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Cholesterol: Can It Be Too Low?

Posted Aug 17 2012 10:07pm

If you’ve heard anything about cholesterol levels, it’s that high cholesterol is bad for your health. High blood cholesterol is one of the reasons why people are advised to avoid eggs and saturated fats, and it is said to be one of the major risk factors for heart disease. A lot of information has been provided about optimal levels and how people can lower high cholesterol levels. What people don’t talk about is the fact that we do need cholesterol, it’s not all bad and, in fact, there is such a thing as having cholesterol levels that are too low. That’s right, it is possible to have a low level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol or a low total cholesterol level, and it’s important that people understand that levels leaning too far in either direction can be a bad thing.

The fact is that we actually need cholesterol to live. It is found not only in the bloodstream but also in every cell in the body. Cholesterol helps produce cell membranes, hormones, vitamin D and bile acids that help with fat digestion. It also helps in the formation of memories, and is essential for neurological function.

Though high cholesterol may increase the risk of heart disease, in some cases, having low total cholesterol can increase the risk of other health problems. The connection between low levels of LDL cholesterol and such health risks is still not fully understood, but in some cases, these levels may increase the likelihood of cancer, depression and anxiety. Women who have low cholesterol during pregnancy may experience a preterm birth and low birth weight.

Cholesterol is also essential for the creation of vitamin D. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption and helps the body maintain adequate levels of a variety of necessary minerals. The best way to obtain this vitamin is through safe exposure to the sun. With safe exposure, UVB rays in the sunlight interact with cholesterol on the skin and convert it to vitamin D. Without high enough cholesterol levels, this essential vitamin cannot be produced.

Because cholesterol is needed in order for the cells of the body to thrive, depriving the body of the amount of cholesterol it needs can wreak havoc throughout the bodyincluding in the brain. This is why symptoms of depression may increase when cholesterol levels are too low. In fact, researchers have found that those in the lowest quarter of total cholesterol concentration had more than six times the risk of committing suicide as those in the highest quarter.

If your cholesterol is unnaturally high and there is a need to lower it to a safer level, there are ways to do so without taking an invasive regimen of medication. Eat plenty of high-quality, animal-based omega3 fats, and reduce the grains and sugars in your diet. Increase your consumption of raw food, and eat healthy, raw fats that can be found in olive oil, coconuts, coconut oil, organic raw dairy products, avocados, raw nuts and seeds. Engage in frequent and appropriate exercise, and avoid smoking and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.

RESOURCES

Behrenbeck, Thomas., MD, Ph.D., “Can your total cholesterol level be too low?” MayoClinic.com. Retrieved June 7, 2012 from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cholesterol-level/AN01394 .

Mercola, Joseph. “The Cholesterol Myth That Could Be Harming Your Health.” HuffingtonPost.com. (August 12, 2010) Retrieved June 7, 2012 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mercola/the-cholesterol-myth-that_b_676817.html .

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