benefits of high cholesterol
(A shortened excerpt from Fat
and Cholesterol are GOOD for You!)
Most people ‘know’ that
high cholesterol is something to be afraid of and that the most important thing
to do to avoid a heart attack is to lower one’s cholesterol as much as
possible. But did you know that high cholesterol protects you against infectious
diseases, which most probably explain that high cholesterol is associated with
longevity? With these facts min mind, why should we care about high cholesterol?
high cholesterol live the longest. This statement seems so incredible that it takes a
long time to clear one´s brainwashed mind, at least for those who haven’t
read this book, to fully understand its importance. Yet the fact that people
with high cholesterol live the longest emerges clearly from many scientific
High Cholesterol Is Good
In certain aspects low cholesterol is worse than high
cholesterol. Already fifteen years ago American researchers found that low
cholesterol predicts an increased risk of dying from diseases of the stomach,
the intestines and the lungs.2
such diseases are infectious. Therefore, a relevant question is whether it is
the infection that lowers cholesterol or the low cholesterol that predisposes to
infectious diseases You have probably already guessed what the directors of the
cholesterol campaign have said, but is it true?
To answer that question the same researchers followed more than 100,000 healthy
individuals in the San Francisco area for fifteen years. At the end of the study
they noted that those who had low cholesterol at the start of the study had been
admitted more often to hospital because of an infectious disease.3,4 This
finding cannot be explained away with the argument that the infection had caused
cholesterol to go down, because how could low cholesterol, recorded when these
people had no evidence of infection, be caused by a disease they had not yet
encountered? Isn’t it much more likely that low cholesterol in some way made
them more vulnerable to infection? Much evidence exists to support that
Low Cholesterol Predisposes To HIV And AIDS
Young, unmarried men with a previous sexually transmitted disease or liver
disease run a much greater risk of becoming infected with HIV virus than other
people. This was what a group of Minnesota researchers found by following such
people for several years. Those who had low cholesterol at the beginning of the
study were twice as likely to test positive for HIV compared with those with the
Similar results came from another study of more than 300,000 young and
middle-aged men. After sixteen
years four times more in the low-cholesterol group had died from AIDS compared
with the high-cholesterol group.6
benefit of high cholesterol also appears from studies of children with the
Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome. They are born with very low cholesterol because an
enzyme that is necessary for the body’s synthesis of cholesterol does not
function properly. Most children with this syndrome are either stillborn or they
die early because of serious malformations of the brain. Those who survive are
imbecile or autistic, they have extremely low cholesterol, and they suffer from
frequent and severe infections. However, if they are given extra cholesterol or
eggs in their diet, their cholesterol goes up, their infections become less
serious and less frequent, and their autistic and aggressive behavior improves.7
of the many reasons not to name LDL as bad is that the lipoproteins have other
important functions. One of them is to take care of microorganisms and their
is the most toxic substance produced by strains of the disease-promoting
bacteria called staphylococci. It is able to destroy all kinds of human cells,
including red blood cells. For instance, if minute amounts of the toxin are
added to a test tube with red blood cells dissolved in salt water, the blood is
hemolyzed, that is, the membranes of the red blood cells burst and hemoglobin
from the interior of the cells leaks out into the solvent. Dr. Bhakdi and his
team mixed purified α-toxin with human serum (the fluid in which the blood
cells reside) and now the toxic effect of α-toxin
almost disappeared. By various complicated methods they identified the
protective substance in human serum as LDL, the carrier of the “bad”
cholesterol. In accordance, nothing happened when they mixed α-toxin with
purified human LDL.
Dr. Willy Flegel
and his co-workers at Heidelberg University in Germany studied bacterial toxins
in another way. As mentioned above, one of the effects of bacterial toxins is
that they stimulate white blood cells to produce cytokines, hormones that start
the inflammatory processes. The German researchers found that this effect
disappeared almost completely if the toxin was mixed with purified LDL before
they added the white blood cells to the test tubes.8,9 Obviously, LDL
was able to neutralize the bacterial toxins.
The immune systems in various mammals including human beings have many
similarities. Therefore, it is interesting to see what experiments with rats and
mice can tell us. Professor Kenneth Feingold and his group at the University of
California have published some interesting studies. In one of them they lowered
LDL-cholesterol in rats by drugs with the result that they died much easier
after an injection of bacterial toxins. The high mortality was not due to the
cholesterol-lowering drug because, if they gave the animals an injection of
human lipoproteins just before the experiment, they survived10
In another experiment, researchers from the Netherlands injected bacteria or
their toxins into normal mice, and into mice with high cholesterol. Whereas all
normal mice died, most of the mice with high cholesterol survived.11
Many of the roles played by the lipoprotein LDL are shared by
HDL as well. This should not be too surprising considering that high
HDL-cholesterol is associated with cardiovascular health and longevity. But
there is more.
Triglycerides, molecules consisting of three fatty acids linked to a molecule
named glycerol, are insoluble in water and are therefore carried through the
blood inside lipoproteins, just as cholesterol. All lipoproteins carry
triglycerides, but most of them are carried by the VLDL, the largest lipoprotein
in our blood.
