Could High Cholesterol Help You Live Longer?

| January 24, 2013

The idea that cholesterol causes cardiovascular disease comes from studies which have found that higher cholesterol levels are linked with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. However, it’s important to bear in mind that just because two things are associated with each other, it does not necessarily mean that one is actually causing the other.

Also, cardiovascular disease is a major killer, but it’s not the whole story. If we want to assess the impact of any factor on health, we should take as wide a view as possible. We can do this by looking at its relationship with overall risk of death (overall mortality). This is especially important, as low levels of this substance in the bloodstream are actually associated with a heightened risk of potentially fatal conditions such as cancer and certain types of strokes (haemorrhagic strokes).

These considerations seem to be even more important in the elderly, as previous evidence has linked higher cholesterol levels with reduced mortality. One such study was published late last year in the journal Clinical Nutrition [1]. In this study, elderly individuals (average age 81) admitted to hospital had their total blood fat levels assessed and were then followed for an average of about 3½ years.

Cholesterol levels were split into ‘quartiles’ (each quartile represents 25 per cent of values, with the ‘top quartile’ representing the top 25 per cent of cholesterol values while the ‘bottom quartile’ represented the lowest 25 per cent of values).

The mortality rate in those in the lowest cholesterol quartile (total of 1.76-4.00 mmol/l) was about 93 per cent, but in the group in the top quartile (total of 5.5-8.3 mmol/l) it was significantly lower at 76 per cent.

The authors calculated that each 1 mmol increase was associated with a more than 15 per cent reduction in risk of death.

Now, remember, raised cholesterol does not necessarily cause cardiovascular disease even though it’s associated with it, and it’s the same here: lowered levels may not cause increased risk of death.

One of the reasons for this is that lowered cholesterol can be a sign of malnutrition (not uncommon in the elderly). In this study, low cholesterol was also found to be associated with lower levels of the blood protein albumin (low albumin suggests malnutrition). However, if malnutrition is the explanation, then it does raise at least some questions about the promotion of low-fat diets for cholesterol reduction. Most importantly, these diets have, as a whole, not been found to reduce mortality, and there is some evidence that they may in fact be harmful to health.

The authors of this study make mention of the supposedly dangerous low-density lipoprotein (LDL) form of cholesterol. Specifically they allude to the fact that LDL cholesterol comes in different forms, ranging from small dense forms that are believed to have the potential to damage blood vessels, up to much larger, lighter forms that do not. They point out that long-lived individuals have previously been found to have a preponderance of non-harmful LDL in their bloodstreams.

In the final analysis, we don’t know from this sort of evidence what the truth is. However, this sort of evidence should, I think, be more widely known, and should also cause us to question this vogue for driving levels down.

Cholesterol is an innate body constituent present in every cell membrane and is a major component in the brain. It is also a constituent of several key hormones, vitamin D and bile (for the digestion of fat). There seems little doubt that low levels of this substance can genuinely compromise health. And don’t forget that statins can compromise health too.

The bottom line is that cholesterol reduction is not without risk, though sometimes it’s easy to forget that when we are bombarded with information about the supposedly perilous nature of cholesterol and the need to keep it under control.

Here’s to a healthy heart

Dr John Briffa
Editor
for The Cholesterol Truth



If you enjoyed this content or found it useful and educational, please share this article with your friends and family.



Bear in mind we are not addressing anyone’s personal situation and you should rely on this for informational purposes only. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.


References:

1. Weiss A, et al. Serum total cholesterol: A mortality predictor in elderly hospitalized patients. Clin Nutr 2012 Nov 23 (epub ahead of print)

Print Friendly

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: Latest Cholesterol News, What Doctors Don't Tell You

Comments are closed.

Don't Forget Your Free Blood Pressure Report...

Just RSVP below for immediate access to this valuable report, with our sincere compliments.

As you'll discover in your FREE report, there are safe, natural ways to protect your heart without the use of risky, side-effect-ridden drugs.

And that's not all. When you enter your email address, you'll also receive the Daily Health e-letter. Each day in the Daily Health, you'll get:

• News on the latest cutting-edge natural health breakthroughs.
• The truth behind mainstream health headlines
• First access to new product releases
• And much, much more!

Enter your email address below to receive your FREE report, 10 Drug-Free Ways to Lower High Blood Pressure and Protect Against a Heart Attack or Stroke. We'll deliver it straight to your inbox in a matter of minutes.

10 Drug-Free Ways to Lower High Blood Pressure and Protect Against a Heart Attack or Stroke

Just RSVP below for immediate access to this valuable report, with our sincere compliments.

As you'll discover in your FREE report, there are safe, natural ways to protect your heart without the use of risky, side-effect-ridden drugs.

And that's not all. When you enter your email address, you'll also receive the Daily Health e-letter. Each day in the Daily Health, you'll get:

• News on the latest cutting-edge natural health breakthroughs.
• The truth behind mainstream health headlines
• First access to new product releases
• And much, much more!

Enter your email address below to receive your FREE report, 10 Drug-Free Ways to Lower High Blood Pressure and Protect Against a Heart Attack or Stroke. We'll deliver it straight to your inbox in a matter of minutes.