When is Cholesterol Your Friend? Let’s Count a Few Ways (not all of them here)

When is Cholesterol Your Friend? Let’s Count a Few Ways (not all of them here)

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The concept that cholesterol is actually beneficial rather than harmful, is a theme that has been collecting in my downloaded article folder for some time. I’d like to share snippets of various articles, some by Mercola and some by others, that further explain why today’s continued aversion to cholesterol may be causing more harm than good.

This aversion’s biggest harm in modern health has to do with mainstream medical doctors’ fascination with prescribing statin drugs! Mercola has spoken out against these drugs in various articles, and a couple articles bear quoting here, note that links are not given where files had been downloaded. Mercola puts many of his articles behind his substack paywall now:

In Mercola’s article: Statins Do More Harm Than Good, he shares the following:

“Despite decades of statin drug use and vilification of saturated fats and cholesterol, heart disease remains the No. 1 cause of death. Although the researchers in the featured study do not mention it, their data support past research that shows statins are a colossal waste of money, and likely more.

In 2014, Maryanne Demasi, Ph.D., produced a documentary, “Heart of The Matter: Dietary Villains.” The film exposed the myths behind the statin fad and the financial links that drove the industry. It was so thorough that vested interests convinced ABC-TV to rescind the two-part series and got the documentary expunged.

Since the release of that documentary, the evidence against the cholesterol theory and statins has only grown. Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, a general practitioner with the British National Health Service, expressed his disbelief at how widely statins are used despite research evidence they are not effective, and possibly worse. “

“What data have demonstrated is that statin medications are not inert, and in fact can damage your health while not protecting your heart. One of the side effects of lower cholesterol levels is impaired cognitive performance (he footnotes this in his article)

“One study showed patients with mild cognitive impairment had double the risk of dementia when using lipophilic statins, such as atorvastatin (Lipitor), simvastatin (Zocor), Fluvastatin (Lescol), and lovastatin (Altoprev), which dissolve more readily in fats.”

One author turns the concepts of LDL and HDL on their head:

“…it’s crucial that you understand how important cholesterol is to the human body. In fact, according to Zoe Harcombe, Ph.D., nutritional researcher, author and public speaker, “If you had no cholesterol in your body, you would be dead.”

As noted by Harcombe, the notion that there is good and bad cholesterol is also wrong. LDL and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) are not even cholesterol but, rather, carriers and transporters of cholesterol, triglycerides (fat), phospholipids and proteins. “LDL would more accurately be called the carrier of fresh cholesterol and HDL would more accurately be called the carrier of recycled cholesterol,” she says”

An article on brain health published in November 2022 by Mercola, entitled: Incredible Explosion of Gold From 1,400-Year-Old Ginkgo Tree, made another mention about statin drugs and their dangers:

brain

Avoid statins and anticholinergic drugs — Drugs that block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter, have been shown to increase your risk of dementia. These drugs include certain nighttime pain relievers, antihistamines, sleep aids, certain antidepressants, medications to control incontinence and certain narcotic pain relievers.

Statin drugs are particularly problematic because they suppress the synthesis of cholesterol, deplete your brain of coenzyme Q10, vitamin K2 and neurotransmitter precursors.”

Mercola shared a particularly concerning bit of nutritional/medicinal history in his March 2022 article: 10 Common Nutrient Deficiencies:

“The introduction of the first Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 1980, which recommended limiting saturated fat and cholesterol, coincided with a rapid rise in obesity and chronic diseases such as heart disease.

As saturated fats fell out of favor, and health officials wrongly urged Americans to avoid such healthy fats as butter, Americans began replacing them with products made from refined vegetable/seed oils, which are among the worst foods to consume.

Many are still not consuming enough saturated fats, such as those from grass fed butter. In a systematic review and meta-analysis of nine publications including 15 country-specific cohorts, butter consumption was not significantly associated with cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease or stroke, but increased consumption was associated with a lower incidence of diabetes.

Grass fed butter, alone, is a rich source of vitamin A in the most absorbable form, vitamin E, vitamin K2, antioxidants, conjugated linoleic acid, iodine in a highly absorbable form, vitamin D and more. By consuming nutritious whole foods like butter, you can lower your risk of multiple nutrient deficiencies at once.”

