Unfortunately, the medical dogma of saturated fats and cholesterol being the root of all evil and extremely bad for us is still prevalent. Giving birth to the world of trans fats, such as margarine, which will cause your cells to become stiff, increasing inflammation and accelerating ageing.
The cholesterol myth is killing thousands of people each year, as the human body cannot function correctly or stay healthy without adequate amounts of cholesterol.
So, we thought that we would briefly explain what cholesterol is actually used for within your body, and how having a higher LDL blood reading may actually be brought about from poor gut health, stress and certain genetic factors that are not really discussed.
For a start LDL and HDL aren’t actually cholesterol they’re the lipoproteins that transport cholesterol around your body. These lipoproteins are vital to the human body as they not only transport cholesterol, but they are also responsible to transporting fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins and minerals etc.
LDL transports cholesterol to every cell in your body, whether that be your kidney, liver or muscles. Every cell in your body requires cholesterol, as it forms the membrane of the cell, which is obviously vital for the way the cell functions and is extremely important for keeping your cells healthy, as every time you damage your cells, or they get replaced you will require cholesterol.
This is especially true if you are training or exercising regularly, as cholesterol is required to repair the damage sustained to the muscles.
In a normal situation healthy cholesterol will get transported around your body to your cells, and once it arrives a tiny piece will get removed with the remaining getting transported back to the liver to be recycled.
The relationship that HDL has is that it removes the cholesterol from your cells or arteries and transports it back to the liver, reducing the chances of it building up and doing any damage. This is where the relationship with having an unhealthy gut, genetics, cholesterol and cardiovascular disease comes into play.
Each of us has over 100 trillion bacteria within our gut, which are required to metabolise the foods that we eat each day, turning them into fatty acids, proteins, amino acids and metabolising vitamins and minerals.
You will also have the highest concentration of immune cells within your gut; the reason being is that it is highly exposed to the external environment.
Meaning that every time you have something to eat or drink your gut will have to deal with anything thrown its way, and if there is something harmful or pathogenic then the immune cells within your gut will fight it off and hopefully deal with it.
These immune cells are separated by the gut barrier and if this becomes run down and compromised then your immune cells start to kill the bacteria within your gut, attacking the bacterial membrane.
The bacterial membrane is also made up from an endotoxin, which then gets taken into your blood stream and binds to LDL cholesterol through docking sites that are extremely accommodating and will easily absorb the endotoxins.
There are a variety of reasons why LDL cholesterol increases within the body, and one of the most prevalent is through an increase in stress or inflammation. The reason why the body has this mechanism of combining the endotoxins to LDL is to protect you as endotoxins are extremely damaging to the body and can lead to sepsis and eventually death.
The problem may then arise as the docking sites that the endotoxin uses are also the same sites that that the cholesterol uses for the LDL to be removed and taking back to the liver.
Meaning that it cannot go back to your liver and is now stuck in circulation and now your immune cells will attack the endotoxin bound to the LDL. You will now have a prolonged immune response, but because your immune system cannot actually kill the LDL you will now have a tremendous amount of inflammation as well, forming plague on the LDL particle.
Nature v Nurture and the genes you’ve been dealt will obviously have a huge say in cholesterol levels and how it is used effectively throughout your body.
For instance, choline found in foods such as chicken, salmon, beef and eggs will affect the gene and enzyme PEMT(Phosphatidylethanolamine N-methyltransferase) which plays an integral part in keeping the cell membrane healthy.
Phosphatidylcholine is required for the liver to secrete triglycerides into very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL cholesterol). We also need to look at the gene ApoE, which encodes for lipoproteins that binds to cholesterol and recycles it back to the liver.
1 in 4 of us will have a specific variant of ApoE that reduces our ability to recycle LDL effectively and hence higher blood readings. Consuming a diet high in saturated fats that can increase LDL cholesterol isn’t the underlying problem, unless you have heightened stress or inflammation that can then lead to cardiovascular disease.
It’s very easy to see how your body can become compromised and then inflamed. Bacteria and immune cells within your gut are separated by a substance called mucin, which looks a bit like mucus. Having IBS or leaky gut you’ll be able to see it covering your faeces quite easily and is a sure sign of inflammation and poor gut health.
Obviously having healthy mucin is extremely important to separate your gut bacteria to stop your immune cells from attacking them and causing a huge amount of inflammation and releasing endotoxins.
In order for your gut cells to make mucin, they require energy and your gut bacteria prefers this energy to come from short-chain fatty acids. These will be made up from fermentable fibres such as vegetables, fruits, sauerkraut and mushrooms.
These foods get fermented by commensal bacteria in the gut, which are your friendly or good bacteria making short-chain fatty acids, such as lactate, butyrate, propionate and acetate.
And with 70-90% going to fuel the cells and making mucin you can see why these foods and nutrients are so important to improving your gut health, reduce inflammation and avoid increasing harmful cholesterol that might eventually lead to cardiovascular disease.
The opposite is true if you are eating a lot of refined carbohydrates and sugars, as you have other bacteria within your gut that like to absorb and feed off the sugar. These bacteria will increase in numbers dramatically and take up the space that your friendly commensal bacteria require.
And the more sugar and processed foods you eat the less your gut cells will respond, increasing your chances of insulin resistance and eventually type 2 diabetes will come knocking at your door.
So, you can see why in most instances having elevated cholesterol isn’t caused from eating saturated fat or “Demonic Eggs” full of cholesterol. It is mostly caused through a variety of poor lifestyle choices, from either working too much, or not getting enough sleep, both of which will cause a massive amount of stress. Then there is eating a diet high in sugar and processed foods that is obviously horrendous for your gut’s ecosystem as well.
Yes, sometimes nutrition and health can be challenging to understand, but in many ways, health and knowing which foods are best to eat and the ones to simply avoid is just the application of common sense!!
A trait that is sadly on the decline…