Cholesterol is a life supporting substance, needed by every single one of our body’s cells. Insufficient amounts can lead to poor memory, weakened immune system, hormone imbalance, and an increased risk of cancer. White blood cells and nervous system cells are particularly vulnerable to damage by a lack of cholesterol.

Authors analyze the common beliefs about cholesterol

According to Dutch author, medical doctor and research scientist Dr Uffe Ravnskov “the assertion that animal fat and high cholesterol cause atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease is probably one of the greatest and most harmful misconceptions in the history of medicine”. In his book “The Cholesterol Myths”, he provides evidence that high cholesterol doesn’t cause heart disease and high-fat foods do not raise blood cholesterol.

Also Justin Smith, in his book “$29 Billion Reasons to Lie about Cholesterol” states that no studies have shown that a high cholesterol diet relates in any way to higher levels in the body. Our liver makes most of our cholesterol, so if we eat less, our liver produces more, and the more we eat results in less being produced. In this way, a healthy balance is maintained, irrespective of diet.

However a high glycemic diet is likely to increase blood glucose levels, leading to damage of the inside of the artery walls, with more cholesterol being made to repair the damaged cells.

The many health benefits and uses of cholesterol

  • The body uses cholesterol to manufacture steroidal hormones including testosterone, estrogen, progesterone and cortisol which control a host of important bodily functions. These hormones determine sexuality, control the reproductive system and mineral metabolism. They also balance blood sugar levels, enhance immune system and modulate our stress response.
  • The liver needs cholesterol in the production of bile acids which it uses for digestion of fats and fat soluble vitamins.
  • Cholesterol forms a major part of the myelin sheath and is involved in the passage of electrical impulses in the brain, ensuring good memory and concentration.Synapses, highly specializes contact sites that connect neurons in the brain, use cholesterol for their formation and function. The “glial cells”,(supporting tissue in the brain and spinal cord), produce their own supply of cholesterol for the nerve cells. The brain must rely upon its own cholesterol manufacturing process as it can’t link into the supply for the rest of the body, due to the large size of the lipoproteins that carry cholesterol, being unable to pass through the blood-brain barrier.
  • Cholesterol, together with saturated fats, is very important for the structural integrity of the cell membranes and forms a vital building block for all tissues of the body, otherwise cells would die quickly and lose proper function.
  • It enhances the immune system with increased lymphocytes, and total T-cells with many strains of bacteria being totally inactivated by LDL cholesterol. Low levels of cholesterol can cause the white blood cells to break down and stop functioning, increasing susceptibility to infection and infectious diseases. It’s also important in the manufacture of Vitamin D.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is intended for educational purposes and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment with the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about their health should consult a doctor for advice.