It should be noted that obesity often leads to Type 2 Diabetes, which brings with it other issues such as cardiovascular problems.

In February 2023, Mercola wrote: Dangers of Raising Vegan Babies where he shared a study done in Poland looking at vegan children from ages 5 to 10. They found various concerns for the general health, growth and wellbeing of the kids, including the following:

“The markedly low cholesterol in vegan infants and children in our study raises the question of whether such levels are healthy, as cholesterol is essential for cellular growth, division, and development of physiological systems due to its major role in the synthesis of cell membranes, steroid hormones, bile acids, and brain myelin …”

As hinted above however, the issues and dangers associated with thinking of cholesterol in a negative light, are not without their antidotes and repair mechanisms. Let’s look at a few of those now, travelling all the way back to a 1974 publication to begin:

In the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine way back in 1974, volume 3, page 231, the article: Calories, Protein, Lipids, Carbohydrates, and the Saccharine Diseases appears, written by A. HOFFER

Hoffer argues a correlation between sugar-intake and heart conditions, an argument that is starting to see concurrence again today.

“The third condition, coronary thrombosis, is due to excessive consumption of sugar. It is generally believed that about 90 percent of people with high blood fats, that is, high blood cholesterol or high blood triglycerides, owe this to the  excess conversion of carbohydrates into fat. There is scant evidence that this is due to the fat content in the diet. In fact the evidence suggests that this is not nearly as relevant as is the excessive consumption of sugar. Studies have shown that sucrose, for example, is very quickly taken up by the liver and converted into fat. The whole question has to be re-examined, but my own conclusion is that although it is important to have a proper level of fat, it is much more important not to increase one’s carbohydrate intake if one wishes to protect oneself against having a coronary occlusion.”

Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, September 30, 2005
Niacin (Vitamin B3) Lowers High Cholesterol Safely

OMNS – There is a safe, inexpensive, nonprescription, convenient and effective way to reduce high cholesterol levels and reduce heart disease risk: niacin. Niacin is a water-soluble B-complex vitamin, vitamin B-3. One of niacin’s unique properties is its ability to help you naturally relax and to fall asleep more rapidly at night. It is well established that niacin helps reduce harmful cholesterol levels in the bloodstream. Niacin is one of the best substances for elevating high density lipoprotein cholesterol (the “good cholesterol) and so decreases the ratio of the total cholesterol over high density cholesterol.

The finding that niacin lowered cholesterol was soon confirmed by Parsons, Achor, Berge, McKenzie and Barker (1956) and Parsons (1961, 1961a, 1962) at the Mayo Clinic, which launched niacin on its way as a hypocholesterolemic substance. Since then it has been found to be a normalizing agent, meaning it elevates high density lipoprotein cholesterol, decreases low density and very low density lipoprotein cholesterol and lowers triglycerides. Grundy, Mok, Zechs and Berman (1981) found it lowered cholesterol by 22 percent and triglycerides by 52 percent and wrote, “To our knowledge, no other single agent has such potential for lowering both cholesterol and triglycerides.

Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, August 11, 2008
Way Too Many Prescriptions
by Andrew W. Saul
(OMNS, August 11, 2008) Vitamin Therapy Safer, More Effective

pills

Half of all Americans are on drugs: prescription drugs. It’s true, says the Associated Press (14 May 2008): “Half of all insured Americans are taking prescription medicines regularly for chronic health problems.” That is nothing to be proud of.

Among the very most prescribed of all are drugs to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol. Patients taking pharmaceuticals trying to do that are being mistreated. Why? Because niacin (vitamin B-3) in high doses is just as effective, much cheaper, and most importantly, far safer. Niacin raises beneficial HDL levels better than any drug. (1) It also dramatically lowers triglycerides.

