Yum cholesterol, eat up! Despite the fact that for decades doctors have demonized cholesterol as a molecular monster, these days the conventional understanding has changed. Earlier this year the United Sates Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee reversed its longstanding words of wisdom about avoiding egg yolks, shrimp, lobster and other cholesterol containing foods, proclaiming that the much-maligned substance is “…no longer a nutrient of concern”. No longer a nutrient of concern? Great, it’s about time! But what’s missing from the lifting of the medical and social stigma associated with eating cholesterol-containing foods is; some actual love for what the under appreciated biochemical really is and what it does to keep the body healthy.
Cholesterol is an anabolic (building) chemical. It plays an important role in the production of the hormones of youth, fertility, and growth. Its mere presence tells the body that anti-aging and repair can proceed. Its production is stimulated by stress and tissue breakdown, which in just the right amount will function as growth signals. This partially accounts for our societal tendency to have higher blood cholesterol levels than we actually need. Our cultural inclinations to long term chronic stress and degenerative diseases along with high blood sugar and insulin, (there’s a reason that diabetes and elevated blood cholesterol go hand-in-hand) not to mention the physiological burden of nutritional deficiencies are the ultimate cause of elevated cholesterol and the real bad guys in the epic decades-long drama called “CHOLESTEROL-MANIA”.
In the same way that automobiles are manufactured by attaching assembly component to frames, cholesterol acts like a chassis, which is chemically modified in a multitude of ways to create a who’s who of the hormones of health, wellness and anti-aging including progesterone, DHEA, estrogen, testosterone and Vitamin D. Cortisol, the superstar stress hormone is also a type of souped-up cholesterol. Cholesterol doesn’t just get turned into hormones. Bile, a key player in detoxification and digestion, is also a type of accessorized cholesterol.
Cholesterol also acts as a thickener and stabilizer for the outer coating of cells, the cell membrane. And not just any thickener stabilizer, but a bio-intelligent one that adjusts to the environment the cell is sitting in. It’s responsive to the cellular environment and congeals on demand, creating a more or less viscous system, depending on what’s required. The cholesterol in cell membranes takes the form of a crystalline complex that allows it to acts as a type of electron storage device. In much the same way that a LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) works by chemically changing the liquid “shape” of crystals to convey information, cholesterol uses its liquid crystalline structure to exert an effect on the consistency on the cell membrane, making it more or less “sticky” and permeable. It is essentially a biological capacitor, storing and releasing chunks of electricity (electrons). In addition to allowing it to behave as a cell membrane modifying molecule, this property makes cholesterol an energy processor and information storage element much like a biological nanoscopic Intel computer chip. This is especially relevant for the health of the nerves cells and the brain which are especially dependent on electrical energy.
Cholesterol plays a particularly important role in the skin. Its tendency to create and store positive and negative charges comes in handy in the body’s largest organ which uses this property to turn cells into bio-solar panel that can convert the sun’s energy into a useable biochemical format. And speaking of skin, cholesterol plays a major role in the health of the body’s 22 square foot covering who’s fatty (lipid) nature depends on the multi-functional substance which act as a precursor to moisturizing, protective and anti-microbial factors.
When all of these benefits of cholesterol are accounted for, it becomes difficult to justify any pharmaceutical or medical strategy to force the body to make less cholesterol, let alone a toxic one that puts an especially onerous load on the liver, the same organ responsible for purifying the body of the poisonous pharmaceutical chemicals. Recently, drug companies have announced the development of a vaccine that is specifically designed to kill of parts of cells that process and store cholesterol in an evil-genius, high-tech attempt to lower blood concentrations. Nice! A vaccine against our own biochemistry, which in the convoluted logic of the pharmacy-medical model will somehow make us healthier.
If you are interested in changing your cholesterol levels (up or down) the most important thing to recognize is that cholesterol levels are the manifestation of a biochemical context of stress chemistry. Reduce the stress chemicals especially sugar, insulin and cortisol and cholesterol levels will drop like a stone. That means less refined carbs and sweets, more protein and quality fats, deep breathing and relaxation techniques and nutritional supplementation.
The B-vitamins play an especially important role in lowering blood cholesterol. They also play a role to play in sugar metabolism. While this is true about all 8 B-vitamins, its especial true of niacin (B3) which plays a key role in sugar metabolism. Vitamin B3 is a component of the Glucose Tolerance Factor, complex molecular structure that plays an important role in clearing sugar out of the blood. Not coincidentally, niacin also helps lower cholesterol and pretty significantly too. According to numerous studies niacin is more effective than statins for lowering cholesterol levels and it works without side effects. The mineral chromium can also play an important cholesterol lowering role. Like niacin, chromium is part of the GTF and like niacin chromium also lower blood fats too. Other nutrients of cholesterol lowering not including Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin C and recently a ubiquitous plant glucose derivative called beta glucan has shown promise as a blood cholesterol lowering agent.