It might be hard to believe, but cholesterol is super important for hormone production, brain health, vitamin D production and lots more!
That sounds a little counter intuitive, right? After all we’re usually told that cholesterol is something to avoid at all costs!
Well, in this post we will dive into the 6 cholesterol benefits for women’s health and what you can do to maintain healthy levels of this powerful fat!
3 QUICK CHOLESTEROL FACTS
1. Cholesterol is made in the liver
One of the most outstanding facts about cholesterol is that the body makes 80-90% of it in the liver.
That’s right! Your body doesn’t rely exclusively on cholesterol from food.
You already have a built-in mechanism for cholesterol production, because cholesterol is THAT important for your health.
Puts a whole new perspective on all the talk about cholesterol being dangerous, right?
2. Cholesterol doesn’t affect heart health…not in the way we think
Something else that’s fascinating about cholesterol?
75% of people who are hospitalized for a heart attack have cholesterol levels that are considered “healthy.”
Wait, that’s confusing, isn’t it? We’re usually told that cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease.
If that’s really the case, wouldn’t most people who are hospitalized for a heart attack have elevated cholesterol? Hmm, the data says otherwise.
In fact, a review of 30 studies suggests that high LDL (aka bad cholesterol) is not directly linked to cardiovascular death or all-cause mortality.
Now how’s that for confusion?
3. Cholesterol production is auto-regulated
The last, but certainly not the least, interesting thing about cholesterol is that the body auto-regulates its production of cholesterol.
This means that when we eat high quantities of cholesterol-containing foods, the liver lowers its production of cholesterol.
This keeps everything in balance. BUT…this only happens when we’re taking good care of the liver with daily rituals like drinking enough water and minimizing exposure to toxins.
As for heart disease, and other cholesterol-related problems, their true cause lies in a combination of inflammation and toxicity. Those conditions are really just a symptom of deeper lifestyle and dietary issues.
6 CHOLESTEROL BENEFITS FOR WOMEN’S HEALTH
1. Supports brain health
The brain is only about 2% of our body weight but it contains approximately 25% of the body’s cholesterol.
One of the key functions of cholesterol in the brain is to create neuronal connections. When we learn something new or have a new experience that we record in memory, a neuronal connection is made.
So, overall cholesterol helps us learn better and retain information.
In fact, research (1, 2) shows that elderly people with sufficiently high cholesterol have the best memory and cognitive function (this includes the ability to think clearly).
As the research indicates, it’s not just total cholesterol that has to be high in order to see these positive results.
Even the so-called bad cholesterol (LDL) was unexpectedly high in the study participants, while the “good cholesterol” (HDL) was low.
This is the exact opposite of what we’ve always been told and it shows that when it comes to cholesterol it’s not just a question of good vs bad cholesterol. It’s about having a healthy balance.
2. Key component of healthy breast milk
Cholesterol and fat make up 50% – 60% of breast milk.
Nature designed it this way because throughout human history babies have relied exclusively on breast milk for their nutrition and development.
And it just so happens that cholesterol, and other fats, are essential for newborns because fat is critical for proper brain development.
In fact, the brain is considered the fattest organ in the body, consisting of at least 60% fat.
It’s worth nothing that while baby formula is often sold as convenient and nutritious, it doesn’t contain cholesterol.
This means that any baby who is fed mainly formula is missing a critical building block for his or her development.
3. Essential for hormone production
There are 5 groups of steroid hormones in the body: progestagens, glucocorticoids, mineralocorticoids, androgens, and estrogens.
Cholesterol is needed for the production of every one of these hormones.
Because hormone affect every aspect of the human life cycle, any shortage of cholesterol can be detrimental at any stage in life.
So what role do these hormones play in the body? Here’s a quick snapshot:
- progesterone is needed for implantation of the ovum and maintenance of pregnancy.
- androgens create male characteristics.
- estrogens create female characteristics.
Last but not least, glucocorticoids inhibit inflammation, promote the formation of glycogen and help in the breakdown of fats and proteins.
4. Assists in vitamin D Production
Daily sun exposure is by far, the best way for the body to produce vitamin D.
However, if the body is low on cholesterol, then vitamin D production is hindered.
That’s because when sun rays hit the skin, a substance called 7-dehydrocholesterol is converted into vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is the active form of vitamin D that the body can actually use.
To make things even more intruiging, it turns out that 7-dehydrocholesterol is itself a precursor to cholesterol i.e. it’s needed to make cholesterol!
So there’s a strong connection between cholesterol and vitamin D. If something in this “chain of command” is missing it can lead to a host of other health issues.
5. Keeps the cell wall healthy
The membranes of every single cell in the body – as well as the membranes of structures inside the cells – are made of cholesterol (along with other fats and proteins).
Cholesterol’s role in the cell membrane is to keep it sturdy yet flexible.
A sturdy yet flexible cell membrane allows nutrients to be transported into the cell, and allows waste to be transported out of the cell.
If there is any malfunction in the membrane, then the right nutrients won’t get in and the waste won’t get out (leading to toxicity).
6. Assists in the digestion and absorption of fat
Bile is a fluid produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder.
The body uses bile to digest and absorb fat, as well as to absorb fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E and K).
Bile contains bile acids which are made from cholesterol.
Without sufficient cholesterol, the body has difficulty making bile acids. This ultimately makes it difficult for us to process and digest the fats that we eat.
Bile is also important for waste elimination because waste products are secreted into the bile and then, in feces.
4 WAYS TO MAINTAIN HEALTHY CHOLESTEROL LEVELS
When it comes to making sure that the body has the cholesterol it needs, here are some helpful tips to follow:
Eat healthy fats: Avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, seeds, grass-fed butter and wild-caught fatty fish are all great ways to optimize cholesterol levels, and also enjoy the other health benefits that these foods offer.
Consume more plant fiber: Beans, nuts, seeds and veggies (e.g. lettuce, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, tomatoes, peppers) are all great sources of fiber that help maintain healthy levels of cholesterol.
Go for grass-fed animal protein: When it comes to eggs, meat and butter go with organic, grass-fed, antibiotic free varieties. They’re 1000x healthier than the standard varieties.
Get tested for insulin resistance: Studies (3, 4) show that people with insulin resistance make more cholesterol, yet they also absorb less cholesterol.
If you suspect that you might be insulin resistant, it’s worth getting tested. In the meantime, eating more plants and healthy fats will start to improve your health and reverse any issues that may be developing.
Now over to you…do you pay attention to your cholesterol levels and if so, what’s been your experience when it comes to improving your health?
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