The New York Times agrees, saying: “An effective HDL booster already exists. It is niacin, the ordinary B vitamin. Niacin can increase HDL as much as 35 percent when taken in high doses, usually about 2,000 milligrams per day . . . and it has been shown to reduce serum levels of artery-clogging triglycerides as much as 50 percent.” The president of the American College of Cardiology, Dr. Steven E. Nissen, said, “Niacin is really it. Nothing else available is that effective.” (2)

Dr Mercola in his article on the health benefits of Vitamin E, mentioned one major source of Vitamin E: butter, and writes:

Grass-fed butter is also a rich source of vitamin E in a highly absorbable form. Butter doesn’t have to be a guilty pleasure. When butter is consumed as a whole food from a grass-fed source it contains many of the nutrients that your body needs. Some of these include:
~ Vitamins A, K2 and E
~ Lecithin for cholesterol metabolism and nerve health
~ Antioxidants
~ Iodine in a highly absorbable form

In his article beginning 2022: Top tips for a Healthier 2022, Mercola wrote about one of the benefits of Choline:

Tip 5: Boost Your Liver Health With Choline
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a common condition caused by an unhealthy
processed food diet. Aside from cutting out processed foods high in sugars and seed oils, adding in more choline can be helpful, as it appears to be a key controlling factor in arresting the development of fatty liver.

It does this by enhancing secretion of very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) particles in your liver, which are required to safely transport fat out of your liver. Choline deficiency may result in excess fat and cholesterol buildup. Choline also aids in DNA synthesis and is important for healthy mitochondrial function.

Choline-rich foods to consider loading up on include wild-caught Alaskan salmon, krill oil, organic pastured chicken, vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and asparagus, shiitake mushrooms, grass fed beef liver and pastured egg yolks.

A single hard-boiled egg can contain anywhere from 113 to 147 milligrams of choline, or about 25% of your daily requirement, making it one of the best choline sources in the American diet. Only grass fed beef liver beats it, with 430 milligrams of choline per 100-gram serving.

In April 2022 in his article: Omega-3 and Vitamin D May Reduce Heart Failure Complications, Mercola shares:

“According to Stephanie Seneff, Ph.D., who has written several papers on sulfur, deficiency appears to play a role in a wide range of health problems and diseases, including heart disease.

In 2011, during an interview with Seneff, we discussed the influence that sulfur has on health and disease. She talked about the crucial connections between sulfur, cholesterol and vitamin D, suggesting that sensible sun exposure plays an important role in heart and cardiovascular health as it regulates not only vitamin D3 but also cholesterol sulfate in circulation.”

In November 2022, Mercola did an interview with Dr Shawn Baker, where they discussed The Carnivore Diet. They mention the compound Carnosine, found only in red meat, and had this to say:

Beef Roast

The Benefits of Carnosine
Another benefit of a carnivore diet has to do with carnosine, which is a sink for glycosylated lipids (ALEs) and sugars (AGEs). Glycation is when a glucose molecule attaches to a protein molecule. Hemoglobin A1C is a measure of glucose control over three months. Basically, it’s a measurement of glycated red blood cells.

Red meat contains carnosine, which acts as a sacrificial sink for these kinds of glycated lipids and AGEs. In other words, the glucose will attach to the carnosine and as a result, your glucose level will go down. Carnosine is also a longevity molecule. Baker explains:

“[Carnosine] particularly affects the central nervous system that way. Our central nervous system is mostly fat. Something like 25% of the cholesterol in your body resides in your brain. So, carnosine has been a wonderful tool”

Dr Mercola’s more recent article on health and cholesterol, written in September 2023, Could a Vitamin Reduce Hearing Deficit? is an interesting read. He discusses cholesterol’s role in how the inner ear works and makes a suggestion to aid elderly people in maintaining or regaining their hearing. He says that Phytosterols which function quite similar to cholesterol, may be able to help people regain their hearing.

This is due to the function cholesterol plays in the inner ear’s regulation of sound amplification, and that the lower the cholesterol in studies, the more trouble the subjects had with hearing.

