You may have thought that cholesterol is
dangerous. You may even have thought that consuming
cholesterol in your diet increases your risk of
cardiovascular disease and even cancer.
Therefore, you may assume that to improve
your health and decrease your chances of getting heart
disease, stroke or cancer that you need to reduce your
intake of cholesterol. You would assume that would lower
your blood cholesterol levels and bring you out of the
Is this true? To answer this question means
understanding first what cholesterol is, and then what it
does in the body.
Cholesterol? Cholesterol is
sterol: a waxy lipid (meaning fat) compound that is found
in animal tissues. It performs a variety of essential
functions in your body.
For example, it facilitates both the
absorption and the transportation of fatty
It is also a fundamental building block for
a variety of your hormones. These include both your adrenal
hormones (cortisol, cortisone and aldosterone) and your sex
hormones (progesterone, estrogens and
Additionally, it plays a role in the
function of your brain, your immune system and your heart
Reputation. If cholesterol is so essential to
your health, how did it develop the reputation of being the
devil in molecular form?
This shady reputation came about because it
was seen that people who had heart disease or strokes also
had high cholesterol levels. So it was thought that
cholesterol levels themselves were the
But actually the body raises cholesterol
levels in response to a problem.
In other words, high cholesterol levels are the body's
attempt to keep itself healthy. The body raises these
levels to deal with inflammation.
When the insides of the arteries and veins
are inflamed, for example, the body sends cholesterol in to
attempt to patch the areas of inflammation. It's
actually the inflammation that's the
problem, and not the
Levels: What's "Normal"? Cholesterol
levels are measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per
deciliter (dL) of blood.
Current standards define desirable total
cholesterol levels as less than 200 mg/dL, with 200-239
mg/dL defined as borderline high and 240 mg/dL and above
For low density lipoprotein cholesterol
levels, less than 100 mg/dL is considered optimal, 100-129
mg/dL near optimal or above optimal, 130-159 mg/dL
borderline high, 160-189 mg/dL high and 190 mg/dL and above
It is worth noting that these standards were
defined after initial studies which were conducted on only
on men. It remains to be seen whether the cholesterol
levels defined as normal for the male body are actually
best for a woman.
Men's hormone requirements are much
different than women's. Also, women's bodies have a
different biochemistry and metabolism than men, including
hormonal production needs and responses, a fact that may
seem obvious, but which has not been recognized in many
"scientific" studies, particularly earlier
To access a summary of health problems due
to low cholesterol, and to access a list of causes of
inflammation leading to high cholesterol, Click here...