January 16, 2013 | 44,218 views
By Dr. Mercola
Are you still under the impression that cholesterol is a dietary villain and a primary cause of heart disease? And do you avoid eating healthy animal foods like eggs, butter and grass-fed beef because of “high-cholesterol” fears?
It’s time for these pervasive myths to be laid to rest, as when you understand the truth about how cholesterol works in your body you’ll realize it’s not an enemy to your health, but instead plays an essential role in keeping your body functioning optimally.
Cholesterol Crucial for Healthy Cell Functioning
Cholesterol has been demonized since the early 1950’s, following the popularization of Ancel Keys’ flawed research. As a result, people now spend tens of billions of dollars on cholesterol-reducing drugs each year, thinking they have to lower this “dangerous” molecule lest they keel over from a heart attack.
But cholesterol has many health benefits. Recent research revealed, for instance, that cholesterol plays a key role in regulating protein pathways involved in cell signaling and may also regulate other cellular processes.1
It’s already known that cholesterol plays a critical role within your cell membranes, but this new research suggests cholesterol also interacts with proteins inside your cells, adding even more importance.
Your body is composed of trillions of cells that need to interact with each other. Cholesterol is one of the molecules that allow for these interactions to take place. For example, cholesterol is the precursor to bile acids, so without sufficient amounts of cholesterol, your digestive system can be adversely affected.
It also plays an essential role in your brain, which contains about 25 percent of the cholesterol in your body. It is critical for synapse formation, i.e. the connections between your neurons, which allow you to think, learn new things, and form memories.
In fact, there’s reason to believe that low-fat diets and/or cholesterol-lowering drugs may cause or contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. Low cholesterol levels have also been linked to violent behavior, due to adverse changes in brain chemistry, particularly a reduction in serotonin activity Furthermore, you need cholesterol to produce steroid hormones, including your sex hormones. Vitamin D is also synthesized from a close relative of cholesterol: 7-dehydrocholesterol.