Cholesterol and prevention
Dr. Dimitris Tsoukalas, MD

Chronic Diseases & Metabolic Disorders Clinic
Harvard Medical School Course GIMSS 
President of The European Institute of Nutritional Medicine E.I.Nu.M
American College for the Advancement in Medicine


"My cholesterol is high. I can't seem to be able to lower it. Maybe I should take medicine but I'm afraid of meds. What should I do?" Thoughts such as these preoccupy a good many people as cholesterol has become a subject of concern for a large part of the population. 

How did this state of affairs come about and what is its scientific basis? Which fears are justified and which are not?

All too often, information is altered as it is passed on; greater emphasis is placed on one piece of information than on another, leading to wrong conclusions. It is therefore always preferable to go back to original sources rather than subsequent interpretations. So l
et's take it from the beginning. 
 
Framingham, Massachusetts    

In 1948 a health study was undertaken on the population (6,000) of Framingham, a small town in Massachusetts, USA. Its results have had a lasting influence on contemporary cardiology.

In 1979 researchers of the Framingham study announced that persons with total cholesterol values above 270 mg presented an increased risk, albeit small, of heart disease.

Thus cholesterol and serious health risk became associated in the minds of both the public and physicians.
   

Ensued a constant barrage about the dangers of cholesterol. "The higher the cholesterol levels, the greater the likelihood that blood vessels will clog." Hence the effort to lower cholesterol "at any cost." 

But is this really all true? According to the specialists, some of it is and some of it is not. While some medical doctors are adamant that cholesterol must be lowered or else, others try to avoid the administration of drugs because of their potential health hazard.    
 
What Exactly Is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fat molecule produced by the liver, vital to a great number of functions of the organism.
 
It is a building block of many of the components of the human body, such as the cellular membrane, and is essential to the function of the nervous system and that of a great number of hormones, including the male and female hormones. It is also used as fuel by the cardiac muscle.

It is one of the most important elements of the human organism, which is why two thirds of the total amount of cholesterol in circulation are produced by the organism itself. Only one third comes from food. 
 
What then is the relation between cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular disease?

Cholesterol and Inflammation

The Harvard Medical School stated in a recent publication that the view of cholesterol as a problem in hyraulics resulting in artery blockage is no longer valid. An avalanche of data suggests that increased levels of cholesterol are linked mainly to the existence of inflammation.

Although we hear the term 'inflammation' frequently, most people do not have a clear idea as to its exact meaning. Inflammation is linked to many health problems and cardiac disease in particular.

In fact inflammation is not a bad thing; rather it is a normal function of the organism. All it is is the organism's reaction to a threat, internal or external.

During inflammation the following takes place:

-  Blood vessels contract to reduce blood loss in case of hemorrhage

-  Blood coagulation increases for the same reason

-  White blood cells mulitply to prevent the development of germs

-  Cells multiply to repair damage

-  Cholesterol levels in the blood increase to make it possible for the above mechanisms to take place     

The increased presence of cholesterol means that something is wrong with the blood vessels, so much is true. But it is not the culprit. Very low levels of cholesterol have actually been linked to an increased risk of hemorrhage caused by ruptured arteries!

Cholesterol is actually an index of cardiovascular risk, not its cause.

CRP (C-reactive protein) is a reliable chronic inflammation index. It is used to detect vessel inflammation and predict the risk of developing heart disease.

-  CRP levels below 1 mgr/lt indicate a small cardiovascular risk

-  CRP levels between 1 and 3 mgr/lt correspond to medium risk

-  Over 3 mgr/lt the risk is serious

All this leads to the conclusion that there isn't such a thing as good and bad cholesterol. Which explains why some people with high cholesterol levels live to an old age while others with low cholesterol levels are at severe cardiovascular risk and in much poorer health. 

The problem is really: is there inflammation and is the organism able to handle it rapidly and without consequences? 

Furthermore, if the organism needs more cholesterol in order to deal with a problem, it wouldn't be wise to try and prevent it from producing more.

How Did The Current Limits Come About? 

In 2004 a committee of experts (US National Cholesterol Education Program) advised those people at a high risk of cardiovascular disease to drastically lower their cholesterol levels.

However, in 2006 a review published in the Annals of Internal Medicine stated that extant data does not justify this standpoint and that there is no evidence that could serve as a basis to formulate values for acceptable cholesterol levels.

What if I Drastically Lower My Cholesterol Levels?

The answer to this question is that many unpleasant things are likely to occur as a result. As already mentioned, the cholesterol molecule is extremely important for the good functioning of the organism. 

Unfortunately we have become used to hearing only bad things about cholesterol. The truth, however, is that the organism is completely dependant on it. So much so that its presence is actually a requisite for life.

It is an essential structural component of the cellular membrane in all living beings on the planet. There could be no life without cholesterol!

