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Cholesterol - Are We Worrying Too Much, Or Not Enough?

Posted in Nutrition 16 Sep, 2015

I know doctors get a bit jumpy about high levels of cholesterol, and the Flora adverts are always terrifying us into eating their filth, so it must be important right? Well yes it is important, but research is changing how we should view the 'evil' cholesterol.

Is Cholesterol Bad?

Cholesterol is used by the body to form cells, our brains use up a quarter of the amount our bodies need. Without it we would not be able to function, but the excess is carted around the body in blood and smeared on your artery walls, furring them up like a kettle in a limestone district.

But how bad is it?

Good Versus Bad

Most of us have heard about 'good' and 'bad' cholesterol. Here's the difference:

  • The good stuff is HDL - high-density lipoproteins
  • The bad is LDL - low-density lipoproteins.

Lipo-proteins are a combination of fat and protein molecules. HDLs shoo excess cholesterol to the liver, so they are good. LDL allows cholesterol to build up in the arteries, which is not good. However, research is beginning to show that the cholesterol in lipo-proteins doesn't just get stuck in your arteries all of its own accord.

Who Is The Real Culprit? OJ Simpson?

The real culprit appears to be the sugar and trans-fats that damage your arteries in the first place. If arteries weren't reeling from high blood pressure (amongst others), the extra cholesterol wouldn't get stuck there - it would be transported on and dealt with as it's been for thousands of years.

New studies show that saturated fats and cholesterol-rich foods are not likely to increase your risk of heart disease, so you can keep eating eggs, butter and nuts (more on that later). Processed foods and sugar-laden meals are the villainous culprits, damaging us and then framing cholesterol for their dirty work. It's those you need to avoid.

A lack of exercise is going to cause you a problem too. If you don't burn off that excess fat it's just going to sit in your body and clog up your system.

The Greeks Have Got It Right

Everything in moderation is the Greek way. They have low levels of heart disease and live long healthy lives as a result. But this news about cholesterol being a good guy that builds brain cells and keeps your body functioning does not mean you can eat to excess. There is a difference between chips and avocadoes, a difference between a Mars bar and walnuts.

Before you gorge yourself on meat, butter and eggs, remember that cholesterol-rich foods are often fatty and if you eat just those you'll be eating less fruit and veg which are the real dietary heroes. Fat will still make you fat.

There's a reason Alexander the Great and Julius Caser ruled most of the known world back then - the historians can stop going blind over their primary sources. Chances are it was their cholesterol-rich sugar-free Mediterranean diet that contributed to their success. That and a policy of local government.

Your Diet

Take a look at what you eat. If you are worrying about cholesterol, perhaps you can ease off a bit and cut out sugar and processed foods instead.

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