The general population has internalized the message "cholesterol is harmful" and "fat in food increases cholesterol levels" without question - this dogma continues to be spread and represented in advertisements, by doctors, in magazines and even in Hollywood films: if If you eat too much steak, butter and fatty foods, you may suffer a heart attack or stroke - red meat and fatty foods should therefore be a taboo for everyone who suffers from heart and vascular diseases or does not want to get them. Many doctors continue to claim that if you eat too much cholesterol, i.e. fatty foods, the risk of heart and stroke increases.
It is therefore all the more astonishing that these statements are not only scientifically questionable, but have already been refuted several times. The statement that dietary cholesterol increases our risk of developing arteriosclerosis is not based on scientific consensus and is outdated. Because: Cholesterol in high-fat foods and cholesterol in the blood have not been linked in numerous scientific studies. In addition, the statement that foods containing cholesterol increase the risk of heart and stroke is based on outdated and now disproven statements by a doctor who successfully spread this myth after the Second World War.
In this article we would like to clarify what the scientific level of knowledge about cholesterol and nutrition really looks like, which two types of cholesterol you have to differentiate between and whether you should avoid animal fats.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is an unsaturated and tasteless alcohol that is cleaved from a steroid scaffold. The name is derived from the Greek word “chole,” meaning “fat.”
Cholesterol (when it is produced by our body, it is called cholesterol) is the most important steroid in zoology. We find cholesterol in almost all animal fats and sometimes even in plant materials - but only in small amounts. Cholesterol was first isolated in 1788 from gallstones, in which it is particularly concentrated. Since the sterol ring of cholesterol cannot be broken down, it is transported to the liver where it is converted into bile acid and finally excreted into our intestines via bile.
We also find cholesterol in our brain matter, where it makes up up to 10% of the “dry matter”. Cholesterol still makes up a large part of the mass in egg yolks, our skin, the adrenal glands and in the wool fat of sheep (called “lanolin” there).
If cholesterol is so abundant in our bodies and is a component of important organs such as the skin and brain, then it probably has a useful function, right?
What is cholesterol for?
Cholesterol is an essential component of our body. It is an important building block for our cell membrane and makes up a large part of the fat layer in our skin.
Cholesterol is often a starting product for the formation of other steroids, such as some hormones, also called steroid hormones. It is also involved in the formation of steroid alkaloids, vitamin D, and bile acid.
We humans either absorb cholesterol into our body through food or it is produced by the cells in our body themselves. Cholesterol is so important for our survival that our body can produce it itself. For example, an adult produces around 800 mg of cholesterol in one day. Basically, the cells that need cholesterol to produce hormones or other substances can usually produce it themselves. This is the case, for example, for cells that produce sex hormones or cortisone and require cholesterol for this.
As always in biology and biochemistry, however, it is not quite that simple, because not all cholesterol is created equal. And it is precisely here that we find the important distinction that calls into question the statement that cholesterol is harmful.
As already mentioned, cholesterol can be absorbed by our body through food or produced by the body itself. Cholesterol is either synthesized or transported into the blood by lipoproteins. The very lipoproteins that transport cholesterol into the blood are the actual “culprits” who have unfairly given cholesterol its bad reputation.
But how can we differentiate cholesterol in this regard?
The distinction between cholesterol according to its density is particularly important:
We differentiate between LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol), a low-density lipoprotein particle, and HDL cholesterol, a high-density lipoprotein particle.
Depending on which lipoprotein the cholesterol is transported with, the transport systems can be divided into this subgroup. Doctors measure cholesterol in the blood as a total value, which in turn can be categorized into two sub-values, HDL and LDL.
HDL – the “good” cholesterol
HDL, a high-density lipoprotein particle, serves as a transport system for cholesterol. It is colloquially known as “good” cholesterol because it has been proven not to cause hardening of the arteries and is even able to remove excess cholesterol that has been deposited in the vascular walls.
HDL transports blood fat to the liver, where it is broken down. HDL is therefore only seen by doctors and scientists as a marker for potential vascular disease - it does not itself cause cardiovascular disease.
LDL – the “bad” cholesterol
LDL, a low-density lipoprotein, has been criticized for a long time: the low-density transport proteins cause cardiovascular diseases and clog the arteries.