Low cholesterol levels have been linked with:

-  Depression. Cholesterol is vital to the production of serotonin.

-  Sexual dysfunction. Cholesterol is necessary to the production of testosterone and estrogens.

-  Neurological diseases. The brain contains a quarter of the body's total cholesterol content. 

-  Low vitamin D levels. The organism uses cholesterol to synthesize vitamin D. 

What Can Be Done
 
Colesterol is but a part of the much broader subject of overall health.

The probability of inflammation must be reduced as much as possible: weight control, diet, exercise, all play a part in this and so does ensuring that the body has all of the elements necessary to function optimally.

Good health is not achieved by panicking and further upsetting the organism's biochemical balance. We become healthy by doing the things that create and reinforce good health.

The real criterion is: does this make me feel better and help me be healthier or not?

What we need is not just more information but an increased certainty about what is taking place and this is true of all aspects of life.  

To your health!




Sources:
Framinghamheartstudy.org/about/history
www.ravnskov.nu/myth2.htm
Harvard School of Medicine, Change in Thinking about Cholesterol
www.annals.org/content/145/7/520.full
www.scientificamerican.com/
www.scientificamerican.com
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19437396 
www.usatoday.com/news/health/2004-10-16-panel-conflict-of-interest_x.htm


Ειδικός Γενικός Οικογενειακός Ιατρός Διδάκτωρ Πανεπιστημίου "Universita` degli Studi di Napoli, Federico II" Πρόεδρος του European Institute of Nutritional Medicine
Ειδικός Γενικός Οικογενειακός Ιατρός Μέλος του European Institute of Nutritional Medicine Ειδικός στην Μεταβολομική Ιατρική
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Surgeon, Graduate in Medicine, Surgery, Anesthesiology and Reanimation, Science of Nutrition at the University of Pavia
Medical specialist in Pediatrics, degree in Medicine and Surgery, specialization in Pediatrics with emphasis in Allergology and Pediatric Pneumology at the University of Verona.
Medical specialist in Internal Medicine, specialized in internal medicine at the University of Pavia, Italy
Κλινική Διατροφολόγος Πτυχιούχος του Πανεπιστημίου "Universita` degli Studi di MIlano" Γεν. Γραμματέας του European Institute of Nutritional Medicine
Biologist Nutritionist, Graduate of the University of Padova, with specialization in Health Biology
Biologist Nutritionist, Graduate of the University of Padova, Master`s Degree in Evolutionary Biology
Διαιτολόγος-Διατροφολόγος Master Practitioner in Eating Disorders & Obestity. National Centre for Eating Disorders, London U.K.
Νοσηλεύτρια Απόφοιτη Νοσηλευτικής
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Διαιτολόγος - Διατροφολόγος Master Practitioner in Eating Disorders & Obestity. National Centre for Eating Disorders, London U.K. Ειδικός Αθλητικής Διατροφής, International Society of Sports Nutrition
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Scientific team

www.metabolomicmedicine.com
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See them all

Scientific team

www.metabolomicmedicine.com
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut volutpat rutrum eros sit amet sollicitudin. Suspendisse pulvinar, velit nec pharetra niba tefra.
Ειδικός Γενικός Οικογενειακός Ιατρός Διδάκτωρ Πανεπιστημίου "Universita` degli Studi di Napoli, Federico II" Πρόεδρος του European Institute of Nutritional Medicine
Ειδικός Γενικός Οικογενειακός Ιατρός Μέλος του European Institute of Nutritional Medicine Ειδικός στην Μεταβολομική Ιατρική
-
--
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Surgeon, Graduate in Medicine, Surgery, Anesthesiology and Reanimation, Science of Nutrition at the University of Pavia
Medical specialist in Pediatrics, degree in Medicine and Surgery, specialization in Pediatrics with emphasis in Allergology and Pediatric Pneumology at the University of Verona.
Medical specialist in Internal Medicine, specialized in internal medicine at the University of Pavia, Italy
Κλινική Διατροφολόγος Πτυχιούχος του Πανεπιστημίου "Universita` degli Studi di MIlano" Γεν. Γραμματέας του European Institute of Nutritional Medicine
Biologist Nutritionist, Graduate of the University of Padova, with specialization in Health Biology
Biologist Nutritionist, Graduate of the University of Padova, Master`s Degree in Evolutionary Biology
Διαιτολόγος-Διατροφολόγος Master Practitioner in Eating Disorders & Obestity. National Centre for Eating Disorders, London U.K.
Νοσηλεύτρια Απόφοιτη Νοσηλευτικής
-
Διαιτολόγος - Διατροφολόγος Master Practitioner in Eating Disorders & Obestity. National Centre for Eating Disorders, London U.K. Ειδικός Αθλητικής Διατροφής, International Society of Sports Nutrition
-
See them all

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