Think Twice About Your Cholesterol Numbers

Today’s post is going to be extremely short and sweet. In fact, I have been working on a totally different post but came across some information this afternoon and I felt I needed to share it.

We have been effectively brainwashed to believe that cholesterol is inherently bad. That if we want to be considered “healthy” that the cholesterol numbers on our blood should be extremely low. In fact, here is what “trusty” WebMD.com has to say about what our cholesterol numbers ought to be.

TOTAL CHOLESTEROL
Total Cholesterol Category
Less than 200 Desirable
200 – 239 Mildly High
240 and above High

Essentially, this is telling us is that we want our total cholesterol to be below 200, and that anything above that threshold represents a health concern. Why does American medicine preach low cholesterol? Well, it is based upon the assumption that high cholesterol causes heart disease, an assumption that we (the scientific community) are beginning to find out is actually a faulty assumption. Personally, I have a strong stance on this issue and will come back to it full circle when I have adequate time to do the argument justice (I am looking forward to Thanksgiving break and some serious writing time).
Ok, so where am I going with this and what information did I come across that I felt I had to share?  Here it is. This “infographic” was put together based upon data from the WHO looking at total cholesterol and mortality for a large group of countries.

(Click to bring up a larger picture)

What is this information telling us?  Lets break it down.

According to the information, the highest rates of mortality (death) occur in those individuals who have total cholesterol within the “recommended” range with the lowest levels of cholesterol having the highest mortality rate.

The lowest levels of mortality were associated with cholesterol levels between 200-240, which by conventional measures would be considered moderately high.  At this point you might even be prescribed a statin….that is a whole separate issue and one I shall not address at this point. (For further information on statins look up Chris Kresser, Chris Masterjohn, and Robb Wolf’s take, I have provided some links at the end of the post).

Also, the lines fitting the data were generous in their “U-shape”.  If you plug the numbers in and run a linear regression you will actually find almost no “U” but more of a leveling off, although there is a slight increase at the extremely high-range.

Cholesterol is crucial to a healthy and normally functioning body. It is essential in maintaining cell-membrane structure, is a precursor to vitamin d, steroid hormones, and required for bile acid production.

There is a syndrome called “Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome” in which a mutation of the DHCR7 gene occurs. This mutation prevents the final step in the production of cholesterol.  This condition is characterized by distinctive facial features, small head size (microcephaly), intellectual disability or learning problems, and behavioral problems. Many affected children have the characteristic features of autism, a developmental condition that affects communication and social interaction. Malformations of the heart, lungs, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, and genitalia are also common. Infants with Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome have weak muscle tone (hypotonia), experience feeding difficulties, and tend to grow more slowly than other infants (1).

If low (according to conventional standards) cholesterol is associated with the highest mortality, why is it considered the gold standard?  That my fellow readers is an excellent question. Perhaps we need a shift in our paradigm of how we view cholesterol, at least that would be my suggestion.

1. http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/smith-lemli-opitz-syndrome

STATINS

http://chriskresser.com/the-truth-about-statin-drugs

http://www.cholesterol-and-health.com/Statin-Drugs-Side-Effects.html

http://robbwolf.com/2009/08/13/statins-and-rhabdomyolysis/

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  1. […] One thing we know for sure about statins is this. They are indeed effective in reducing the endogenous production and synthesis of cholesterol and they can and do reduce your cholesterol numbers. However, is low cholesterol a good thing? The short answer to this question would be a resounding no and a more in-depth  explanation can be found in a previous article I wrote here. […]

  2. […] One thing we know for sure about statins is this. They are indeed effective in reducing the endogenous production and synthesis of cholesterol and they can and do reduce your cholesterol numbers. However, is low cholesterol a good thing? The short answer to this question would be a resounding “no”, and a more in-depth  explanation can be found in a previous article I wrote here. […]



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