7 Cholesterol Myths

Saturday, October 04, 2014
7 Cholesterol Myths

Myth #1: Cholesterol is bad for your health

Cholesterol is not a poison! In fact, our body needs cholesterol for many functions including the production of cell membranes and sex hormones, the generation of vitamin D, and the formation of bile acids, which help your body digest fat. On the other hand, high blood cholesterol levels, especially the 'bad' cholesterol LDL, has been associated with coronary heart disease due to the promotion of atherosclerosis - the forming of plaque that narrows your arteries and can lead to stroke or heart attack.


Myth #2: The most common cause for high cholesterol is your diet

High cholesterol is often hereditary, and eating clean cannot treat it. Of course, we are not saying that dietary changes do not affect blood cholesterol levels; however, this explains why, in many cases, people who are prudent with what they eat still have high cholesterol blood levels. In this case, the only solution is medication.


Myth #3: Your body receives cholesterol only from your dietary intake

This is certainly untrue. In fact, 75% of your body's cholesterol is produced by your liver! So, even if you eat a cholesterol free diet, your body will still produce cholesterol because your body needs it for its functions. The production of cholesterol increases when you eat less, and decreases when you eat more.


Myth #4: Excess cholesterol is eliminated from your body

The 'good' cholesterol, HDL, is responsible for taking the excess cholesterol from your body's tissues and arteries, which is why it helps against atherosclerosis. However, what it does with it is bring it back to your liver, where most of your cholesterol is reused. This also explains how the body makes its own cholesterol over and over again.


Myth #5: High cholesterol causes heart attacks

An elevated blood cholesterol level doesn't necessarily cause a heart attack. High cholesterol is just a risk factor, along with other risk factors for heart disease, including smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, a sedentary lifestyle, being overweight or obese, and having a family history of heart problems. Many patients with heart disease have normal cholesterol levels, while others with high cholesterol have perfectly healthy hearts.


Myth #6: High cholesterol patients must avoid dietary intake of cholesterol

For decades, physicians believed that dietary intake of cholesterol determined our blood level; but studies show more and more that most of the cholesterol found in food cannot be absorbed by our bodies. So, it's not the cholesterol intake that matters, it's the saturated and trans fat; these are better predictors of heart disease because they not only increase cholesterol, but also increase inflammation and lower our 'good' cholesterol, HDL. Saturated fat is found in animal foods, such as meats, poultry, and dairy products. Trans fat is found in man-made fats and in fried foods. Bottom line is you can have your occasional eggs and eat the yolk too!


Myth #7: Kids can't have high cholesterol

Children who are overweight or obese might have high cholesterol, and studies have shown that atherosclerosis can start at the age of eight and slowly progress over the years. It is highly recommended that obese children, who have a family history of cardiovascular disease, have their blood cholesterol levels checked. These children must reduce saturated and trans fat intake, eat more fiber, and exercise daily to prevent heart disease in the future.