The Truth About Cholesterol

The Truth About Cholesterol

For years, we have been told to avoid cholesterol because it’s bad for the heart. We’ve been limiting eggs, we’ve been reducing red meat, and we’ve been avoiding anything else with cholesterol in it. We thought that eating too much cholesterol in our food would lead to heart attacks and heart disease. In order to help counter this effect, we’ve increased our usage of statins –  cholesterol reducing drugs.

Unfortunately, we are no more heart healthy than we were fifty years ago. In fact, fifty years ago, we had less heart disease and fewer heart attacks. So – what happened? Apparently, we were duped. The scientists were wrong all along.

In the 1950’s a scientist named Ancel Keys published some research that linked dietary cholesterol to cardiovascular disease. Even though his work was criticized by other scientists, it started a movement that linked food-based cholesterol to heart disease. Based upon his research and other studies following it, scientists would to back two fallacies:

  1. Food-born cholesterol raises blood cholesterol levels
  2. High blood cholesterol levels cause heart disease.

Eventually, our government jumped on the bandwagon and encouraged everyone to eat a low-fat, high-carb diet. Pharmaceutical companies invented medications to help lower blood cholesterol levels but introduced major side effects. And major food companies created products low in cholesterol (but usually high in added sugars).

Unfortunately, Keys’ work was flawed. And many subsequent studies based upon his work continued to lead us down a wrong path. What’s ironic is that for years, Keys himself stated that conclusions based off his work were wrong.

Science has caught up. Earlier this year, the Washington Post published the results of study that confirmed what long-suffering foodies had already believed: food-based cholesterol is actually heart healthy.

Not only does food-based cholesterol not affect the blood’s cholesterol levels, but there is evidence that food-based cholesterol can actually be healthy. There are certain communities in the world, such as Switzerland and Belgium, who regularly eat high levels of food-based cholesterol, yet they are also communities with the lowest rates of deaths from heart disease.

The reality is that cholesterol and the foods that contain cholesterol contain important nutrients that are necessary for our bodies to function properly. Cholesterol has a very important function in the body. Our bodies make cholesterol and it can be found in virtually every cell in the body.

Though there is still a link that higher levels of cholesterol in the blood may contribute to a higher level of inflammation in the body and higher levels of plaque adhering to the cell wall. What has been debunked is the thought that food-based cholesterol affects the cholesterol levels in the blood.

So – go ahead and add back in your eggs. Add back in your red meat. And don’t feel guilty doing so. Eating foods high in cholesterol doesn’t hurt you. And they provide much-needed nutrients.