Cholesterol – the story
Cholesterol has acquired undeservedly a dreadful reputation. Dietitians are still telling people to “go on a low cholesterol diet”. But why? Let me explain. You see… 80% of cholesterol is made in the body, so it is a vitally needed substance for good health. “But why would your body produce cholesterol if it is intrinsically bad?” do I hear you ask? The reason is simple – it’s NOT bad. Cholesterol is the essential fodder for the manufacture of many elements in your body.
Firstly, it makes steroid hormones – the ones produced in the testes, ovaries and adrenal cortex. These control the body’s sexual development, physical development, inflammation and sex drive. Cholesterol is also a source of energy for the smooth muscle in your body – the muscle driving the heart, arteries and digestive tract. The problems that we encounter with cholesterol are not the fault of cholesterol intake, They are the fault of the intake of trans fatty acids that the liver converts to cholesterol. Really? You bet. Cholesterol made in the body is made from trans fatty acids, no worries. Not only that but also at this clinic, we have concluded from our work with nutritional therapy that the quality of the cholesterol is going to depend on the quality of the fatty acids. In other words, if heating it up in air has attached a ROS to a fatty acid and distorted its shape from the CIS to the TRANS form, then this twisted, free-radicle-bearing lump of trans fat will form part of the cholesterol molecule. But back to good cholesterol. It is made in the liver along with a protein carrier and formed into lipoprotein (“lipid” means fatty). Good cholesterol binds perfectly to the protein in a compact form. That”s why it is called high density lipoprotein (HDL). It is ferried in this way around the body and dropped off at the required “terminals” to make hormones, sebum (from sebaceous glands in the skin) or to be stored as energy, where it is converted back to fatty acids to provide energy for muscle contraction.
Where cholesterol gets its bad name is if you accumulate too much fat in the body. Then you develop an overabundance of stored body fat and then cholesterol will begin to be made here because your stored fat causes the fat storage cells to act in some ways like an extra sex gland and produce oestrogen. In fact after a while it will even convert testosterone into oestrogen because these cells will produce a lot of the enzyme, called Aromatase, that converts testosterone into oestrogen. Fat cells also contain a lot of other enzymes that convert cholesterol into testosterone AND a lot of other enzymes that convert ordinary fat into cholesterol. In artery walls, special immune cells called foam cells “take care of” this lovely cholesterol and carry it into the artery wall’s muscle layer, where it is stored. It can then be made available to “power up” muscle contraction when needed.
As in anything in life, balance in this matter is critical. Too little fat in the diet and you have problems with energy production. Too much fat and it creates obesity problems. Just enough is good. But always remember to balance proteins and carbohydrates with fat in your diet. Because too much carbohydrate (even good carbohydrates) will cause excess carbos to be converted to fat. Similarly, too much protein will cause other problems. Balance is good. Bad cholesterol. Bad cholesterol is cholesterol that has inherited part of a trans fat as part of its structure – or even worse, part of a PEROXIDATED trans fat (ROS). These gather together much more loosely than the compact form of cholesterol and form a slurry of poorly formed lipoprotein called LDL (low density lipoprotein). Being rancid, it is sticky and will cling to artery walls, causing them to clog up. It, too, is carried into the artery walls by the helper foam cells. But as this cannot be readily used for energy it just accumulates, causing the artery wall to swell, and it causes a narrowing of the artery space. Meanwhile, in this clinic, we have concluded that these foam cells can migrate into the fatty tissue of the brain and create havoc. We believe that this may be a prime cause of loss of short term memory in the elderly. We have also concluded that bad cholesterol can also go on to make “bad” hormones. These oxidised hormones will cause strange reactions in humans. Women may develop PMS, infertility and menopausal symptoms and may develop cysts, fibrous uterus and even breast and ovarian cysts and fibrous growths and abnormal cells. Men may get prostate swelling, testicular or prostate fibrous growths and abnormal cells . And go bald.
The good news is that there is good evidence that with the right approach, “good” hormones can be again made by your own follicular cells. And even better news in that we can now make bio-identical hormones in the lab while you are waiting for a sound nutritional protocol to “kick in”.