Cholesterol is a molecule that was first discovered in 1769. Unfortunately, in the 250 years since, it has become the number one misunderstood nutrient in the body. As it was found to be a major component of arterial plague, cholesterol was instantly deemed harmful for the human body. Overnight, western medical publications released articles mentioning that your vital health signs are inversely related to the level of cholesterol in your body. In fact, scientific research has shown that arterial plague is actually the body’s way of healing inflamed injured tissues. This logic of lowering cholesterol levels is akin to reducing the number of fire brigades in order to decrease the number of fires. Does this even make sense given that fire engines and fire trucks are always found at the scene where the fire took place?
Cholesterol is so vital to human health that almost every human cell in the body is constantly producing it. Although most of it is made in the liver, the human brain is where it is needed most. Even though the brain only makes up 2% of body weight, it contains 25% of all the body’s cholesterol and 60% of brain mass is purely fat. DHA, a type of omega-3 fat, makes up around 15-20% of your brain’s cerebral cortex. The brain neurons – the “wires” of your brain and central nervous system, contain high levels of DHA to aid in structural support of the entire human body. One of the primary uses of cholesterol is that it is needed to synthesize various hormones and neurotransmitters which the brain cells use to communicate with each other. Hence, without an acceptable level of cholesterol, the brain cells will die off eventually. Some researchers have actually postulated and published articles mentioning that cholesterol exhibits antioxidant abilities that protect the body against cancer. It also helps in the production of Vitamin D and maintains cell structure integrities to prevent them from becoming porous. Porous cell membranes are logically more susceptible to damage and foreign pathogens.
In the current age of abundance, lifestyle diseases such as hypertension and other heart diseases are taking centre stage where the food we take are either too much or too rich. Without moderation and control, high cholesterol levels are seen in increasingly younger patients. This has led to widespread prescription of cholesterol lowering statins such as the generic Zocor(Simvastatin). It is unsurprising to note that with millions of people under such prescriptions, rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s are on the rise. A study published in the journal Pharmacotherapy in 2009 found that three out of four people using these drugs experienced adverse cognitive effects ‘probably or definitely related to’ the drug. It also mentioned that there were patients who experienced cognitive improvements after stopping statin therapy. In fact, since Feb 2012, the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) ordered drug pharma companies to add a new warning label about possible memory problems to the prescribing information for statins.
Another research study published in the journal Neurology found that high levels of cholesterol actually reduces the risk of dementia in the elderly. “High cholesterol levels in late life was actually associated with decreased dementia risk, which is in contrast to previous research suggesting high cholesterol in mid-life is a risk factor the onset of dementia in late life,” conclude the study’s authors. “The contradictory results may be explained by the timing of the cholesterol measurements in relationship to age and the clinical onset of dementia.” The research was a joint venture of the Center on Aging and Health, the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers, the Department of Mental Health, The Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Institute of Clinical Neurosciences, and others.
There are many other studies augmenting the premise of this research and the message is very clear. There is possibly very minimal advantage in taking statin drugs if you are over the age of 65. The primary purpose of statins is to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and the very reason statins help is because of the drug’s anti-inflammatory effects. Regrettably, statins reduces the production of CoQ10 (Coenzyme Q10), which is the number one important nutrient when it comes to the vascular system’s integrity. Perhaps it is better to talk to your physician or doctor to discuss ways and methods to reduce statin consumption. As always, moderation is key and that includes the consumption of your medications.