Not long ago I was at breakfast with a group of friends when one gentleman made a statement to me that left me confounded at his lack of nutritional knowledge. Although it really should not have since our own government has put out information that has since changed without word being passed to the rest of the country.
As we were passing through the buffet line filling our plates, the fellow in front of me said to me “I’m skipping the eggs”. He said this to me while loading up on biscuits and gravy paired with waffles slathered with butter and drenched in pancake syrup.
When I inquired as to why he was skipping the eggs, he stated it was because they contain cholesterol and he was needing to lower his.
Dietary cholesterol and fat is not the concern!
The worry is in the cholesterol which is naturally produced within your body.
My friends, we actually need to include dietary cholesterol and fats as healthy components of our diet. I know that our government, schools, and medical professionals have told people for several years to avoid eggs, dairy, and red meats because of cholesterol and saturated fats. But the science does not back up this thinking. In fact, cholesterol and fats are an essential towards the prevention of metabolic aging which leads to disease and early death.
Cholesterol and fats are building blocks for constant replenishment and are supposed to come from dietary sources. It is a fact that people who consume healthy fats have less chance of heart disease and an early demise.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in your blood. Your body needs cholesterol to build healthy cells, but high levels of cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease. It is carried through your blood, and is attached to proteins. This combination of proteins and cholesterol is called a lipoprotein.
Yes, it is true that high cholesterol can cause a dangerous accumulation of cholesterol and other deposits on the walls of your arteries (atherosclerosis). These deposits (plaques) can reduce blood flow through your arteries. But this is the LDL (bad) cholesterol being produced by your body, not from what you eat.
With high cholesterol, you can develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels. Eventually, these deposits grow, making it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries. Sometimes, those deposits can break suddenly and form a clot that causes a heart attack or stroke.
There are different types of cholesterol, based on what the lipoprotein carries. They are:
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL). LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, transports cholesterol particles throughout your body. LDL cholesterol builds up in the walls of your arteries, making them hard and narrow.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL, the “good” cholesterol, picks up excess cholesterol and takes it back to your liver.
Your doctor will check your cholesterol levels as a part of a lipid profile which also measures triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood. Having a high triglyceride level also can increase your risk of heart disease. (1)
And now that it has been established what cholesterol is – and why high levels are bad for the body – here is why you need to eat cholesterol for good health:
Cholesterol is a type of fat that is multifunctional and is essential to keeping our bodies healthy. Being an integral structure in cells, it keeps the cell membranes permeable in order for materials to pass easily through cells. The inside of our body’s cells are filled with various cholesterol containing membranes which must be maintained in order for the cell to have optimum function.
When the cells of your body become depleted of cholesterol, they become less efficient. Additionally, your metabolism will not function properly as it should.
And what occurs when our metabolism is not functioning right?
We usually will get fat, but there is still more to come…
When we deprive our bodies of cholesterol, our cell membrane structures become altered. When this happens, cell growth is disrupted. When we cause a disruption of our cells, we become more prone to cancer as it is result of abnormal cell division.
Cholesterol is also important to maintain the normal function of our various hormone systems, and the body’s immune system. Many important hormones are made by cholesterol such as Vitamin D, dihydroepiandersterone (DHEA), progesterone, testosterone, estradiol, and cortisol. If that is not enough functions for cholesterol in the body, it is also essential for brain function and the stabilization of neurotransmitters. In other words, depression, agitation, and irritability can be a result of insufficient cholesterol within your body.
Lastly, we must remember that the insulation around your nerves which keep electrical impulses flowing is also made from cholesterol.
How our body produces cholesterol.
When we consume too many carbohydrates, especially simple carbs and refined sugar, our pancreas releases insulin which alerts the liver that is it about to get busy. When the amount of sugar is too high for your liver to release it to the brain, the liver must convert the excess into another form of energy called glycogen. If your body has more glycogen that it needs in the moment, the liver will then convert this sugar into cholesterol which is to be used as building materials for the body. Some of that glycogen will also be converted into triglycerides which are fatty acids that are either used for energy or stored as fat.
Contrary to what some well meaning, but misinformed people believe, cholesterol is produced by the liver as an important part of our good health. However, when we eat too many carbohydrates while not consuming enough dietary cholesterol we cause this bodily function to malfunction.
When we do not consume enough dietary cholesterol, our bodies will treat this deprivation as a time of crisis or famine. When our body enters this famine, insulin activates an enzyme in our liver called HMG Co-A Reductase. This enzyme then goes into overdrive with producing cholesterol from the carbohydrates and refined sugars that we eat.
While we need cholesterol for good health, an overabundance of it also contributes to the formation of damaging artery plaque that leads to heart disease and stroke. When you eat too many carbohydrates and refined sugars, they do not signal the body when it has produced enough cholesterol. Therefore your body keeps producing it.
When you consume dietary cholesterol, your body does not produce an overabundance of cholesterol that is natural to our bodies. In other words, eat the eggs and buttered toast for breakfast, it is not going to hurt you. What will hurt you with an over-production of cholesterol would be a breakfast comprised of skim milk, orange juice and fruit. When you have cholesterol that is produced as a result of high insulin levels, you are more likely to develop coronary artery plaquing and subsequent heart disease. (2)
I want to leave you with this, by all means do NOT go against anything that your doctor has ordered you to do. But know that informed questions should be asked before beginning any type of drugs the doctor might prescribe for you.
(1) Mayo Clinic
(2) The Schwarzbein Principle Dianna Schwarzbein, M.D.