In Praise of Cholesterol

Can we all get over our fixation on cholesterol? I mean, now that it’s clear that cholesterol isn’t what’s causing heart disease?

But, but, but, if cholesterol is building up in my arteries, doesn’t that mean cholesterol’s the problem?

Actually, no. Your cholesterol is simply trying to patch up arterial raw spots caused by inflammation–which is the problem. Cholesterol is the overworked, underappreciated good guy in the scenario.

But while the medical community makes its slow transition from cholesterol to inflammation as the villain of the piece, here are some facts you should know.

The brain needs plenty of cholesterol to function. A brain is a terrible thing to waste, especially for a mistake..

The endocrine system–the thyroid, adrenals, pancreas, gonads, etc–needs cholesterol to keep us awake, alert and ready to make life happen.

Consider the thyroid: Most doctors prescribe Synthroid, or an equivalent T4 medication, to patients with an underactive thyroid. The fact is, however, that T4 doesn’t do much; we have to internally convert the T4 to T3 to get thyroid function off the mat. The conversion can’t be done without cholesterol, so hypothyroid patients can faithfully take their meds and still feel like death struck by a brick. The conversion isn’t guaranteed in any case (and don’t get me started about why that makes T4 medications inadequate), but it absolutely can’t happen without enough cholesterol.

The adrenals, which provide general energy and the ability to cope with stress, also need cholesterol to avoid dragging bottom..

I could go on, but why? 40% of the U.S. populace has thyroid problems. Most of them also have adrenal problems. They need cholesterol.

People with any sort of endocrine problem shouldn’t take drugs to lower cholesterol Or eat low-fat diets. Or take a pass on the salt shaker. Wrong, wrong and wrong.

We need to get over this cholesterol obsession.



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Bette Dowdell is not a doctor. She speaks as a patient who has experienced and studied endocrine issues for more than 30 years. Her opinions, while researched, are her own.

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