The Vital Role of Cholesterol in Health

October 8, 2008 | Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

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 The Vital Role of Cholesterol in Health
A significant new discovery about the importance of cholesterol to nerve and muscle health has just been made. The researchers discovered that cholesterol1 is vital to the structure of key proteins involved with nerve transmission. The finding is groundbreaking, its implications in the context of widespread high doses of statin drugs in the general population is alarming.

We have known for a very long time that small fragments of cholesterol (not HDL or LDL, which are large transport vehicles) are required for every cell in your body to have a three dimensional structure. Scientists estimate that you have around 6-8 ounces of this structural cholesterol in your cells, and without it you would be flat as a pancake on the floor.

Nerve cells are known to have higher amounts of this type of cholesterol, as nerve cells do not split and divide like other cells and so need the extra cholesterol to live longer. One of the very adverse side effects of statin drugs to lower LDL cholesterol, especially when given in the now commonly used high doses, is that the important cholesterol in cell membranes is lowered. In the case of nerves this results in early onset nerve death, poor function, depression, nerve symptoms, and suicide. Such nerve symptoms will be progressive and worsen as time goes along, especially when the dose of a statin is raised.

In the case of muscles, various mechanisms of statin toxicity have now been identified. These factors reduce energy, muscle health, fitness, and generally make it harder to be healthy.

The new study adds a brand new explanation for nerve and muscle related problems from taking statins. Researchers studied the structure of a common and important neurotransmitter receptor called the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor. Problems with this receptor's function drastically alter nerve transmission. Such difficulties are found in chronic inflammation, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia, epilepsy, and addiction issues (alcohol, nicotine and cocaine).

The new discovery is that cholesterol fragments are absolutely vital to this receptor working correctly and are part of the protein structure of this receptor. This is a sweeping scientific discovery. It immediately offers a new explanation as to why statins have so many devastating nerve and muscle side effects. It also adds clarity to the issue as to why low cholestereol causes cancer and early risk for death.

Cholesterol is vital to the healthy function of your body, actually core to survival. You want good levels of HDL and LDL because you are healthy, not because you have drugged them to look better on paper. The idea of cholesterol fitness, like physical fitness, is a proper way to look at this issue.

Referenced Studies

  1. ^ New Insights on the Importance of Cholesterol  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  

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