The Benefits of High Cholesterol

The Benefits of High Cholesterol

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That’s right, the benefits. While researching this article I came across an interesting study that demonstrated the power of cholesterol. Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology looked at 52,087 individuals between the ages of 20 and 74. After adjusting for factors like age, smoking and blood pressure, researchers found women with high cholesterol (more than 270 mg/dl) had a 28 percent lower mortality risk than women with low cholesterol (under 193 mg/dl). Risk for heart disease, cardiac arrest and stroke also declined as cholesterol levels rose.

Yet, if you do a quick search on the internet, you’ll find all types of propaganda that supports taking cholesterol-lowering drugs. Those materials are supporting a myth. Our bodies need cholesterol. And not having enough can cause major damage.

Statins are Big Business

At present, 17% of Americans take statin drugs to lower cholesterol, and guidelines that are being drawn-up now would increase that number to 47% of the population, which would result in a financial benefit to the drug companies of more than $200 billion dollars per year.  This increase in statin use has had no effect on lowering heart disease and may in fact be causing untold damage to patients on these drugs.

It also may be causing heart failure, the very thing it is prescribed to prevent.

The Important Functions of Cholesterol

But wait…lowering cholesterol is supposed to prevent heart attacks. It is this flawed supposition that can cause well-meaning physicians to prescribe statins in alarming numbers. Cholesterol performs several important functions in the body. Perhaps the most important of these is its role in forming and maintaining cell walls and structures. Cells also need cholesterol to help them adjust to changes in temperature, and it’s used by nerve cells for insulation. Cholesterol also is a lubricant and is essential for synthesizing a number of critical hormones, including the sex hormones testosterone, progesterone and estrogen. Bile, a fluid produced by the liver, plays a vital role in the processing and digestion of fats. To make bile, the liver uses cholesterol. Your body also needs cholesterol to make vitamin D; in the presence of sunlight, cholesterol is converted into vitamin D. And finally, HDL cholesterol seems to remove plaques of LDL cholesterol inside arteries, ‘cleaning’ the arteries as it moves through the bloodstream.

Eating the Right Foods

Cholesterol is made in the body and also is absorbed from foods. According to the Harvard School of Medicine, it is the saturated and trans fats from dairy or fried foods, for example, that raise our bad cholesterol. Overconsumption of carbohydrates is another leading cause of high cholesterol and triglycerides.

This may be why those people on a paleo type diet generally reduce their cholesterol. Good fats from foods like seeds, nuts, avocadoes, and fish, will provide us with the cholesterol our bodies need to function optimally, reduce heart-attack risk and feel great.

And regarding eggs, they have many valuable beneficial nutrients. Eggs are a great source of digestible protein. Numerous vitamins, including vitamin A, potassium and many B vitamins like folic acid, choline and biotin, are also packed into this wonder food. In fact, very few foods have such a diverse nutrient makeup. Many of the ingredients are specifically needed for the health of the nerves and the brain. A 1999 study of 37,000 men, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, , suggests that consumption of up to one egg per day is unlikely to have substantial overall impact on the risk of coronary heart disease or stroke among healthy men and women. According to Udo Erasmus, a PhD and expert in essential fats, approximately 50 g/day of fat should come from the diet and we can supplement daily to account for approximately another gram or so.

The Adverse Effects of Statins

There is a good chance that someone you know is on medication to lower cholesterol. It is important that they know the other side of the story. The adverse effects of statins have been reported in nearly 900 studies. These deleterious effects include:

  • Muscle problems, polyneuropathy (nerve damage in the hands and feet), and rhabdomyolysis (a serious degenerative muscle tissue condition)
  • Chronic pain
  • Pancreas or liver dysfunction, including a potential increase in liver enzymes
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Immunosuppression
  • Diabetes
  • Breast cancer and other cancers
  • ALS
  • Dementia/memory loss
  • Heart failure
  • Dangerous decrease in minerals and nutrients including COQ10

I am not suggesting going off any medication or giving medical advice. This is between you and your doctor. What I am suggesting that if anyone you know is on a statin, they should really know the whole story. If cholesterol is the culprit, alone, of heart disease, then why do 50% of the people who have heart attacks have normal cholesterol? With the fact that the medical industry is now trying to medicate almost 50% of the population, including children as young as nine years old, it is a real controversy that is important to confront.

There are rare cases in which drugs are needed to reduce cholesterol, and now many experts are speaking out.  Dr Steven Sinatra is probably one of the most famous board-certified cardiologists and experts in natural heart health. In an interview with Dr. Joe Mercola he gave his view of statins. “I feel that the best indication for a statin drug is a middle-aged male with coronary heart disease and a low HDL,” he says. “To me this person has the greatest to gain and the least to lose. The problem I have with cholesterol-lowering drugs is that they have horrific side effects… If you treat a woman in her 30s just for ‘high cholesterol,’ and treat numbers, I think we’re doing a disservice… We really shouldn’t use them in elderly people.  We shouldn’t use them in young people, or in women.  I have been very disappointed as a clinical cardiologist in the efficacy of statins in women, even with advanced coronary disease.”

So basically, according to Dr Sinatra, there is one very small group of people that will benefit from the use of statins. For the rest, the risk outweighs any benefits.

In a different radio interview, Peter Langsjeon, another cardiologist who studied the effects of COQ10 levels on heart failure stated, I’m sort of an unusual cardiologist in that I’m not convinced that the benefits of statins come close to outweighing their harm and so I don’t tend to be a big advocate of them in the first place. But if you’re just looking at the big general way medicine is practiced, 99.9% of physicians use statins aggressively and they believe that the side effects are minimal. I think they’re just not seeing it and that they’re not minimal and they’re certainly not uncommon.”

How to Determine if Statins are Right for You

One rule in life is to never complain without solutions so here it goes. If anyone you know has any symptoms relating to the above-mentioned conditions and is on statins, they need to investigate their options further. Look at diet and exercise first to reduce cholesterol. Have a lipid phenotype or VAP test to evaluate your cholesterol for risk and also consider heredity. Don’t assume it is heredity just because your parents had high cholesterol and don’t assume that just because the total number is high that you are at risk.  Seek a qualified integrative healthcare practitioner to help you assess your overall health. Since the cause of most health problems is inflammation, consider thermography to look for abnormal inflammation. This has been an invaluable tool for us to treat our patients and monitor results. If you have any health conditions that are not being resolved naturally, get them checked by looking for the root cause as I do in my clinic. Your heart is part of the integrated whole that is known in Latin as vitalitas or Life Force. Treat your heart as an integral center of your overall vitality.

Kenneth R. Hoffman, L.Ac, D.Ac (RI), started private training under the tutelage of a Taoist medical and qi gong master in 1991 where he began learning the art of Chinese healing through Qi Gong, Herbology, Tui Na (Chinese medical massage) and Tai Qi. He graduated from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in 2004 and finished his clinical internship at St John’s Riverside Hospital.
He is the medical director for Sophia Natural Health Center in Brookfield where his specialties are hormone conditions, allergies, pain and medical thermography.  It is one of the largest acupuncture and Oriental medicine centers in Connecticut. He can be reached at his new location at Brookfield Medical Center, 31 Old Route 7, Brookfield, CT or 203-740-9300. www.SophiaNaturalHealth.com.