Not so long ago, aside from people with a genetic predisposition, it was people like long-distance runners or cancer patients who were supposed to have cholesterol levels below 160.
Today, due to new statin guidelines from pharmaceutical companies, doctors are now prescribing statins to patients for them to achieve those previously rare levels.
This is despite assertions that, today, it’s no longer just about the number any more. From health enthusiasts to professionals and to housewives, the popular belief is that the lower your cholesterol level, the better it is for your health.
The truth is that your body needs cholesterol to stay healthy – yes, even the so-called “bad” cholesterol.
Cholesterol has many vital roles as far as your (good) health is concerned.
- It has the important task of helping build and maintain cell walls. People afflicted with cancer have low levels of cholesterol. This is due to the fact that cholesterol is used up heavily by rapidly dividing cancer cells.
- Cholesterol is necessary for the production of sex hormones and fat-digesting bile. Cholesterol is also required for synthesizing vitamin D that is absorbed from the sun’s rays.
- Cholesterol also has an important role in metabolizing other fat-soluble vitamins ~ A, E and K.
Without cholesterol, your cells would simply disintegrate. That’s how important cholesterol is. This includes both the “good” HDL and the “bad” LDL cholesterol.
LDL has been labelled the “bad” cholesterol. However, the fact is that without your so-called “bad” LDL cholesterol, you’d die. Perhaps it isn’t so bad after all.
Serious health problems that are characterized by abnormally low levels of cholesterol
- liver disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- An overactive thyroid
- Poor absorption of nutrients
- Cancer ~ yes, low cholesterol levels is linked with cancer.
The Framingham Heart Study
In 2012, researchers from Tufts found that there was a higher incidence of cancer linked to consistent low LDL cholesterol levels. This analysis featured 201 new cases of cancer, and over 400 cancer-free controls.
This study raises many questions about the risks of low cholesterol. Extremely low levels can raise the risk of death by a whopping 20%.
The NHLBI (National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute) Research
Results from 19 different studies in 1990 indicated that those participants with total cholesterol levels under 160 had a 10 to 20% higher mortality rate as compared to those participants with higher cholesterol levels (160 to 199). These deaths were predominantly from stroke, cancer, respiratory and digestive diseases and suicide.
The American Heart Association Task Force on Cholesterol Issues
In 1994, they issued a report stating that levels of cholesterol below 160 were associated with higher death rates from stroke, trauma, cancer, respiratory and infectious diseases.
An American Heart Association conference on stroke
A similar conclusion was reported in 1999. They affirmed that higher cholesterol levels do increased the risk of ischemic stroke. However, participants who had cholesterol levels under 180 were subject to the same risk of stroke as those who had higher cholesterol levels of 230.
Other studies with male participants indicated an almost 4-fold increased risk of cerebral hemorrhage in those with lower cholesterol levels (below 150) as compared to those with higher levels (190 and above).
Low Cholesterol levels and Mental Health Problems
Low cholesterol levels is also linked to detrimental mental health – there are increased cases of depression, anxiety and suicide.
- A scientific research team from Duke University found a correlation between low cholesterol levels (below 160) and anxiety and depression in women who were otherwise healthy as compared to other healthy women who had moderate and even high levels of cholesterol
- Other studies reported similar correlations in men who had significant low levels of cholesterol with severe depression problems.
- According to a 2009 study, low cholesterol and depression are a deadly partners-in-arm. This study reported that men suffering from both severe depression and who had levels of cholesterol under 165 were at a 7-fold increased risk of dying prematurely ~ from accidents, suicide or drug overdose.
The Missing Link
Scientists believe that this missing golden key is serotonin. A neurotransmitter, serotonin is a mood enhancer. Low levels of this important ‘happy’ hormone predisposes a person to anxiety, depression, insomnia, hostility and a host of other serious mood imbalances, often leading to tragic consequences.
Cholesterol is a vital ingredient for Neurological Activity.
Among its many important roles, cholesterol is critical to the production of serotonin. Insufficient cholesterol predisposes a person to mood imbalances due to a lack of serotonin.
The’low-cholesterol-levels-is-good-for-health’ route may be detrmental to your health
The above are a few important reasons why you should not lower your cholesterol levels aggressively or at all costs. However, people all over the ‘developed’ world have believed and followed the ‘low-cholesterol-levels-is-good-for-health’ route for decades (unknowingly) to their detriment.
What is a ‘Good’ Cholesterol Level?
If you’re at a loss and wondering what to do with this information here, you’re in company. Join the club!
This question of an ideal healthy cholesterol level has no answer ~ simply because there isn’t one.
No-Nonsense Common Sense Suggestions
Here you will just need to exercise your plain, good old common sense ~ this is a very important survival tool to have.
- Eat right (natural, not processed or GM-ed foods)
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Adopt healthy lifestyle options (eg. cut out smoking, if you drink then drink moderately, reduce stress, live away from smogs,)
Then your cholesterol level will go to that level that is THE BEST FOR YOU – not an arbitrary figure given by some health authority. You, yourself must be your own health authority here.
- Throw out your low cholesterol recipes and diet.
- Throw out TV dinners and fast and processed foods.
- Eat natural food ingredients.
- Use healthy natural fats like butter, cold-pressed olive oil and nut oils.
- Take vitamin B.
A healthy diet is the golden key to good health, healthy weight and, by association, the correct, healthy cholesterol level FOR YOU.
Low-fat diets do not work. Continue eating natural fats ~ in moderation.
Contrary to popular belief all over the industrialized world, you don’t have to give up delicious fats like organic butter and cold-pressed nut oils. Moderation is the word.
Dietary cholesterol only contributes modestly to your total blood cholesterol level. Your liver has been assigned the important task of generating the cholesterol that your body needs for healthy functioning.
What is important, instead, is to completely eliminate hydogenated oils and reduce your consumption of carbohydrates and sugar.
- Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils and fish. (These are also good natural anti-inflammatories. Inflammation is the cause of many degenerative diseases). These fatty acids also help boost serotonin levels.
- Recommended dosage: 3,000 mg EPA/DHA per day.
- Vitamin B Complex
- Folic Acid: 5mg per day
- B6: 100 mg per day
- B12: 2,000 mcg per day
Just follow the recommendations here. Use your common sense. Let nature and the wisdom of your body do the rest. For the majority of us, this is all that is necessary to do.
Low cholesterol levels is not a marker of good health.
© Helen Chow, ND
Health Sifu: Make Smarter Health Choices. Consciously Actively. Deliberately.
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