One of the most misguided things a doctor has ever said to me occurred during a routine physical when I was in my twenties.
My blood test had come back with a total cholesterol number in the 150’s, and after reviewing the report, he proceeded to extol the benefits of my low cholesterol and how this was such a excellent indicator of overall health.
Mmmm, I thought to myself.
Then why was I so doggone exhausted, experienced light-headedness like I was going to pass out if I stood up too quickly, felt lousy a lot of the time, and suffered from more than my fair share of colds, flu and sinus infections that frequently needed antibiotics to resolve?
The truth is that low cholesterol is not even remotely close to the health panacea that conventional medicine portrays it to be. In fact, compelling research warns that low cholesterol can be downright deadly especially the older we get.
Cholesterol is not just a natural and essential nutrient in food that is required for our very survival. It is also a critical component of the brain, Vitamin D and hormones such as cortisol and testosterone.
It is easy to understand then, if blood cholesterol levels get too low it could actually dangerously jeopardize health with vital functions unable to be performed by the body and optimal wellness unable to be achieved.
While minimal cholesterol may be needed to survive, ample amounts are required to thrive!
According to Dr. John Briffa MD, top honors graduate of the University College London School of Medicine, low levels of cholesterol are associated with an increased risk of cancer (predicting risk many years before diagnosis), hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding in the brain), and now even a higher overall risk of mortality.
The relationship between a higher all cause risk of death and low cholesterol was published in May 2012 by Scientific World Journal. The results of the large epidemiological study examined the relationship between overall mortality and low cholesterol in individuals aged 60-85 for a period of 12 years.
Analysis revealed that higher total cholesterol levels (> 200 mg/dl) were associated with a 24% reduced risk of mortality over the 12 year study period. Moreover, lower cholesterol levels (< 170 mg/dl) were associated with a 60% increased risk of death.
The statistical significance of lower cholesterol (below 170 mg/dl) and increased risk of death from all causes remained even when confounding factors such as illness and frailness of the study participants were removed.
While an epidemiological study like this does not definitely indicate that low cholesterol and higher risk of death is causal, it certainly suggests that blindly pursuing low cholesterol levels especially below 170 mg/dl is misguided and likely even foolish if one is middle aged and beyond.
Perhaps more importantly, this study strongly builds upon previous research that for elderly women and men, high cholesterol is associated with a longer life.
So is the suggestion by conventional medicine to take statins if cholesterol is over 180 mg/dl completely arbitrary, unscientific (aka, bought and paid for “science”), and potentially harmful over the long term?
Yes, yes and YES.
Are whole foods like butter, cream, egg yolks and pate that are high in natural cholesterol (as opposed to the dangerous oxidized cholesterol in processed foods) really to be feared? It should give you much comfort to know that these traditional foods are eaten with abandon in France with no corresponding increase in heart disease.
Again, according to Dr. Briffa:
You’ll sometimes hear about the ‘French paradox’, which describes the phenomenon of low heart disease rates in France ‘despite’ a diet rich in saturated fat. Well, it seems that this ‘paradox’ is not limited to France, but is alive and well in several other countries too including the UK, Germany, Austria, Finland, Belgium, Iceland, the Netherlands and Switzerland. In other words, it’s not a paradox at all. It’s only a paradox if one believes saturated fat causes heart disease. The thing is, there’s really no good evidence that it does.
Now that you understand the other side of the low cholesterol story, you may well go out and bury your head in a tub of butter. This is basically what I did! Raising my cholesterol out of the deadly 150’s range and keeping it well over 170 has been my goal for over 20 years. I’m happy to report that my issues with fatigue, frequent illness, and light-headedness which plagued me when I had low cholesterol have been a thing of the past for nearly as long.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
Sources and More Information
Low Cholesterol and Enhanced Risk of Death
The French Paradox is Not a Paradox
Can Low Cholesterol Cause Cancer?
