Cholesterol Myths You (Probably) Still Believe
Cholesterol is one of the most misunderstood health issues of the last fifty years. We’ll prove it; based on what you’ve heard about cholesterol in the news, answer “true” or “false” to the following statements:
- Cholesterol is harmful to the cells of all mammals.
- High cholesterol levels can increase your risk of infections.
- Your body does not naturally produce cholesterol – It is only consumed through food.
- Cholesterol is a dietary byproduct, and it plays no role in our health, such as mood regulation and hormone production.
- Eating polyunsaturated fats is the best way to combat high cholesterol levels.
- Polyunsaturated fats are also helpful in reducing certain cancers, and they have anti-aging benefits.
- Older adults with high cholesterol levels will not live as long as those will low cholesterol levels.
- Studies show that saturated fat consumption is directly related to heart attack occurrences.
Did you answer true to some or all of the statements above? Would you believe it if we told you that every statement above is a myth? Think about your answers and how many times you answered “true.” You’re not alone.
Most people still believe many cholesterol myths that started years ago and have since been proven false by scientific studies. Let’s take a look at the most popular myths about cholesterol and set the record straight.
Cholesterol Myth: Cholesterol Serves No Purpose in Our Diet
Despite the trendy obsession with low-fat, low-cholesterol diets, both fat and cholesterol are essential for optimal health. Cholesterol can be consumed as a part of a healthy diet program, or it can be created from other nutrients in the body.
Studies show that cholesterol plays a key role in several processes, including tissue repair and production, sex hormone health, and bile production in the liver. Also, you need cholesterol for the proper digestion and assimilation of some nutrients.
Cholesterol Myth: All Types of Cholesterol Are Bad for You
Even if you don’t know much about cholesterol, you’ve probably heard the abbreviations “HDL” and “LDL.”
HDL or high-density lipoprotein is more commonly referred to as “good cholesterol.” The function of high-density lipoproteins is to transport cholesterol back to the liver. From here, your liver gets it out of the body.
LDL or low-density lipoprotein is deemed “bad cholesterol,” but this requires more context. LDL serves a function in our bodies, which is to help deliver cholesterol to the cells in our bodies to help support normal functions. Moreover, the issue itself is not the presence of LDL, but when this form of cholesterol becomes oxidized (i.e., chemically degraded, such as in the presence of toxins), this puts further stress on our bodies. It is the oxidized form of LDL cholesterol that is associated with disease. In addition, the size of the LDL cholesterol plays an important factor in overall health.
Studies show that you want both HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, but you want to keep the latter in check. The two best ways to ensure LDL levels don’t get out of hand are healthy lifestyle changes and cholesterol-lowering medication prescribed by your doctor if needed.
Cholesterol Myth: Low-Fat Diets Are Effective
Fat and cholesterol have an important relationship: when you eat dietary fat, you are going to consume cholesterol. This sounds like a bad thing, right? If the idea is to limit LDL cholesterol, are you better off avoiding fats altogether and going on a low-fat diet? No, not at all.
Studies show that low-fat diets do not have a significant impact on your cholesterol levels. As mentioned above, dietary fats are essential for your health. It’s important to consume the right types of dietary fats.
Focus on saturated or monounsaturated fats such as avocados and salmon with a limited amount of polyunsaturated fats. Saturated fats, preferably from healthy sources such as coconut oil, are appropriate for health when not eaten in excess.
Cholesterol Myth: Polyunsaturated Fats Lower Cholesterol
Choosing the proper sources of fat is important if you want to promote healthy levels of cholesterol and avoid long-term health issues such as inflammation.
Many outdated sources of nutritional information might still recommend eating foods high in polyunsaturated fats as a way to lower cholesterol, but studies show that this is not the case., you want to include a limited amount of polyunsaturated fat sources in your diet. Here are some healthy options to consider:
- Fish (tuna, herring, and mackerel)
- Flax seeds
Cholesterol Myth: You Live Longer if You Have Low Cholesterol Levels
Due to sensationalized and inaccurate news stories of cholesterol and health complications, many people believe that there is a direct correlation with age, cholesterol levels, and mortality rates. Studies show that this is not the case. Older adults with high cholesterol levels live just as long as those with low cholesterol levels.
For those interested in more information on how cholesterol works in your body, along with its relationship to health and disease, you are welcomed to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors at 773.878.7330.
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