How LOW Cholesterol Can Harm Your Health
Sayer Ji, Contributor
You’ve heard for decades about the dangers of high cholesterol, but did you know that LOW cholesterol can lead to violence towards self and others, and has been linked to premature aging, death and other adverse health effects?
In a world gone mad with anti-cholesterol anxiety, and where gobbling down pharmaceuticals designed to poison the body into no longer synthesizing it is somehow considered sane behavior, it is refreshing to look at some of the research on the health benefits of cholesterol, or conversely, the dangers of low cholesterol.
Benefits of Cholesterol…
- Cholesterol Is Needed To Prevent Aggression: It has been known for almost 30 years that low serum cholesterol levels are associated with habitually violent tendencies of homicidal offenders under the influence of alcohol.[i] Since then, there are at least 8 other studies that have either confirmed or explored the cholesterol-violence link, including both violence towards self and other. One of the possible explanations for this association was discussed in an article published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 1993: “One of the functions of serotonin in the central nervous system is the suppression of harmful behaviour impulses…Low membrane cholesterol decreases the number of serotonin receptors. Since membrane cholesterol exchanges freely with cholesterol in the surrounding medium, a lowered serum cholesterol concentration may contribute to a decrease in brain serotonin, with poorer suppression of aggressive behaviour”.[ii] Not surprisingly, several reports have now surfaced on cholesterol-lowering statin drugs contributing to irritability and/or aggression.
- Cholesterol Is Needed To Fight Cancer: The inverse relationship between cholesterol levels and the risk for a variety of cancers, and mortality associated with cancer, has been known about since the late 80’s.[iii] Since then, the cholesterol-cancer connection has been confirmed over and over again. It is to be expected, therefore, that statin drug use would be linked with increased cancer incidence, which indeed it is.[iv] Even when you take so-called “bad” LDL-cholesterol and administer it to a culture of highly malignant, multi-drug resistant leukemia cells, the cells lose their resistance to chemotherapy. Not exactly what can be characterized as a “bad” substance, now is it? [v]
- Cholesterol Is Needed To Prevent Hemorrhagic Stroke: There are two types of stroke: 1) Ischemic, associated with lack of blood flow and oxygen to the brain 2) Hemorrhagic, associated with the rupture of a blood vessel in the brain, and bleeding. The risk for the former, in theory, could be raised in the presence of excessive oxidized cholesterol. However, it is the risk for the second, hemorrhagic stroke, which is increased when cholesterol levels are low. Noted as far back as 1994 in the British Medical Journal, in an article titled, “Assessing possible hazards of reducing serum cholesterol,” researchers found “The only cause of death attributable to low serum cholesterol concentration was haemorrhagic stroke.”[vi] Other studies can be viewed that confirm this association on our stroke-cholesterol link page.
- Cholesterol Is Needed for Memory: Low HDL cholesterol has been identified as a risk factor for deficit and decline in memory in midlife.[vii] Even in Parkinson’s disease, higher total serum cholesterol concentrations are associated with slower clinical progression of the disease.[viii]Statin drugs, which inhibit the production of cholesterol, hence severely affecting the brain, are now required by the FDA to display the black box warning that they may adversely affect the memory.[ix] We have indexed over 50 studies from the National Library of Medicine’s bibliographic database, Medline, on the neurotoxicity of statin drugs, with six of these specifically addressing statin-induced memory impairment.
- Cholesterol is Needed for Longevity: In a fascinating study published in PLoS in 2011, telomere length – the shoestring cap-like ends of the chromosomes which prevent DNA damage associated with cellular aging – was linked to higher LDL and total cholesterol levels. The longer the length of these protective caps, the higher the cholesterol.[x] Indeed, several studies indicate that lower cholesterol is associated with increased mortality.
- Cholesterol Helps Us Fight Infection: It has been observed that a cholesterol-rich diet improves patients with tuberculosis, leading researchers to suggest “cholesterol should be used as a complementary measure in antitubercular treatment.”[xi] Cholesterol-lowering drugs, incidentally, exhibit immunosuppressive and potent immunotoxic properties, likely in part due to their cholesterol depleting effects.
Given that cholesterol is essential for all animal life and that each cell is capable of synthesizing it from simpler molecules, we should not be surprised by examples provided above of cholesterol’s significant health benefits. Nor should it be surprising that cholesterol-lowering drugs have over 300 adverse health effects. For now, suffice it to say, that conventional medical practice would do well to receive instruction from basic principles of biology, rather than simply the drug-company marketing copy it increasingly falls prey to.
This month, Rethink Breast Cancer’s “The Underwire: breast cancer news you can use“, featured an article from the Vancouver Sun about the 10 super foods that could save your life. I scoured the article looking for things I already eat regularly and more importantly for a glimmer of hope that my kids are actually getting some of the super foods in their very limited diet. I was shocked to see that my kids are already well on their way to eating themselves healthy. This was a real surprise as I was convinced that my lack of cooking skills was depriving my kids of a lifetime of health.
What do your kids eat?
The boys are huge consumers of “erries” – they eat so many strawberries, raspberries and blackberries that we have to buy cartons of them daily. Cinnamon toast is a big staple at my house (recipe: toasted bread, butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon) and who knew it was a source of fibre, iron and calcium! Shocking! I think most of us have “chocolate” covered and that’s a good thing as the cocoa flavinols found in chocolate “have more phytochemicals and antioxidants than green tea, black tea, red wine and blueberries”. At my house we try to eat the “good” chocolate which for us means organic, darker and less processed. That said, a good box of Smarties goes a long way! No pumpkin (fibre, potassium, vitam A etc.) and no oats (benefits the digestive system) for my boys but it’s a big yes to grapes (vitamin C and potassium) and nuts (healthy fats).
These healthy food lists that help prevent cancer can sometimes be overwhelming but take a quick peak and remind yourself of what to eat more of (or less of!). One way I can get a whole bunch of these foods in one shot for both myself and my kids is a shake. All you have to do is pick a liquid base like low fat milk, yogurt, juice or water and add some “erries”, nuts, soy protein, vanilla, cinnamon and maybe even a touch of chocolate. This yummy treat is a great breakfast to give everyone in the family a lot of good energy for the day.
How do you get your super foods? Please share any great recipes with us and our readers!