Written Jun 17, 2022 by Jorryn Yapadi, Brain and Cognition Student - University of British Columbia, Canada.
We are being told that our cholesterol is too high.
We are being told that our cholesterol leads to heart disease and younger mortality rates.
We are being told that we should get rid of our cholesterol by taking medication and banning eggs, dairy, and red meat from our diet.
As I detailed in my last blog, “Does Cholesterol Really Cause Heart Disease?”, not only is cholesterol completely unrelated to heart disease, but also that the more we try to lower our cholesterol levels, the more we seem to damage our bodies and be prone to disease and cancers.
The data from health journals seem to suggest that cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease, and as we continue to try and lower it through conventional means, there is zero progress to our health - it almost seems like we’re going backwards with all this mainstream advice.
But what is cholesterol actually for? Why does it seem to cause more problems if we attempt to lower our cholesterol levels? Why does it exist?
Keep reading, and I’ve got you covered. Here are 3 ways cholesterol is an ACE at keeping you alive:
1. Cholesterol gives us our ARCHITECTURE
In each of our human body cells, there is a protective layer called the cell membrane which keeps all the important organelles contained and functioning as intended. Nearly half of this membrane is made from cholesterol, so imagine what would happen if we didn’t have enough of it - our cells would be squishy and weak! We would certainly feel that weakness physically, and moreover, our body needs firm cells for certain important functions.
Skeletal tissue (muscles) needs firm cells to properly initiate one of our most essential needs - movement.
Connective tissue (bone and cartilage) needs firm cells to absorb shock and impact.
Smooth tissue (blood vessels) needs firm cells to withstand the pressure of our blood flowing.
Epithelial tissue (skin) needs firm cells to protect the body from invasive elements like dust, bacteria, and other microscopic particles.
The list goes on, and you get the point. Now imagine what lowering our cholesterol would do to these tissues. Scary, right?
2. Cholesterol gives us COVER from attacks
How does it do this exactly? Well, cholesterol happens to be a great healing agent for the body, which makes a whole lot of sense because after all, it is what gives our cells most of its physical structure. It would only work if cholesterol replaces cholesterol as it is used up.
Cholesterol does a number of things in our immune system:
- It binds and deactivates bacterial toxins before they can deal considerable damage
- MRSA, a common bacterial infection, cannot dissolve red blood cells while cholesterol (LDL, low-density lipoprotein) is present
- It repairs itself after defending the body, as well as re-strengthening white blood cells and other immune system cells
People who have been severely affected by MRSA, are vulnerable to infection, or catch colds often are people with a low-cholesterol diet. According to medical recordings these people are also four times more likely to contract AIDS than people with high-cholesterol diets. Cholesterol is important for our cells’ structure, but also for our immune system.
3. Cholesterol gives us ENERGY control
I like to call this energy control, but what I really mean is hormones. Yes, hormones. The endocrine system, which contains our adrenals and sex glands, are essential for regulating our metabolism, energy levels, formation of brain, muscle, and brain tissue, and emotions.
These hormones are very cholesterol-hungry, and when we go through our day-to-day lives with all its stresses, joys, and its ups-and-downs, we burn through a lot of these hormones. Having enough cholesterol in our diet will ensure that our hormones are being fed the cholesterol that they need.
Well, why do we need to feed our hormones anyway? Can’t we function without hormones? Here’s the catch: this would lead to abnormal and unpredictable hormone levels, which is known to cause infertility in women, physical problems, mental health problems, and abnormal sexual behaviour.
Cholesterol helps you to keep your energy and body regulation in check, so you can start taking control by making sure you’re getting that cholesterol.
Bonus: Popular Questions
You might ask: Wait Jorryn, isn’t there a limit to how much cholesterol I can eat?
Not at all! Our body is designed to produce less cholesterol if you are ingesting more, and produce more if you are ingesting less. Also, only about 15% of our body cholesterol comes from food on average, so there is nothing to worry about! However, having a diet that includes cholesterol will lessen the strain on your body to produce its own cholesterol and allow it to use its resources elsewhere. But I must warn you against cholesterol-lowering drugs: these interfere with the production of cholesterol by the body, so these will actually lower your cholesterol and cause massive damage.
Another question: How come we have different levels of cholesterol at different times, and why is my cholesterol so different from other people’s even though we have the same diet?
This is simple! Cholesterol is a healing agent, remember? Depending on what is going on with your body, whether you are exercising or recovering from a flu or adjusting to the oxygen on top of a mountain, cholesterol is always being transported around your body and being used up for different purposes. My body and environment are different from yours, so naturally our cholesterol levels may be different because of that.
With that being said, here are the top 5 cholesterol-rich foods you should consider adding to your diet:
A+ Caviar (588mg per 100g). It might not be the greatest value in terms of cost, but don’t worry! The next four foods are pretty close.
A Cod liver oil (570mg per 100g). Best for recovery! Your body needs that cholesterol for your immune system.
Best Value - Fresh egg yolk (424mg per 100g). The egg white is protein-rich, and the yolk is cholesterol-rich; a complete package. Do not consume egg white on its own, and do not consume egg yolk on its own. It comes in a package, so don’t leave anything out.
Also to clarify: Fresh = fresh out of an eggshell, not fresh out of a carton.
B+ Butter (218mg per 100g). Unsalted butter is best, since you want it to be as close as possible to its natural form.
Also to clarify: I don't mean margarine or shortening. I mean butter.
A special note about butter: It's important that you consume butter that is made from A2 milk. This is because normal commercialized milk contains A1 protein, and our bodies do not have the enzymes to properly digest it, leading to longer digestive transit times and higher inflammatory effects
On the contrary, butter A2 protein is much easier to digest, and some animals that produce this kind of protein are brown cows, Jersey cows, and goat. So, when looking for butter, I like to look for either goat butter or butter made from A2 cow milk. Most of the time, the packaging will indicate if the butter is an A2 butter.
B Cold-water fish and shellfish (81-173mg per 100g). Fish is twice as rich in cholesterol than other meats.
B Lard and other animal fats (94mg per 100g). Acceptable source, but if eggs are an option, that’s my go-to for my cholesterol intake.
Now that we know that cholesterol is our ACE - Architecture, Cover, and Energy Control - I challenge you to start implementing one or two of these cholesterol-rich foods into your diet.
And now I ask you this: What is there to be afraid of?
Brooke-Taylor, Simon et al. “Systematic Review of the Gastrointestinal Effects of A1 Compared with A2 β-Casein.” Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.) vol. 8,5 739-748. 15 Sep. 2017, doi:10.3945/an.116.013953
Campbell-McBride, N. (2007). Cholesterol: friend or foe?. In Put your heart in your mouth (pp. 22-32). essay, Medinform Publishing.