When it comes to cholesterol, even many alternative-minded people see it just as something bad, a killer to be avoided as much as possible in the diet. The story seems simple enough: too much cholesterol in the diet coming from egg yolks, butter, red meat, and so on, causes cholesterol in the blood to go up. That in turn causes clogging of the arteries and, given enough time, heart disease and even early death.
While it has been shown that high blood cholesterol in young to middle aged but otherwise healthy individuals often leads to heart disease, the link between blood cholesterol levels and cholesterol in the diet has never been conclusively established. For example, when studies of the Atkins diet were finally released, they showed that blood cholesterol levels went down – not up – in people following this notoriously high cholesterol diet.
At the same time, studies of people on vegan or other very low or no cholesterol diets failed to show dramatic drops in blood cholesterol levels. In my own professional experience I have known several people over the years who switched to a vegan diet containing no cholesterol only to see their blood cholesterol levels go up rather than down.
We also hear increasingly from mainstream medical sources that high cholesterol is a problem that originates in childhood and that, conceivably, is when the foundation for heart disease later in life is laid.
In our bodies it is the liver that has the task of making cholesterol, and cholesterol from the liver accounts for the vast majority of what is measured in blood. The question then is: what really causes the liver to make excessive amounts of cholesterol?
A study published in the Archives of Pediatrics Adolescent Medicine may provide at least a part of the answer to that question and can be found at http://www.nhiondemand.com/hsjarticle.aspx?id=915&utm_source=NHI+OnDemand+Newsletter+List&utm_campaign=a61eed16f7-HSJ_Sep30_2010&utm_medium=email
This study shows that exposure to toxic chemicals similar to those found in our everyday environment induced the liver to make more cholesterol causing blood cholesterol levels to go up. This appears to be a natural response of the body given that cholesterol itself has antioxidant properties, and helps shuttle poisons out of the body. When the exposure to toxins was overwhelming or the liver was weak, this response failed and blood cholesterol levels actually dropped following the exposure.
These findings ring a bell for me because at many of the seminars I have attended on autism and ADHD I heard from researchers in the field that children with autism or ADHD often had either very high or very low blood cholesterol levels.
The children with the lowest cholesterol were most severely affected and least likely to respond positively to natural interventions such as diet change, vitamin therapy, or detoxification. At the same time stories were being reported about mothers giving their autistic children up to 6 or 8 raw egg yolks every day, only to see them recover from their autism. So much so that some vitamin companies started to make and sell cholesterol supplements.
Given the research linking cholesterol levels with exposure to toxins, these findings are truly remarkable. Presumably – and as research continues to suggest – both ADHD and autism are the result of exposure to toxins early in life.
When cholesterol levels go up in children with ADHD or autism, their livers responded appropriately, showing greater resiliency and ability to recover. When cholesterol drops to very low levels, it seems that the body is completely overwhelmed by toxins. Any improvements or recovery are then harder to achieve and it takes a greater effort to rebuild health at the cellular level through gentle detoxification and other natural approaches.
Another very interesting study looked at cholesterol levels and long-term survival rates among groups of people facing different health challenges. These included: (1) the elderly, (2) cancer survivors, and (3) people suffering from congestive heart failure or kidney failure.
In all of these groups, the individuals with the highest (not the lowest) cholesterol levels were the ones who lived the longest (see: Archives of Medical Science 2007; lipids in aging and chronic illness: impact on survival). To me, this study shows the same thing that was observed in children with ADHD and autism. A strong liver in highly vulnerable and weakened individuals associated with higher cholesterol production in response to environmental toxins also shows greater resiliency and propensity for long-term survival. Scrambled eggs anyone?