Cholesterol Myths

There are so many myths about cholesterol that it makes sense to have an article that can help make sense of all the myths and half truths that are circulating about cholesterol. The first question is what is cholesterol and how does it affect a person’s health? Cholesterol is a naturally synthesised lipoprotein and is the result of break down of food. Cholesterol is found in almost all mammals. Unusual build up of cholesterol can cause blockage of major arteries, especially arteries that provide blood to the heart (coronary arteries). The build up of cholesterol leads to problems like atherosclerosis and can cause cardiac arrest. Now that we know what cholesterol can do let’s start with some common myths:

Myth 1 – Cholesterol is unnatural

This is not true; cholesterol is a naturally synthesised lipid and is essential for the build up of cell membranes. Without cholesterol a cell‘s structural integrity is effected, and the cell cannot function properly. Apart from acting as the ‘cement’ of a cell, cholesterol also aids the production of bile, and may also act as an anti-oxidant. So the body makes up cholesterol no matter what a person eats.

Myth 2- All cholesterol is bad

This is another popular myth; cholesterol is divided into LDL (Low density lipoproteins) and HDL (High density lipoproteins). Earlier it was believed that high levels of cholesterol in general were bad for the body, however with advances in technology and with newer testing techniques it is now possible to measure the levels of LDL and HDL in the blood separately. Only high levels of LDL are a matter for concern, as it has been established that HDL is by and large good for the body and indicates that the body is functioning normally. Not all cholesterol is bad for the heart.

Myth 3- Eating oily food can cause Cholesterol build up

This myth is partly true, not all oily foods are harmful for the body. There are only certain oily foods that can cause the accumulation of LDL in the body. Also oily food by and large contributes to other problems like obesity. So in a nutshell eating too much oily food is generally unhealthy, however what type of oily food you eat determines if your will have high LDL levels.

Myth 4- Eating medication alone can reduce Cholesterol level

Just like diabetes, using drugs is only one part of the battle. Yes medication can reduce the amount of LDL in the body, however without dietary control and regular exercise it is impossible to control the LDL levels in the body effectively. Almost all physicians recommend a lifestyle change once high levels of LDL are detected after a blood test. It is important to understand that high LDL levels are not always a result of improper habits; they could be other reasons for a high LDL build up. But there is no denying that a strict dietary regimen is important to control the levels of cholesterol in the body. Major dietary sources of cholesterol include eggs, beef and poultry.

Myth 5- High cholesterol levels are hereditary

There is no scientific study that can conclusively prove that the tendency to accumulate high levels of cholesterol in the body is inherited. The truth is that just like diabetes, people that have a family history of heart diseases and cholesterol problems maybe susceptible to high cholesterol themselves. However this in no way means that a person will definitely show high cholesterol levels if there is a family history of cholesterol related problems. Similarly, just because there is no past history of high cholesterol in a family, does not mean that family members cannot exhibit high cholesterol levels. It is better to regularly test the cholesterol levels if a person has a past history of high cholesterol. Equally important is to maintain a healthy lifestyle.