Cholesterol Myths to Wise Up About
The 9 Irrefutable Benefits of Cholesterol in the Diet
What Oxidizes the Cholesterol in Eggs?
Cardiologist: Lowfat Diet “Morally and Scientifically Indefensible”
I have low cholesterol and low vitam d is 50 i have lots of inflamation in my left side if my body becausr of injury in my neck the 4,5,6bones in my neck .how to lower the inflamation .what to eat and what to do
Hi, thank you so much for this article, I know it is older, but I am hoping you can direct me a bit. My cholesterol is very low. My total cholesterol is 107 and my HDL cholesterol is 36. Which one of your books will tell me how to raise my cholesterol? Thank you so much.
My book Get Your Fats Straight is the most help in this area. So glad you are going to take action on this … low cholesterol is a huge cancer risk.
Im not sure that anyone will read this but; how does one increase cholesterol levels when they have a sluggish gallbladder from a childhood of low fat everything? And I wonder if the two are linked?
8 whole shell and all eggs a day raw blended with 2 – 4 bananas and scoop or 2 of ice yougert has turned Advanced end stage Arthritis off, healing and back on track 300 day on now,
This article does not break down good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. Broad statements should not be made about high or low cholesterol being healthy. It needs to be broken down to its components and then evaluated individually. I have a healthy son with a cholesterol of 113. I have a husband with cholesterol of 188 but his HDL was 17 (which is horribly low). Please don’t make a health decision based on an article.
I am a healthcare provider and have seen many strokes because of high cholesterol. I had a patient who had a massive heart attack and laid there asking how this was possible because he ate coconut oil every day. I have also seen patients put on statins (medication for high cholesterol) even when their cholesterol wasn’t high. I’ve also seen a large amount of patients who are allergic to statins. Listen to your body! If it doesn’t feel good, figure out why! You know your body better than any healthcare provider! Don’t blindly follow your doctor’s advice.
It’s NOT the cholesterol causing the deaths and strokes that you mention. It’s what the cholesterol is trying to get rid of. That’s why your body makes more of it. It’s not the cholesterol, it’s the inflammation caused by all of the f*cking crap we put into our foods, among all kinds of other crap.
As for the coconut oil thing, what else could they have been doing to contribute? My god…….
Refer to what Kelly has said in another comment: “As far as high cholesterol, though, when it comes to health issues normally attributed to that, it’s not the cholesterol number that is the problem, instead it’s the *inflammation* in the blood vessels, and the cholesterol is only there to try and *heal* it. What people need to do instead is figure out what is causing the inflammation. It could be stress, too much sugar and/or vegetable oils in the diet, or other health issues, but taking a statin to lower cholesterol isn’t a good idea.”
Please get your facts straight.
Sarah my doctor beamingly told me the VERY same thing about six years ago. I’d got one of the lowest counts ever seen and told never to worry about having a heart attack. I was pleased as punch.
But like you, I felt like *rap. I had progressive degenerative arthritis and developing psoriasis.
After desperate internet searching, I turned up the WAP Foundation – just two days before the London Conference in 2012. I went to Sally Fallon’s presentations and after one of them, had a conversation with her. She was alarmed at my story. So, ignoring conventional ‘wisdom’ I started following (not very strictly!) the WAP way.
All I can say is this: It was the FATS (especially the BUTTER) and FERMENTED VEG that did it!! I have my life back, it’s changed my life, and I have recently become a WAP Chapter Leader for Birmingham (UK).
Thanks for this article Sarah – anyone who still has doubt should – bury their head in a tub of butter!!
Sylvia Onusic, PhD, CNS, LDN
Autistic children often have low cholesterol. This is a warning sign to others.