Mercola points out that Phytosterols exist in all plants, and then shares a few good sources:

  • Oranges
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Pomegranates and
  • pomegranate seed oil
  • Celery
  • Broccoli
  • Onions
  • Tangerines
  • Mangos
  • Cauliflower
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Peas

In September 2023, Mercola published the article: “Ancient Source of Fiber Grows Popular for Shedding Pounds” where he shares about Psyllium husk:

“Psyllium offers many additional health benefits, which are clinically proven, including:

~ Improved glycemic control among people with metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes
~ Cholesterol optimization
~ Lower blood pressure

A report funded by the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) Foundation found that were U.S. adults over the age of 55 with heart disease to take psyllium dietary fiber on a daily basis, it could cut health costs by nearly $4.4 billion a year by reducing coronary heart disease-related medical events by 11.5%.

A review published in Food & Function also hailed the potential for psyllium to prevent and treat cardiometabolic diseases and their complications, noting, “Numerous pharmacological studies have investigated the active ingredients and therapeutic effects of psyllium and its extracts, including antioxidant, anti-tumor, antidiabetic, hypotensive, anti-in§ammation, neuroprotection, antidiarrheal, and antiviral activities.” (the original article contains footnotes for these various statements)

Psyllium husk may also reduce the risk of gallstone formation by decreasing the body’s biliary cholesterol saturation index.”

October 2023 saw Mercola publish the article: The Wide-Ranging Health Benefits of Quercetin.

He shared this interesting bit about Quercetin:

When life hands you a lemon“This natural compound is also useful for optimizing cholesterol levels, as it may help inhibit oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL). It also has blood pressure-lowering effects. A study on rats found daily supplementation reduced systolic blood pressure by 18% and diastolic by 23%.

In addition, a six-week trial on overweight humans at high risk of heart disease also found that quercetin — at a dose of 150 mg per day — reduced systolic blood pressure and oxidized LDL levels. It may even support a healthy weight via multiple antiobesity effects. According to Pharmacognosy Review:

“Quercetin has a specific feature which inhibits fat accumulation in maturing human fat cells and simultaneously triggers apoptosis (programmed destruction) in existing fat cells. In addition, quercetin also blocks the uptake of glucose from the blood, blocks the fat cell production, and enhances fat cell necrosis.””

The research for this article began around mid-January 2024, got side-tracked with other projects, and by the time I returned to it, Mercola had written yet another article on cholesterol, this time in asking questions around atherosclerosis and whether or not cholesterol was to blame, or if it was a helper in overcoming the issue. The answer he found needs more research, but suggests a few things that could shed light on the connection between atheroscerlosis, cholesterol, and insulin, the compound required for the body to manage your blood sugar levels.

We’ve already seen how insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes and heart conditions all play nasty games together, but the cholesterol question could address this quartet!

“With regard to total cholesterol, as far back as 1977, with the publication of the Framingham Study, no correlation between heart disease and total cholesterol could be found.

“Low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol was associated with coronary heart disease, but not high LDLs or total cholesterol. However, as noted by Saladino, low HDL is also associated with insulin resistance, and he believes this is part of the confusion.”

“Saladino suspects that what has been blamed on LDL (atherosclerosis) is due to insulin resistance, i.e., metabolic dysfunction. Insulin  resistance/metabolic dysfunction, in turn, is primarily driven by excessive consumption of the omega-6 fat linoleic acid (LA). High LA intake also raises your levels of oxidized LDL, which are what you find in atherosclerosis plaque.”

“The primary question that needs to be asked is why is LDL oxidized in the first place, and how can you prevent that oxidation from taking place?

“Is the oxidized LDL a bad player?” Ali asks, “[or] is it there to protect us from oxidative injury? Rather than letting the important cells get oxidized, is the LDL sacrificing itself in protecting the body? Then, your whole paradigm changes …

LDL is not a bad player — it’s trying to protect us. What I need to figure out is how do I prevent this oxidative injury in the first place, and an argument that should surface is that, maybe I should have more LDL around so that oxidative injury can be … prevented, rather than having less LDL? These are the kinds of fundamental questions that science should be asking.”

“Saladino agrees, saying that LDL “is probably a repository for oxidized phospholipids,” much like lipoprotein(a) (Lp(a)). He cites research showing that the more polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) you consume — such as LA — the higher your Lp(a) and oxidized LDL.

