Cholesterol, & Why Your Body Needs It

So, what is cholesterol? Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in every cell in the body.  Your body actually needs and uses cholesterol to make sex hormones, vitamin D and substances that aid digestion such as bile, (bile is needed in the body to digest fats).   Those who suffer from low cholesterol actually have problems digesting fats.  Cholesterol is also a powerful antioxidant, which protects us from cancer and the ageing process.  Since every cell contains cholesterol, it’s an important cell protectant.  It makes our cells waterproof, so without it we could not have different biochemistry both inside and outside the cell.  

Cholesterol also plays an important role in brain function, and the formation of memory and uptake of serotonin, (the feel-good chemical).   If cholesterol levels drop too low, the serotonin receptors cannot work. It’s the main organic molecule in the brain, constituting over half the weight of the cerebral cortex.

Your liver produces 80% of the total cholesterol found in your body, whilst diet only contributes a whopping 20%.  One reason you may have higher cholesterol is due to a poor diet of high sugars and refined foods.  These foods create inflammation and leave damage in the arterial wall.  Cholesterol responds as a repair agent, and covers over the damage.  Think of it like this, when you fall down and scrape your knee and you have exposed flesh that needs a bandaid, it’s the same as too much sugar and refined and processed foods scraping your arteries.  Cholesterol comes along in the arteries and acts as that bandaid.

Finally, cholesterol is the precursor to all the hormones that regulate blood sugar levels and mineral balance.  These are adrenal hormones, (your stress glands) that help the body respond to stress.  Low cholesterol  can disrupt the production of adrenal hormones and lead to: blood sugar irregularities, inflammation, difficulty healing, mineral deficiencies, infertility and allergies.

Many people today are put on statins if their cholesterol is even slightly high, (my very healthy father was one of them).  I”m not totally dismissing statins, but I do think they are overprescribed and not monitored.  People can be placed on statins and told they will be taking them the rest of their lives.  Statins deplete Coenzyme Q10 and magnesium from the body, both of which are very important for heart health and overall muscle function. So, if you’re taking statins, ensure you supplement with both CoQ10, and magnesium.

If you’ve been told you have high cholesterol, don’t panic!  Cholesterol is not the enemy, inflammation in the body is! So, what you really want to get tested is your C-Reactive Protein in the blood, which measures the level of inflammation in the body and is a good indicator of cardiovascular disease.  If you find CRP is high after a blood test, then here are some helpful supplements to bring down the inflammation and support the body:

  • MAGNESIUM – helps alleviate arterial stiffness and thickening, reduces inflammation and blood pressure.
  • CoQ10 – reduces oxidative stress and inflammation, lowers blood pressure and triglycerides.
  • CONCENTRATED FISH OIL (statins oppose Omega 3s) -reduces triglycerides, significantly reduces BP, increases mitochondrial function, lowers inflammation, increases vasodilation, lowers platelet aggregation, stabilises plaque, acts as an antioxidant to reduce oxidative activity and protects from developing insulin resistance.
  • RESVERATROL – enhances endothelial function, increases nitric oxide (helps blood vessels to vasodilate), mitochondrial protection, DNA protection, protects LDL/HDL, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant and insulin sensitising.

There are other things you can do regarding what you eat, replenishing gut flora, losing weight, reducing stress, etc. The important thing to remember, is cholesterol is not the enemy!  I mean, the body produces 80% of it, so why would your own body be trying to destroy you?