My son’s (27 years old) cholesterol was 130 and his doctor said it was fine. I also know a few more young people who have low cholesterol My son did have normal serum cholesterol before he went gluten free, stopped eating dairy and other foods. Mainly I believe it is dairy which affected his cholesterol. I encouraged him to eat pastured eggs daily but there is a danger that the person may become allergic to the eggs if eaten too often. The literature says it’s best to eat that food every 4 days which helps to prevent allergy. So what to do. Now he is taking a good fish oil. Although butter contains no lactose or casein, the main dairy allergens, he does not want to eat it. Ghee is so expensive but easy to make. The brain is made of cholesterol. The sonic hedgehog protein which is closely involved in making the eyes, even the teeth, relies heavily on cholesterol to function. There is a supplement called “sonic cholesterol” (by prescription only, which can be given to autistic children to raise their cholesterol. We need lots of cholesterol to be healthy.
Thank you for this informative comment Sylvia!
How about a high total cholesterol and high LDL but HDL and triglycerides are within normal range. I have a cholesterol of 6.05 so that’s 234 and LDL of 3.48 so about 135. I’m 20, eat real foods, and am at a healthy weight. Is this something I should worry about? Should I decrease those levels, of course not with statins but naturally?
Thanks for your post on cholesterol!
You want a high HDL & normal to low LDL. Make sure that you are eating oily fishes such as salmon & healthy oils instead of other animal sources. Plenty of fruits / veggies, especially purple.
Actually even low LDL is proving to be problematic to health according to some recent research.
Exactly what happened to My husband, at age 62. His cholesterol was 183, and he was put on a statin. Four months later, hemorrhagic stroke. The E.R. doc asked what meds he was on, and the only one was Zocor. The doc said, “That couldn’t do that” (he was at a coma level of 3 upon arrival, and already intubated). When he miraculously survived, he went for a follow-up visit to the doc 3 weeks later, and blood was drawn for labs. Once home, I received a call telling me to double his Zocor (from 40 to 80 mg). That night, I did, and the next morning he had another hemorrhagic stroke- a second consulting and evacuation required. Long term deficits are partial blindness, limited cognition. Now when the doctor tells me his cholesterol is a little high, I ask how high it is, then smile politely and say, “good.”
That should read craniotomy, rather than consulting. Sorry about auto correct.
Oh my. I’m so sorry Robin! Unfortunately, many of these conventional docs have no idea what they are prescribing truth be told. Good for you for wising up!!!
Robin, As a healthcare provider, I would recommend listing Zocor as an allergy. That way you have no way of it being snuck into his medications if he goes to the hospital. There are protocols that hospitals have to follow (such as a patient has to be on a statin for high cholesterol) and insurance companies/governing bodies audit hospitals for this. If you list it as a allergy, it makes that patient exempt from this requirement.
Please, please ….if u have high cholesterol did u know it can cause dementia? Cognitive vascular dementia. After several years trying to find out what was going on with my mum, she was finally diagnosed at the age of only 60. Scans showed she had the brain of an 80+ yr old. She was on meds for her cholesterol but it was too late, she forgot to take them. Now she is in a nursing home for dementia at 65. Most the staff thete haven’t heard of cognitive vascular dementia. Please pass on.
Kelly the Kitchen Kop
That is so sad, I’m sorry about your Mom. My father in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimers in his mid-50’s, and most of his siblings have/had it, too. 🙁 Sometimes there’s just a strong genetic predisposition to it (or an environmental factor from when they were young??), either way, we’re praying my husband and his brothers won’t get it and doing everything we can in the meantime — including a whole foods diet with pastured meats and plenty of healthy fats like butter, coconut oil, cod liver oil, real olive oil, etc.
As far as high cholesterol, though, when it comes to health issues normally attributed to that, it’s not the cholesterol number that is the problem, instead it’s the *inflammation* in the blood vessels, and the cholesterol is only there to try and *heal* it. What people need to do instead is figure out what is causing the inflammation. It could be stress, too much sugar and/or vegetable oils in the diet, or other health issues, but taking a statin to lower cholesterol isn’t a good idea.