your skin and convert it to vitamin D. Bottom line? If your cholesterol level is too low you will not be able to use the sun to generate sufficient levels of vitamin D.

Additionally, it provides some intuitive feedback that if cholesterol were so dangerous, why would your body use it as precursor for vitamin D and virtually all of the steroid hormones in your body? Other “evidence” that cholesterol is good for you!

Make sure you read next week’s newsletter for    
Part III of the Cholesterol Series:
Cholesterol and Inflammation, What’s the Connection?