Monday Myths

Monday Myths – Cholesterol Is Not To Blame For Heart Disease

We have got it completely wrong.

We have all been led to believe that cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease. However, an overwhelming body of evidence suggests otherwise. Read on to find the truth behind this long-held belief.

We have got cholesterol completely wrong

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. In fact, about 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year. That’s 1 in every 4 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Cholesterol levels should be kept low to lessen the risk of heart disease” has been deeply ingrained in our minds. Most people, and more disturbingly, a lot of doctors, continue to falsely believe in this. This is a very dangerous misconception, because, as you will find out in this article, on the whole, cholesterol is, in fact, good for us.

This article will debunk 2 most common myths about heart disease.

  1. Eating cholesterol raises cholesterol levels in the blood.
  2. High blood cholesterol level is the cause of heart disease.

Myth #1: Eating cholesterol raises cholesterol levels in the blood

For many years, we have been warned that foods like red meat, eggs, and butter raise our cholesterol levels in our blood. But that is simply not true.

Briefly, what is cholesterol?

Simply put, it is a lipid that is found in all cells of the body. It is produced by the liver to help perform essential bodily functions such as the synthesis of hormones, absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, and cell regeneration. It is a vital component of every cell membrane. You cannot make estrogen, testosterone, cortisone and a host of other vital hormones without it. This in itself shows, contrary to popular belief, that cholesterol is not evil.

On any given day, we have between 1,100 and 1,700 milligrams of cholesterol in our body. 25% of that comes from our diet, and 75% is produced inside of our bodies by the liver. Much of the cholesterol that is found in food cannot be absorbed by our bodies and end up in the gut via the liver and gallbladder. Your body tightly regulates the amount of cholesterol in the blood to ensure it can perform its functions properly. When cholesterol intake in the diet goes down, the body makes more and when cholesterol intake in the diet goes up, our liver produces less. Hence dietary cholesterol has a very little impact on blood cholesterol levels.

Eggs don’t deserve their bad reputation


As shown above, eating cholesterol isn’t going to give you a heart attack. Neither will a diet rich in eggs. Nutritionists demonized eggs for their high cholesterol levels, but in reality, they are perfectly healthy. In fact, eggs are amongst the healthiest foods on the planet.

First and foremost, eggs are an excellent source of complete proteins. Complete proteins contain essential amino acids that your body cannot produce itself, and which must come from the diet. Fat, both saturated and unsaturated, is another macronutrient found in eggs. Luckily, most of that fat is of the unsaturated kind, which is essential to keep cell membranes healthy, protect internal organs and help with absorbing fat-soluble vitamins.

To add to this, eating just two large eggs will provide your daily reference intake of vitamin B12. This is needed to keep your metabolic and nervous system functioning properly. Eggs are also a great source of vitamin D that keeps your bones healthy. So do not stress and eat up!

Myth #2: High blood cholesterol level is the cause of heart disease

A generally held belief is that cholesterol concentrations should be kept low to lessen the risk of cardiovascular disease and the real cause of heart disease, inflammation, is being largely ignored. The truth is, cholesterol in the arteries is a symptom of heart disease and not the cause.

During the inflammatory process, plaque, along with the thickening of your blood and constricting of your blood vessels, can indeed increase your risk of high blood pressure and heart attack. Cholesterol, however, only comes in after the damage has been incurred, in order to replace your damaged cells. In other words, it does not stick to the walls of your arteries to give you a heart disease. Instead, cholesterol is in your arteries to repair the damage. No new cell can form without cholesterol. Therefore if you have cells that need to be replaced, your liver will be notified to make more cholesterol and release it into your bloodstream.


Statins are not the wonder drugs they’ve been made out to be

Prescribing medicine that lowers cholesterol in order to reduce the risk of heart attack is, therefore, a big mistake. Statins have long been prescribed as a means of reducing the risk of heart attacks. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, nearly a quarter of all Americans over the age of 45 take statins. It’s a huge business — featuring brand names like Lipitor and Crestor. The pharmaceutical industry has an interest in promoting the idea that a causal link exists between cholesterol levels and heart disease. However, new research demonstrates that cholesterol is not to blame.

The Framingham Heart Study, which is the most extensive study on risk factors for the cardiovascular disease ever done, found that there is absolutely no correlation between large amounts of cholesterol in the diet and risk of heart disease.

Further, studies indicate that high levels of cholesterol may even be beneficial in preventing other illnesses. It binds to and inactivates a broad range of microorganisms and their toxic products. For example, a study following 140,000 people for between 10 and 30 years found lower levels of cancer in those people whose total cholesterol levels were higher.

The Dangers Of Low Cholesterol

There’s so much talk about the dangers of high cholesterol, it’s easy to ignore the dangers of low cholesterol levels. For adults, normal cholesterol levels are between 140 and 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) and total cholesterol levels above 240 mg/dL are considered high. “Experts” have claimed that maintaining a low cholesterol level (less than 150 mg/dL) can protect us against cardiovascular disease. We now know this is not true since there is no link between cholesterol levels and heart disease. Further, research shows low cholesterol levels carry risks.

Studies indicate that those with low cholesterol are more likely to have symptoms of depression and anxiety. Researchers suggest that because cholesterol is involved in making hormones and vitamin D, low levels may affect the health of your brain. It appears that insufficient brain cholesterol hinders the action of serotonin, a chemical that carries messages between brain cells and that is closely associated with mood.

The Takeaway

Cholesterol is wrongly accused of being the cause of heart disease and the real perpetrator – inflammation is being largely ignored. More and more research, especially from prospective studies challenge the accepted wisdom that high cholesterol foods are inherently bad for you. As demonstrated in this article, cholesterol is not to blame. It’s time to make people aware of this and ditch the egg-white omelets.

Read on here on our blog about “junk foods” that are actually good for you.

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Wiktoria Banda

Wiktoria is a content writer and illustrator at Shape.
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