Cholesterol: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Excerpted from

The Protein Power LifePlan

By ,

Not since the witch trials of Salem has such an all-out campaign been launched against the innocent based on so little truth and so much misinformation as in the case of cholesterol. The media and the medical-pharmaceutical complex has vilified it, demonized it. and placed a bounty on its head as if it were a serial ax murderer. And the government has spent many, many millions of dollars to alert the public about this deadly killer through its National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP). For years, people have been told that cholesterol is the villain making the nation sick at heart. They've been told that if they cut the cholesterol and fat from their diets and load up on complex carbohydrates, they'll reduce their cholesterol readings. Unfortunately, most of the time it doesn't work, leading at best to frustration and at worst to a prescription for expensive drugs with potentially dangerous side effects. As a nation, we're still in the midst of the Cholesterol Madness that we wrote about in Protein Power Madness has given way to mania.

Respected authorities continue to sound the call to reduce blood cholesterol through adoption of the (largely ineffective) low-fat diet but now also insist that, based on revised lower numbers of what's a "safe" level of cholesterol, nearly 40 percent of the adult population of America should begin taking cholesterol-lowering medications forthwith or risk dire cardiovascular consequences. Such terror tactics justifiably alarm the public, but they must warm the cockles of the hearts of the drug companies that manufacture the cholesterol-lowering pills being pushed down that trusting public's throat. In this chapter you'll learn just what cholesterol is, why it can be good or bad, and how to use our plan to lower your cholesterol naturally without dangerous drugs. Why all this furor over a simple naturally occurring body chemical? What is this substance cholesterol that it should incite such fear in the hearts and minds of men?

Look Upon the Face of the Demon

Whether in dreams or in life, one way to conquer fear is to put a face on it and to look squarely into that face-in effect, to stare down the fear. So with that in mind, let's look into the face of this "demon" cholesterol and see what, if anything, we should fear.

Cholesterol, which most people call a fat, is actually a waxy alcohol--hence the similar endings to the two words cholesterol and alcohol-that gives structure to the cell membrances of every single one of the bizillion cells that make up any member of the animal kingdom. Were you able to extract every' last molecule of cholesterol from your body--an event that we sometimes think some misguided nutritional authorities would find desirable-you'd disintegrate; you'd melt into a puddle like the Wicked Witch of the West did when Dorothy doused her with the bucket of water.

In fact, your body's need for cholesterol is so keen that virtually every single one of your bizillion cells can-and will-make it if necessary. Your skin and your intestinal tract make a fair amount, but the bulk of your body's cholesterol comes from the cholesterol-production factory in your liver. While your diet does provide some of this critical raw material, what you eat will account for at most about 20 percent of your blood cholesterol. The liver's cholesterol-production factory produces the other 80 percent, and in fact, the production line there monitors how much cholesterol comes in with the food you eat and can step up or slow down its production accordingly to keep the supply adequate to meet the body's daily and ongoing needs.

Without enough cholesterol, the body can't properly replace and renew its worn or damaged cells, since making a new cell requires the production of a new cell membrane, and making a new cell membrane requires cholesterol. Without new cells, the body will age and die. 'That's not to say, of course, that that aging and death won't ultimately occur no matter how much cholesterol the body has to build new cells, but why hasten the process? l Without enough cholesterol, how can the body completely replace the lining of the intestine even' four or five days (which it does), regularly renew hair, skin, and nails, repair the wear and tear on the skeleton and the muscles that occurs just from living, repair injured tissues, or continue to produce the many hormones-such as estrogen, testosterone, progesterone. DHEA, cortisol, and aldosterone-that the body builds on a cholesterol framework? The answer is that it can't. And pharmaceutically shutting down the natural production of this important substance in a mindless race to get the level of blood cholesterol down can only do harm in the long run.

We'll examine exactly what kind of damage the body can sustain from the use of these drugs shortly, but first it's important that you understand a little about the lingo of cholesterol, so that you'll be able to make sense of your own cholesterol numbers and the seemingly endless types of fat-consuming molecules in the blood. It's no longer sufficient to speak of just cholesterol; you must know its fractions-and now, even the fractions have fractions and subtypes that play crucial roles in what's becoming an increasingly complicated overall picture of cholesterol and cardiovascular health. Let's look at what all these fractions are and what they do.

Tags: Diets and Weight Loss

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