January 21, 2017

The Important Functions of Cholesterol

by Dr. Scott Saunders, M.D.

For this article, I conducted a short survey with some of my patients. I asked, “What is cholesterol?” The following answers come from a college-educated woman:

  • “Bad fats.”
  • “Clogs up your veins.”
  • “You have to eat healthy to not get it.”
  • “You get it from trans-fats.”
  • “Bad for your heart.”

Actually, cholesterol isn’t a fat, nor does it come from eating fat. In fact, every cell in the body makes cholesterol. Cells engage in a long process and use their energy to create cholesterol from triglycerides (oils). If we eat more cholesterol, our cells make less. If it were bad, why would our cells be making it?

Cholesterol is a different kind of lipid that is essential to the functioning of cells. All animal cells make cholesterol, since it is vital to every cell membrane.

The fat we eat has very little cholesterol in it. However, all animal products contain some cholesterol. Plants don’t make cholesterol; they make something similar called phytosterols.

Important functions of cholesterol include:

  • Synthesizes vitamin D – important for calcium regulation and immune function
  • Produces Co-Q10 – re-energizes your cells
  • A precursor to testosterone – keeps your strength, stamina and muscle mass up
  • A precursor to progesterone – important for brain function, as well as regulation of menses in women
  • A precursor to estrogen – allows a woman to do all the functions of females
  • Derives adrenal hormones (cortisol, aldosterone) – regulates metabolism, immune function, minerals, and many other processes
  • Produces bile – aids in the absorption of oils, fats, and vitamins A, D, E, and K
  • Forms myelin – A sheath that protects nerve conduction like the plastic around an electrical wire
  • Regulates cell signaling – the ability of the cells to receive signals from hormones and proteins

Besides that, cholesterol is essential for keeping the cell membranes stable. Cholesterol decreases the fluidity of the cell membrane to get nutrients into the cells and keep toxins out.

This cholesterol functions like your skin. If you didn’t have the protein, keratin, in your skin, then it would tear easily and not be able to protect your body from invasion by germs or toxins. Cholesterol is that important for the integrity of every one of your cells. You cannot make any cells, or keep them alive, without cholesterol.

Lack of Cholesterol Dangers

Dangers of low cholesterolWhen people don’t have enough cholesterol, the production of hormones, energy, cells, and immunity go down as well. A cholesterol deficiency produces:

  • Early aging – Cells cannot reproduce when they lack cholesterol
  • Immune dysfunction – This includes frequent infections and hypersensitivity reactions, such as allergies. (The instability of immune cell membranes causes the excessive release of chemical granules that cause a reaction.)
  • Brain dysfunction – Nerve cells require cholesterol to conduct and generate an impulse. For example, multiple sclerosis shows areas where there is a lack of myelin in the brain.
  • Depression and anxiety – Without sufficient cholesterol, serotonin doesn’t bind to its receptor.
  • Muscle fatigue/pain/cramps/cell death- Mitochondria require cholesterol to make energy from lipids. Without enough energy, the muscle cell fatigues easily, cramps, and dies.
  • Hepatitis – Without cholesterol, the liver cannot produce energy. Moreover, the fluid cell membranes comprise the cell. Liver cells cannot get rid of toxins efficiently so they may build up.
  • Low testosterone – Many men may worry about low testosterone. They may not realize that medications that lower cholesterol also lower testosterone.

Dangers of Statin Side-Effects

Compare the cholesterol deficiency list to the side-effect profile of a “STATIN,” or a drug that lowers cholesterol. This is taken directly from the package insert:

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