If you feel a bit confused about where you stand with your cholesterol, it’s no surprise. The goal posts are constantly changing about good cholesterol bad cholesterol – even doctors are confused!
Cholesterol is a type of fat, and it is a structural part in every single cell membrane within your body.
Why Do You Need Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is an integral part of cell membranes, it stops things leaking in or out that shouldn’t do. It enables the watery environment within a cell to keep its individual integrity from the watery environment outside.
Your brain represents about 2% of your body weight. Yet 25% of your total cholesterol is found in your brain – cholesterol is really important to your brain. It’s required for brain cells be make new connections with each other, which means your brain needs cholesterol to learn new things and make new memories.
Cholesterol in a precursor to steroid hormones, such as oestrogen and testosterone. You need enough cholesterol to have make enough of these.
Cholesterol is also needed in the production of vitamin D. Without enough cholesterol you’ll end up deficient of this vitamin.
There are plenty of other vital functions it’s needed for too, so how come it’s got such a bad reputation?
Good Cholesterol Bad Cholesterol
The idea that you have either good cholesterol bad cholesterol stems from a hypothesis put forward that cholesterol causes vascular disease, i.e. things like heart attacks and strokes.
If you have a ‘lipid profile’ blood test it will measure:
- Total cholesterol
- LDL – the so called ‘bad cholesterol’
- HDL – the so called ‘good cholesterol’
Neither LDL (low density lipoprotein) nor HDL (high density lipoprotein) are in fact cholesterol. They are vehicles that carry cholesterol around the body, because cholesterol is a fat and therefore can’t mix with water-based blood. So it has to be carried in the circulation within a carrier molecule. These carrier molecules are lipoproteins.
Lipoprotein: contents = cholesterol and fat soluble vitamins
HDL supposedly takes cholesterol away from cells and the cholesterol that build ups in blood vessels. This hasn’t been proven, it’s just theory. But this is why it’s referred to as ‘good cholesterol’
LDL takes cholesterol to cells, much of it to the brain cells. Remember, it’s is required by every cell in your body. LDL is also found within fatty deposits that clog up arteries. Hence the label ‘bad cholesterol’
So that’s where good cholesterol bad cholesterol comes from.
Is LDL the Real Villain?
LDL takes a vital ingredient to every cell – cholesterol. It’s also found in arterial fatty plaques. So it’s good, and it’s bad! But there is in fact a simple explanation for this.
Healthy LDL carries on about its daily work – delivering much needed cholesterol around the body. It plays a vital role, particularly in brain health. Low cholesterol levels are related to memory problems.
Damaged LDL (i.e. oxidized LDL) can’t function properly, and ends up causing harm by blocking up blood vessels.
So the big question should be – what damages LDL to make it harmful?
The biggest culprit is your blood sugar, i.e. glucose. (Another common culprit is smoking)
The higher your blood glucose runs, the more damage you inflict on your body’s army of LDLs. This in turns leads to heart attacks and strokes.
Your blood glucose is dependent on what you eat. The more carbs you eat, particular refined and processed, the higher your blood glucose will run – damaging your LDL and subsequently your arteries. Western diets are typically carb-loaded. I spend a lot of time educating my Uber Slim clients about this.
So the real villain is glucose, not cholesterol.
Does a routine lipid profile differentiate between good cholesterol bad cholesterol when it comes to LDL?
No it doesn’t, but this is what decisions are made on when statins are recommended to patients.
Working as a GP I know the guidelines we trust do not tell us the whole story about cholesterol. In fact they are very misleading. That’s one reason why I always encourage people to focus on improving their health by reducing the damaging effect of excessive glucose on their body.
A significant part of Uber Slim focuses on how to do this effectively, thereby not just losing weight but protecting your arteries from damaged LDL.
This is a confusing area for most people, so feel free to get in contact with any questions.
Have a great week!