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Understanding Cholesterol and why we need it

Hello everyone! How was your long weekend? For those of you who follow me on Instagram you know we had a pretty crazy week. Between Justin getting his tonsils out and Jett being taken to the emergency vet we were ready for a little relaxation and humor.  And what better way to do that than opening up the chicken run?! We were belly laughing watching them run around, pecking at the ground, and jumping through the air trying to catch bugs. Not only is it extremely entertaining for us, but allowing the chickens to run around and eat the way nature intended (a diet full of tick, grubs, and grass) will help make their eggs healthy, strong, and more nutrient dense.

backyard-chickens backyard chickens

Before I got into primal/ancestral health I thought eggs (mainly the yolks) were one of the worst foods for cholesterol; right next to bacon. I was a food pyramid obeyer and prided myself on making egg white omelettes and eating as little fat & dietary cholesterol as possible. As it turns out, I had it all backwards.

Why A Low-Fat Diet Is Useless For Cholesterol

Whether it be conscious or not, when you cut fat from your diet your carb intake will automatically increase. This is because the body can only burn 2 things for energy: fat and glucose. Prevent yourself from eating fat and you’ll notice all of a sudden you’re craving carbs and sugar.

Sure, some people will tell you they eat both low-carb and low-fat but that to me is code for low-nutrition and is not sustainable in the long run.

Low fat diets cause inflammation in your entire body – arteries included. Do you think our ancestors at skim milk and low-fat peanut butter? No. They ate foods as they were, and as so, our bodies spent hundreds of thousands of years evolving to thrive on these foods.

Processed foods, which have only been around for the past 100 years or so, are foreign to our body. What does our body do when it encounters strange foreign things? It turns on the inflammation switch. Our arteries, in particular, use cholesterol to help heal themselves. Yes, Cholesterol is a healing agent.

This is why eating a low fat diet will not lower your cholesterol, it will actually increase it.

Well, what about dietary cholesterol?

That should lower blood levels of cholesterol, right?

Not quite. Only about ¼ of cholesterol in the body is a result of dietary cholesterol. The rest is created by the body. In fact, when you lower your consumption of dietary cholesterol your body will create more to compensate.

Hmmm, seems the body thinks cholesterol is important…

And that’s because it is. Cholesterol plays an important role in just about every bodily function. Just to name a few…

  • It aids in bile production, which plays a major role in digestion and vitamin absorption.
  • It helps cell membranes form and maintain their structure – including the repair of damaged cells.
  • It’s essential for hormone balance. Including sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone… and the stress hormone cortisol.
  • It also helps the absorption of vitamin D which is critical for bone, nerve, muscle, metabolism, immune, and fertility health. Vitamin D also helps with insulin production – but let’s face it – we’re beyond the point of help on that one.

Also, it’s important to note that cholesterol rich foods (like eggs, liver, and raw dairy) are the main sources of choline (a b-vitamin). Choline is essential for brain and nervous system development, especially during pregnancy.

…and studies prove it.

  • Dr. Harlan Krumholz from the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Yale University, reported in 1994 that old people with low cholesterol died twice as often from a heart attack as did old people with a “high cholesterol”. (High according to conventional standards)(1)
  • In 2009 UCLA conducted a national study that showed nearly 75% of heart attack patients had normal cholesterol levels. (2)
  • In the book The Cholesterol Myth, Dr. Ravnvskov discusses a well supported theory that newborns who are born with high cholesterol (high compared to conventional standards) are protected against infection. Those born with low cholesterol either are stillborn or die early. (3)
  • Countries with higher average cholesterol have less heart disease

The Bottom Line

Dietary cholesterol plays a very insignificant role in blood levels of cholesterol and is not a contributing factor to heart disease.

Weston A. Price says it best,

If high cholesterol were the most important cause of cardiovascular disease, it should be a risk factor in all populations, in both sexes, at all ages, in all disease categories, and for both heart disease and stroke. But as you know by now, this is not the case.

So eat that yolk!

Interested in learning more? Check out some of my favorite books on cholesterol:

Understanding Cholesterol and why we need it pinterest

Sources
(1) Krumholz HM and others. Lack of association between cholesterol and coronary heart disease mortality and morbidity and all-cause mortality in persons older than 70 years. Journal of the American Medical Association 272, 1335-1340, 1990.
(2) http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/majority-of-hospitalized-heart-75668
(3) The Cholesterol Myths by Uffe Ravnvskov, MD, PhD, NewTrends Publishing, pp 64-65.

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Leave A Comment

  1. Susan May 30, 2017 at 9:09 am - Reply

    Love a juicy steak now and then.

  2. Miranda May 30, 2017 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    Doctor tried to put me on a statin when I was 18 b/c my numbers were “almost” in the “danger zone” of 200. I left her office just as quickly as I walked in. BOGUS! Such crooked old school mentality.

    Have you read the book Eat the Yolks? SO GOOD!

    • T1D Living May 31, 2017 at 2:32 pm - Reply

      Ugh! I feel your pain Miranda! My doc wanted to do the same with me. Not cool.

      I have not read that book yet, but it’s on my list! 🙂

  3. Ali January 3, 2018 at 1:32 pm - Reply

    My doctor wants me on a Statin as well. I was diagnose just a year ago at the age of 29 with T1. I had a pretty good understanding of the disease since my son is also a T1 diabetic and has been since he was 1, now age 7, and my doctor seemed relieved by that fact. Not so much any more as we seem to butt heads at every appointment. My doctor even told me that if I was not diabetic he would not put me on the Statin since my levels were not that high!!!! Needless to say, I keep refusing to go on it.

    • T1D Living January 10, 2018 at 9:44 am - Reply

      How frustrating! but good for you for standing your ground! <3

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