Who would have thought?! Although the brain represents only 2% of total body weight, it contains 20% of the body’s cholesterol. The brain is cholesterol-rich on purpose—because it needs large amounts of cholesterol to function properly. Just the mere mention of the word cholesterol elicits feelings of fear and angst in most everyone today, yet it is fundamental to our existence. Cholesterol forms a part of the membrane of every cell in our body and these highly intelligent structures participate in cellular signaling and the transport of substances into and out of cells.
Our fears emanate from national dietary guidelines, put in place by the McGovern Commission in 1977, that claim that Saturated Fat and Cholesterol, are responsible for Cardiovascular Disease. But when we look into it, these USDA Guidelines were based on non-existent, bad, and even forged data (look up Ancel Keyes and the Seven Countries Study). The years following 1977 have seen a meteoric rise in not only CVD but also many other chronic diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, Morbid Obesity, Alzheimer’s and Cancer.
That’s why we started Low Carb USA®. We felt we needed to provide a platform for scientists and medical professionals to present all the latest research that shows it is, in fact, sugar and excessive carbohydrates that cause the inflammation that leads to plaque buildup and heart disease and that saturated fat and cholesterol are not the demons. We also wanted to start creating a community where people could feel safe from the ostracism and hostility from friends and family for taking action to improve their health or even to save their own lives. As you read these words and recognise the fears and even possibly identify with one of these situations, you can’t make the decision not to get to one of our events.
One of the most popular speakers at many of our conferences is Georgia Ede, MD. Dr. Ede is a Harvard-trained psychiatrist and nutrition consultant practising at Smith College who is a regular contributor to Psychology Today with articles about food and mental health. In fact it was her article about Low Brain Cholesterol that inspired this post. She does a great job of explaining what cholesterol is and why it is so important to our bodies and our brains. She also looks into whether or not vegans and statin users need to concern themselves with Low Brain Cholesterol.
It turns out that although people on a Vegan Diet have many other nutrients that they need to worry about, Cholesterol is not one of them. Cholesterol cannot cross the blood-brain barrier and so the brain makes it’s own and is not affected by dietary cholesterol consumption (or lack of it in this case). However, people who take Statins should be very concerned. Statins DO cross the blood-brain barrier and and enter brain cells, where they reduce the brain’s natural ability to make the cholesterol molecules the brain needs to do its important work.
Dr. Ede goes into great detail about these mechanisms and the terrible side effects of Statins in her article, but what caught my eye was how succinctly she captured the rebuttal we are all looking for when we are confronted by people who try to tell us that our way of life is going to cause us to drop dead of a heart attack. I LOVE her quote that “All animal foods (meat, seafood, poultry, dairy, and eggs) contain cholesterol because all animal cells need cholesterol“.
In her article, she states, “Statins are a bad idea —not just because they can gum up your brain, slow your hormone production, reduce your coenzyme Q10 levels, cause muscle pain, and put you at risk for other potential side effects, but also because they may not even reduce your risk for heart attacks. Prominent UK cardiologist Dr. Aseem Malhotra agrees: heart disease is NOT about cholesterol or saturated fat. It is about insulin resistance (aka pre-diabetes) and inflammation within your blood vessels. Diets high in refined carbohydrates (like sugar, flour, cereals and fruit juice) can lead to abnormally high insulin levels. It just so happens that insulin boosts the activity of your cholesterol-building enzyme, HMG-CoA-reductase—the very same enzyme that statin drugs suppress! [Nelson DL, Cox MM. Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry. 5th ed. New York, NY: W.H. Freeman; 2008:842].
That’s right—eating too much processed carbohydrate is most likely what’s raising your “bad” cholesterol in the first place. The call is coming from inside the house. Turn down the refined carbs in your diet and you will naturally turn down your internal cholesterol production—all without drugs, side effects or co-pays. Chances are, if you have “high cholesterol,” you don’t have a cholesterol problem; you have a sugar problem. Cholesterol is just an innocent bystander, corrupted by too much sugar—guilt by association”.
How much cholesterol should we eat?
Dr. Ede says, “This is a fascinating question and difficult to answer with certainty. Our cells can make cholesterol from scratch out of foods that don’t contain any cholesterol, so technically, we don’t need to eat any cholesterol. However, making cholesterol is hard work; it takes 30 chemical reactions to build a single cholesterol molecule. For all we know, the body may prefer that we obtain ready-made cholesterol from food so it doesn’t have to bend over backwards to keep us in stock.
So, theoretically anyway, it’s possible to get by without eating any cholesterol, but the question still remains, is it dangerous to eat too much cholesterol? Apparently not. Although the change was introduced very quietly and not publicised in any way, even the latest USDA guidelines finally dropped their case against dietary cholesterol: “available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol….Cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.
Why don’t we need to worry about dietary cholesterol? The body has elegant mechanisms in place to regulate how much cholesterol we absorb from food. More importantly, the vast majority of the cholesterol in your blood doesn’t come from foods you eat; it is made by your own body. “High cholesterol” occurs when we eat too many of the wrong carbohydrates too often, not when we overeat steak and eggs”.
The tide is turning, so come in from beyond the breakers where you might be battling with Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes or Heart Disease and catch the wave into the beach and enjoy amazing health for the rest of your life? Take the opportunity to Join Our Community in West Palm Beach Jan 19 – 21, 2018 and learn from some of the best scientists in the world how to preserve your health AND that of your loved ones as well.
[Doug Reynolds: Founder – LowCarbUSA®]