People with a high LDL value were warned by their doctors and their diet should be strictly restricted and animal fats avoided. If the LDL level in the blood is actually too high, the risk of cardiovascular disease also increases. However, it has not yet been clearly proven whether this increase in LDL levels is caused by dietary cholesterol. The increase in LDL levels could also be observed in people who consumed very little animal fat.
From a purely scientific point of view, the common distinction between “good” and “bad” makes little sense, since the lipoproteins are of equal quality.
But why is the LDL “evil”?
Scientific knowledge of dietary cholesterol
Scientific studies have produced the following findings: People who have high LDL or low HDL have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Lowering your LDL cholesterol levels can reduce your risk of heart attack. However, increasing the HDL value does not reduce the risk.
For this reason, scientists view HDL as a marker for cardiovascular diseases.
LDL is generally not to be viewed as “bad” cholesterol, but can be seen as a causal factor for cardiovascular diseases.
But can an unhealthy diet or a disproportionately fatty diet be ruled out as a coronary risk factor?
The violation of the basic laws of nature and economic interests
An unhealthy diet has a negative impact on our health - that's a scientific fact. Fast food, eating excessive amounts of red meat and consuming a lack of fiber and vitamins will make a person sick in the long run, that is also a fact. Animal proteins, on the other hand, have always served humans as a nutrient-rich and healthy source of food. We have been consuming animal proteins since the dawn of humanity and our bodies have evolved to optimally adapt to the utilization of these proteins.
It is also interesting that the margarine industry invested several million in the 1970s to “lower” the cholesterol in butter, even though we now know that butter is the only fat that our body can use immediately and optimally.
As early as the 1950s, the American nutritionist Ancel Keys confirmed:
“ There is no connection whatsoever between the cholesterol in food and the cholesterol in the blood. And we knew it all along. The cholesterol in food is of no interest unless you are a chicken or a rabbit. “
The fact that cholesterol and fat are fundamentally unhealthy and lead to cardiovascular disease is scientifically incorrect. Likewise, it is not scientifically proven that animal fats lead to arteriosclerosis or make us sick.
This myth was spread by an American doctor after World War II who tried to explain the high mortality rate among men from heart attacks in the United States. The fact that fewer European men died of cardiovascular diseases in post-war Europe could only be explained by the fatty food in the USA and spread this assumption at the annual medical congress - the myth took its course without sufficient and proven evidence. scientific support.
It has long been proven that the cholesterol level in our blood is not determined by what we eat.
Breast milk already contains high amounts of cholesterol and is proven to be one of the healthiest foods there is. On the other hand, overly processed foods, such as wheat flour, are strongly linked to cardiovascular diseases and blood cholesterol levels.
The human violation of the basic laws of nature and the strong modification of a natural food through technical and chemical processes has been linked in numerous studies to cardiovascular diseases, blood cholesterol levels and malignant tumors.
If a person eats a common-sense diet, including red meat, butter and whole milk, then from a scientific and nutritional perspective this is not a reason why that person will suffer or suffer from cardiovascular disease. It also does not increase blood cholesterol levels.
Numerous studies have shown that a disturbed metabolism, isolated carbohydrates from processed foods and inherited diseases are the main factors for increased LDL cholesterol levels and promote the development of arteriosclerosis, but not cholesterol.
The conclusion – cholesterol in our food has no influence on heart and vascular diseases
The conclusion is: The cholesterol in our food has no influence on heart and vascular diseases.
Cholesterol is an essential substance for our body and is produced by it itself. Cholesterol is also important so that our body can produce certain hormones and vitamins. The cholesterol in our food does not affect the cholesterol level in our blood, but isolated carbohydrates and metabolic disorders (lipid metabolism disorder).
If we eat a conscious, balanced and healthy diet, then animal fats that contain cholesterol do not pose a threat to our health, but can actually promote it.
Hereditary diseases and metabolic diseases are often a factor in which cholesterol levels should be monitored.
It is also important that we consume animal proteins from high-quality sources: such as a steak from the organic market instead of chicken nuggets. Or even whole milk from pastured cows instead of a milkshake from a fast food restaurant. High levels of saturated fat can also reduce the risk of stroke by 20%.
Because: Processed foods and isolated carbohydrates in them pose a risk for cardiovascular diseases and can promote the development of arteriosclerosis.