Myths about the impact of cholesterol on human health

Most people are convinced that cholesterol is bad and cholesterol always means atherosclerosis of the vessels.

Few people know how things really are, what is the role of cholesterol in the body, is it good or bad, what is the effect of cholesterol on human health, and where did the horror story about cholesterol come from. 

The medical illiteracy of the population gives rise to many myths and allows businessmen from medicine and pharmacology to intimidate people and profit from their health care. A living example of this is the tale about the terrible disease dysbacteriosis, which must be treated, although the entire civilized world remains ignorant of the existence of such a disease.

Also, as an example, we can cite the term generated by the popular literature “slags and toxins”. From which it is necessary to get rid of at all costs and carry out various cleanings.

Everyone says: “slags and toxins”, but no one explains what kind of toxins and what kind of toxins, where they come from and how you can look at them. Just "slags and toxins" and that's it. There are no toxins in the body and cannot be. There are only end products of metabolism, from which the body is independently released in a natural way.

Today we will talk about the famous horror story about cholesterol.

The start of the anti-cholesterol campaign was laid by the joint research of scientists N.N. Anichkov and S.S. Khalatov, who during the experiment fed rabbits with food of animal origin, which is not a species food for herbivores.

Myths about the impact of cholesterol on human health

Each experimental rabbit received about 200 egg yolks. On such a diet, the life of model animals was short, and the cause of death was blockage of the coronary arteries by lipid clots.

Although it is simply not correct to draw an analogy in the eating behavior of herbivorous rabbits and omnivorous humans, and rabbits cannot be a model for experimental human atherosclerosis, the experimental data were the basis of the cholesterol theory and served as the beginning of the anti-cholesterol campaign.

These days, cholesterol is a great way to make money for pharmaceutical companies. Therefore, they strongly support the idea of ​​the cholesterol cause of atherosclerosis. On this "foundation" the "buildings" of cholesterol-free diets are built, "healthy" foods and nutritional supplements are imposed on customers, and cholesterol-lowering drugs are prescribed.

Attending physicians are well aware that exogenous cholesterol from food is in no way associated with atherosclerosis, but nevertheless, they will definitely prescribe you statins (simvastatin, lovastatin, atorvastatin, etc.) as a cholesterol-lowering agent and recommend for treatment and prevention cholesterol-free and low-fat diet.

Older women should not take statins because they increase the risk of diabetes. And for young women, adherence to a cholesterol-free diet simply does not make sense, because female sex hormones at this age physiologically do not allow cholesterol to be deposited in the vessels. Often taking statins leads to myopathy (muscle weakness and atrophy).

What actually is cholesterol and what is the effect of cholesterol on the development of atherosclerosis?

Cholesterol is an organic compound of animal origin. It is not synthesized in plants.

The cholesterol framework forms the basis of cell membranes and regulates their permeability. Most cholesterol is produced by the body itself, and a small part comes from outside with food.

It is involved in the synthesis of bile, sex and corticosteroid hormones. All steroid substances are produced from it, including vitamin D.

The effect of dietary cholesterol on blood cholesterol levels has not been proven. Even prolonged consumption of large amounts of food rich in cholesterol, such as eggs, does not lead to an increase in its concentration in the body.

Myths about the impact of cholesterol on human health

Background photo created by v.ivash –

Cholesterol in atherosclerotic deposits and the one found in foods are not identical. These are completely different substances.

The lack of cholesterol in children's food manifests itself in their development, in adults it is expressed in premature aging and disease, and in the elderly – degenerative diseases and early mortality. A low-fat, cholesterol-free diet, combined with cholesterol-lowering drugs, greatly accelerates these processes.

Cholesterol is always found in the body not in a free form, but is bound into a single complex with a transport protein called lipoprotein.

According to the degree of atherogenicity, lipoproteins are conditionally divided into "good" and "bad".

Their role in the occurrence of atherosclerosis depends on the size of the particles. The smallest high density lipoproteins (HDL) have the ability to easily pass through the walls of blood vessels without forming atherosclerotic plaques.

Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and very low density lipoproteins (VLDL), being oxidized, when penetrating through the vessel wall, get stuck in it and therefore are the most atherogenic.

Cholesterol associated with atherogenic blood lipoproteins is called "bad", and with non-atherogenic lipoproteins – "good".

By itself, cholesterol does not adversely affect human health. Only when the vessels are damaged and microcracks appear in them, the body uses cholesterol for repair and begins to make cholesterol patches, which subsequently grow and block the blood flow.

Myths about the impact of cholesterol on human health

Heart vector created by brgfx –

Vascular damage occurs under the influence of a number of causes caused by hypertension, hepatitis, smoking and drugs, physical inactivity, as well as elevated blood sugar levels.

Accordingly, the best prevention of atherosclerosis is a healthy lifestyle, high physical activity, low-calorie diet and the rejection of bad habits.

According to European standards, the norm of cholesterol is 5 mmol / l and below.

For different ages and different sexes, there are different norms for the content of cholesterol in the blood. For women, the allowable limit is slightly higher.

But in any case, its level should not exceed 7,1 mmol / l for the stronger sex and 7,7 mmol / l for women.

Exceeding these norms indicates a violation of lipid metabolism.

Interesting fact

Contrary to popular belief, a new review of the last fifty years of research by an international group of physicians and published in the medical journal Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology in 2018 challenges the half-century belief that "bad" cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, LDL) causes cardiovascular disease.

Cardiologists from the US, Sweden, UK, Italy, Ireland, France, Japan and other countries (17 people in total) found no evidence of an association between high levels of total or "bad" cholesterol and cardiovascular disease, after analyzing data from 1,3 million patients. They said this view is based on "misleading statistics, the exclusion of failed trials, and the ignorance of numerous conflicting observations."