What is LDL Cholesterol, and Why is it the Good Cholesterol, and Not the Bad?
Today, we are overwhelmed in the media and by our doctors, with statements about the good and bad cholesterol in our diets, how we must cut out fat and reduce our bad cholesterol, the LDL (low density lipoproteins) to stave off heart disease. The drugs promoted to lower this cholesterol are one of the biggest revenue generators for the pharmaceutical industry in their entire history.
If you go in for a checkup and a blood panel for cholesterol shows cholesterol over 200, some form of statin drug is invariably foisted upon you. You are told that without it you will surely die of some form of heart disease. You are infused with the fear of death. By the way, it was the manufacturers of the statin drugs who decided that a combined cholesterol count of 200 was the safe limit. Additionally, a close look the the components of your cholesterol number reveals that it is in fact quite meaningless. More on this later.
The real truth is quite the opposite.
Cholesterol is manufactured in our liver. It is an essential fat that is surrounded by a protein case. Its primary function in our body is for tissue repair due to damage caused by stress. The stress can be from physical or emotional causes, refined foods including all sugars and refined grains, ingested toxins from food, water or air pollution, or heavy metals such as mercury from amalgam fillings or vaccinations. Our brains are about 70% cholesterol, every cell wall in our body contains it, and our hormones all have a cholesterol base. Why would it ever be a bad substance?
When we ingest cholesterol in our food, our liver adjusts how much it makes to equal the bodily demand at any given time. The foods we eat that contain cholesterol give us both sizes—LDL and HDL. The primary difference between these 2 types of fats is their size.
When we consume fats, they actually come in various types, cholesterol being only one of these. The other fats are either saturated or unsaturated which describes the completeness of the carbon chain. Any fat that has a complete chain, regardless of its length is called saturated in that all of the carbon atoms have hydrogen atoms attached to them. This type of fat, typically derived from animals, but also coconut, will typically be solid at room temperature. Unsaturated fats are carbon chains that have missing hydrogen atoms. All of these fats are essential for good health. The caveat attending this statement is that in order for fats to be healthy, they need to be derived from healthy, natural, organic sources. If the sources are toxic, the fats will be toxic as well.
When you eat fat, contrary to popular belief, it does not get immediately absorbed into your bloodstream. Instead, it is picked up in the intestine as large fat molecules called chylomicrons by lactiles ducts in your intestinal wall that lead directly to your lymph system. As these large molecules move through your lymph system, cells in need of repair, division, or energy from fat pull off molecules as needed. The body uses all of the different fat types as long as they are in a natural form. When the fat you eat finally reaches your bloodstream, what is left are small remnants of the chylomicron and the unnatural fats your cells didn’t’t know how to use.
Problems begin to occur when the fats are unnatural, such as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils (where unsaturated fats are made saturated by adding hydrogen atoms) or where the fat combination is out of balance such as when you eat feedlot beef, pork, chicken, or fish. The majority of these meats are feedlot raised today. Consequently, you most likely are not eating a healthy combination of these fats. Additionally, the fats are contaminated with antibiotics and hormones.
Any unused cholesterol that makes it to your bloodstream is then monitored by your liver. The heart is communicating with the liver regarding the body’s need of cholesterol and consequently the liver will then make LDL cholesterol as requested. LDL is then secreted by the liver into the bloodstream and this is what is measured in a blood test.
As the LDL cholesterol flows through the blood stream, cells in need of repair begin to pull off molecules to complete the job of self-repair. In some instances, unnatural fats and other cellular debris in the blood will stick to the sticky cholesterol. When this happens, a blockage can be created. The important point here is that a cholesterol molecule is the same in an LDL or HDL. These two lippoproteins are only distinguished by their size. The concept of one being bad and one being good is absolutely incorrect. The LDL is just bigger.
One’s LDL count does provide one with some valuable information though. This is in contrast to your total cholesterol number, which is meaningless, and not reflective of any health status. Ask any health practitioner you know to describe in a logical way what the sum of your LDL, HDL, and 1/5 of your triglicerides tells them about the status of your health. If you get a good answer, please write to me and tell me what they said for I have yet to be able to figure it out.
Your liver makes your LDL to do tissue repair. If it is elevated in a blood lipid panel, say over 160, then you need to be asking yourself what you may have done to create the cellular damage that is requiring extra LDL for repair. An elevation of your LDL is usually caused by something you have eaten or been exposed to such as pollutants including tobacco smoke. Another source of elevated LDL is refined sugar and flour. In a refined state, sugar stimulates the rapid release of large amounts of insulin, one of the most inflammatory hormones made by the body. Excessive insulin will create cellular damage just by itself but the excessive energy released by the sugar also increases the production of free radicals. Usually when one consumes large amounts of refined sugar, the consumption of antioxidant containing fruits and vegetables declines dramatically. Free radicals cause cellular damage.
The rapid release of insulin also is the only way the body can create and store fat. Without insulin, you can’t make or store fat. The fat made by insulin is triglycerides and the key to the fat cells is insulin. Consequently, if you eat a lot of sugar or white flour, you will create cellular damage and get fat. If you eat good fats without sugar you will not get fat and be providing your tissues with necessary nourishment and building material.
In conclusion, LDL is not BAD. It is just bigger that HDL. Trying to artificially lower the body’s primary repair tissue is not only bad, it is dangerous for your health.
In good health,
Rick Wagner, C.N., M.S.