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Cholesterol, Hormones and the Liver

cholesterol-scapegoatYou’ve probably heard all kinds of wrong things about cholesterol.

Cholesterol from foods is being blamed for all kinds of health issues. This is however very misleading, and I’ve written and talked previously about eggs and cholesterol and you can find a list of the top foods high in cholesterol here.

Cholesterol as a substance is the building block of all our steroid (sex) hormones, including progesterone, DHEA, testosterone and estrogen.

It is an essential building block of cell membranes, including neurons in the brain. It’s also essential for vitamin D to be produced at proper levels.

Not enough cholesterol in the body can mean a lot of problems.

Fortunately, our liver does a good job of producing the cholesterol our body needs. It produces about 1500 mg cholesterol per day for an adult.

An egg contains about 300 mg cholesterol; not so much, right? If you eat 2 eggs, your liver adjusts its production and will produce less cholesterol. (except when you take statin drugs, which completely block this cholesterol synthesis in the liver and can have dangerous side-effects)

Now, when people talk about having high cholesterol, it’s something else. It’s not the cholesterol in the brain or in the cells, it’s the cholesterol in the blood. It’s very different.

In the blood, we need to keep cholesterol at a healthy level. Not too high, and not too low, either.

Too much cholesterol in the blood can cause health issues (not necessarily heart disease, though), and lower levels of our steroid hormones are produced. These are the hormones that make you feel energetic and alive. When you have optimal levels of them, you feel fantastic.

So, sometimes, cholesterol accumulates in the blood, not because you are eating too much cholesterol-rich foods, but because it can’t be used by the body to produce adequate levels of sex hormones.

Why?

Often because of nutritional deficiencies. You need enough zinc, enough essential fatty acids (omega 3s) in order for cholesterol to be converted into steroid hormones. Foods high in zinc are on my list here. Foods high in omega3s are here.

Cholesterol can also accumulate in the blood when your liver doesn’t function optimally.

It’s the liver that will transform and excrete excess cholesterol from your body so it doesn’t accumulate in the blood. Yes, the liver does produce cholesterol and does also excrete excess cholesterol. It’s a complex mechanism that’s carefully regulated.

So when the liver is overloaded with caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, fructose, toxins from foods or the environment, unhealthy fats, plus there are hormonal issues and bowel problems, the path out of the liver can be highly congested (and it won’t appear in routine blood tests until very late).

And when it’s the case, the cholesterol gets released back into the blood.

That’s why people who eat zero cholesterol from foods can still have high blood cholesterol.

So, my best advice is this one: take care of your liver. No need to be restricting eggs or other foods just because there’s some cholesterol in them (they also contain plenty of nutrients our body needs).

And eat a healthy diet (it’s basic advice but it works!), with a proper amount of essential fats, while making sure you get enough zinc and other nutrients.

This is #5 of these nutrition and weight loss series. Here are the other articles:
#1 – When Coffee Makes You Gain Weight (or Have High Blood Pressure)
#2 – Your scale is lying to you
#3 – Busy Woman Syndrome
#4 – Portion sizes matter more than calories
 

 
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