So, your LDL may in fact have a protective rather than injurious role. It may protect you from the harmful effects of LA and other PUFAs. What this means, then, is that high oxidized LDL may be a marker of high PUFA consumption, and it’s the PUFAs, LA in particular, that are driving the atherosclerotic disease process.”

Mercola’s answer to this issue is:

“The primary way to prevent atherosclerosis, then, is to radically reduce your LA intake by eliminating seed oils from your cooking, and avoiding processed foods (which are loaded with seed oils) and restaurant foods (as most are cooked in seed oils)”

Dr Mercola is dead against any kind of seed oil, even lumping Olive Oil into the mix. While modern processing techniques for cooking oils tend to increase Omega 6’s, I agree with other authors out there, one of which showed up in this month’s Alive Magazine, that it is better to promote more Omega 3’s in your diet, that if you raise your Omega 3 intake above your Omega 6 intake, you’re better off. This takes some of the load off figuring out what to buy at the grocery store, although I agree with Mercola and others that Canola Oil shouldn’t be used anywhere you have a say in the matter, period! The production process to turn Rapeseed into Canola Oil is not fit for consumption when all is said and done.

LDL: Low Density Lipid cholesterol, has a subset known as sLDL.

“The small-dense type of LDLs are indicative of inflammation inside your arteries, which is a hallmark of atherosclerosis. As noted by Berg, potential causes of this inflammation include:
~ Seed oils
~ Processed foods and junk foods
~ Smoking
~ Low vitamin E
~ High glucose levels
Unfortunately, Berg lumps high-carb diets into these risk factors and recommends a ketogenic diet to avoid elevated  sdLDL, but as I’ve explained in previous articles, high glucose levels are not necessarily a sign that you’re eating too many (healthy) carbs.”

I agree with that last statement there. You may be eating just the right amount of healthy carbs, but due to insulin resistance, you are unable to process them properly. Arterial inflammation could be one of the reasons why, not a high carb diet.

Mercola summarizes this latest foray into the world of cholesterol as follows:

“So, to summarize, Saladino argues that insulin resistance is the primary root cause for atherosclerosis — not elevated LDL or total cholesterol — and the primary driver of insulin resistance is excessive LA intake from seed oils. Lowering your LA intake is the foundational strategy to embrace.

Low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) is a proxy for insulin resistance, and if you have low HDL, then LDL tracks well with cardiovascular disease. But if you have normal HDL (65 to 85 mg/dL), then you typically have good insulin sensitivity and the correlation with LDL and atherosclerosis vanishes”

To add my own summary to all of this:

  • Statin drugs are just plain harmful! They can harm your cardiovascular system, cognitive brain function, cause dementia, interfere with neurotransmitters, etc.
  • Omega 6 levels that are too high cause oxidation of LDL cholesterol as well as insulin resistance that can lead to atherosclerosis, and inflammation and thickening of aterial walls.
  • Diet and lifestyle can impact arterial inflammation, cholesterol levels, and insulin levels.

To that end, avoiding habits such as smoking, regular consumption of sugary treats, candy, junk food, and alcohol are a huge plus. Avoiding simple or refined carbohydrates such as is found in white flour baked goods, store-bought gravies and sauces, cookies, cakes, etc, is also strongly recommended.

Pin (Red) ChokecherriesIt is wise to ensure your diet includes meat and dairy wherever possible, due to nutrients such as collagen, choline, healthy fats, zinc and carnosine. Foods containing lecithin, Vit’s D, K2, A, C, and E as well as B6 and B3 (niacin), antioxidants, phytosterols, and iodine are also highly beneficial.

When you get your nutrition from foods instead of from supplements, you get those nutrients in a phyto-balanced manner, that reduces chances of overdosing on things like selenium, copper, zinc and iron.

Foods on the cholesterol issue may include but are not limited to:

  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Psyllium husks
  • Red meat
  • Quercetin-containing fruits such as citrus fruits

If your doctor has told you to consider statins for any reason, it’s time for a diet shift and lifestyle change. It will be far cheaper on your pocketbook, and will help ensure fewer health problems in the future.

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