For many years it has been known that patients
suffering from sepsis, a life-threatening condition caused by bacterial growth
in the blood, have high levels of triglycerides. The serious symptoms of sepsis
are due to bacterial toxins, most often produced by gut bacteria. Now to the
interesting point. Solutions rich in triglycerides are also able to protect
experimental animals from the dangerous effects of bacterial toxins, which means
that the high level of triglycerides seen in sepsis is not a bad thing, but a
normal response to infection.12 Usually sepsis bacteria come from the
guts. It is therefore fortunate that the blood draining the guts is especially
rich in triglycerides.
cholesterol protects against allergy
with allergic problems, such as asthma and hay fever, have lower cholesterol
than healthy children. As allergic diseases have become more common and is still
increasing in the Western world it is tempting to suggest that the cause is the
increasing consumption of the polyunsaturated vegetable oils of the omega-6 type,
because these oils are known to stimulate inflammatory processes, and allergy is
a kind of inflammation. But there is room for another explanation.
At the Skin and
Allergy Hospital in Helsinki, Finland Dr.Maria Pesonen and her co-workers
followed 200 children from their birth to their 20 year anniversary.13
They found that the children with allergic disorders had lower total and LDL
cholesterol than the others. The difference was obvious already at a time where
all the children were breastfed. Thus, the difference could not be explained by
their dietary habits. The researchers had no explanation for their observation,
but if the lipoproteins are able to bind microbial products, it seems not too
far-fetched to assume that they can bind other molecules as well, for instance
allergens, those molecules that starts the allergic reactions.
familial hypercholesterolemia a disease?
“The more LDL there is in the blood, the more rapidly atherosclerosis develops.”
This was the main conclusion of the American Nobel
Price-winners, Joseph Goldstein and Michael Brown.14 They discovered
that the cells of people with familial hypercholesterolemia had difficulties
taking in cholesterol from the blood because of a defect in the LDL-receptor,
the mechanism that transports these vital molecules into the cells. This was the
reason why cholesterol was much higher than normal in these people. People with
familial hypercholesterolemia also have more atherosclerosis than normal and
some of them do die early in life from heart disease. It was therefore not too
far-fetched for Goldstein and Brown to draw the conclusion they did, and also to
assume that it was applicable to the rest of mankind. They were awarded the
Nobel Prize in 1985 for their discovery, and many other researchers share their
Their finding is certainly interesting, a result of
careful scientific work. Unfortunately, the conclusion they drew was too hasty.
In fact, there are benefits associated with this condition, which is why I
deliberately refer to individuals with familial hypercholesterolemia as people,
not as patients. What is even more surprising is that the reason why some of
them die at a young age from heart disease is not their high cholesterol, but
something else. I shall come back to that.
England The Simon Broome Familial Hyperlipidaemia Register Group have followed
almost 3000 people with familial hypercholesterolemia for many years.
At the most recent control they found that 102 of them, or 3.6 % had died
from a heart attack. By analyzing mortality of the same age group in the English
population they calculated that the expected number should have been 40, or 1.4
%. On the other hand, fewer had died from other causes, 112 against the expected
number 193, or 4 % against 6.8 %. For instance, only half as many had died from
cancer.30 If you add the figures and compare them you will see that
people with familial hypercholesterolemia live at least as long as other people,
if not longer. A little more die from heart disease, but fewer die from cancer
and other diseases.
The authors of the scientific report stressed that the
participants in their study were admitted because all of them had close
relatives who had died at a young age. Cholesterol screening often identifies
old people with familial hypercholesterolemia who have no such relatives. The
authors therefore suggested that if the participants had been representative for
all people with familial hypercholesterolemia, their mortality would have been
In Finland, Professor Tatu Miettinen and Dr. Helena
Gylling studied about one hundred individuals with familial
hypercholesterolemia.16 Fourteen to seventeen years later, 30 had
died, 26 because of a heart attack and four of other causes. On average, initial
LDL cholesterol was the same among those who had died and those who still were
alive. If high LDL cholesterol was the most important cause of atherosclerosis
and heart disease, as postulated by Nobel Award winners Goldstein and Brown,
then we should have expected higher cholesterol in those who died, but that
wasn’t the case. Many other researchers have confirmed the Finnish findings.17-23
Another conflicting observation is the fact that
people with familial hypercholesterolemia have normal cerebral arteries, even
though the same cholesterol-rich blood flows through their brain as through the
rest of their body.25
genetic aberrations in people with familial hypercholesterolemia are more
complicated than Brown and Goldstein assumed. For instance, in a study of 2400
such individuals, Dr. Angelique Jansen at the University of Amsterdam
found that variations of the prothrombin gene were associated with an
increased risk of heart disease in these people.26 Prothrombin is a
substance necessary for blood coagulation and an abnormal prothrombin gene may
lead to the production of too much of this substance. The result is an increased
tendency to coagulation and clot formation. Thus, some individuals with familial
hypercholesterolemia may form arterial clots more easily than other people, not
because of their high cholesterol, but because of an abnormal coagulation
patients with familial hypercholesterolemia more often have high concentrations
of fibrinogen and factor VIII in their blood than healthy people with familial
hypercholesterolemia. Also these substances participate in the coagulation
process, and too much of them may stimulate to clot formation. And again,
whereas the heart patients had much higher concentrations of fibrinogen and
factor VIII, their total and LDL cholesterol did not differ from those measured
in healthy people with familial hypercholesterolemia.27
earlier times, people with familial hypercholesterolemia lived longer
than other people! Dutch researchers tracked the ancestors of people with
familial hypercholesterolemia and identified 412 individuals with a 50 percent
chance of having this genetic abnormality. They also searched official records
of deaths and found that the longevity of those with a family history of this
genetic aberration was not lower before the year 1900; in fact, on average they
lived longer than other people. As the most common cause of death at that time
was infectious disease, the authors suggested that high cholesterol protects
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