Cholesterol is a molecule that has captivated scientists since the day it was first discovered in 1769. However, in the 250 years since, cholesterol has become the #1 most misunderstood nutrient in the human body. Because it was found to be a component of arterial plaque, cholesterol was instantly deemed an enemy. Almost overnight, western medicine decided that the lower your cholesterol levels are, the healthier you will be. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. Research has found that arterial plaque is, in fact, the body’s way of healing inflamed tissue. As Doug DiPasquale puts it, “The logic of lowering cholesterol levels to increase health is akin to lowering the number of fire trucks in order to decrease the number of fires. Afterall, fire trucks are always found at the scene of the crime.”
Cholesterol is so essential to human health that almost every cell in the body is constantly producing it (most of it is made in the liver), but nowhere is it needed more than in the human brain. 25% of all the body’s cholesterol is found in the nervous system, and 60% of the brain is made of fat. “DHA [a type of omega-3 fat] alone makes up about 15-20% of your brain’s cerebral cortex,” writes Mercola.com. “It’s found in high levels in your neurons — the cells of your central nervous system, where it provides structural support.” One of the fundamentals of cholesterol’s importance is the fact that it is also needed to make various hormones and neurotransmitters which your brain cells use to communicate with each other. Without high levels of cholesterol your brain cells will die. What’s more, cholesterol is an antioxidant that protects the body against cancer, it plays a critical role in the production of vitamin D, and is also vital in keeping cell membranes firm and preventing them from becoming porous.
Unfortunately, thanks to Big Pharma, cholesterol-lowering drugs (i.e. statins) are quickly becoming the most prescribed drug in America. A 2012 CDC report found that “17% of those aged 40 to 59 took such medications, while use increased to 48% among those 75 and older.” The second most prescribed medication in America is generic Zocor (simvastatin), a cholesterol-lowering statin, with 94.1 million prescriptions in 2010. And the most profitable drug in the United States is Lipitor, the very first cholesterol-lowering statin drug on the market, with a 2010 revenue of $7.2 billion. From 1996 to 2012, Lipitor (i.e. atorvastatin) became the world’s best-selling drug of all time, with more than $125 billion in sales over approximately 14.5 years (Pfizer’s patent on atorvastatin expired in November 2011, and the drug is now available in generic forms such as Zocor, as mentioned earlier).
With millions of people taking these cholesterol-lowering drugs it’s no surprise that rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease are on the rise. In a May 2013 article for AARP, Dr. Armon B. Neel Jr. writes: “A study published in the journal Pharmacotherapy in 2009 found that three out of four people using these drugs experienced adverse cognitive effects ‘probably or definitely related to’ the drug. The researchers also found that 905 of the patients who stopped statin therapy reported improvements in cognition, sometimes within days. In February 2012, the Food and Drug Administration ordered drug companies to add a new warning label about possible memory problems to the prescribing information for statins.” AARP recommends these patients talk to their doctors about getting off these drugs, and replace these dangerous statins with “a combination of sublingual (under-the-tongue) vitamin B12 (1,000 mcg daily), folic acid (800 mcg daily) and vitamin B6 (200 mg daily).”
Another study published in the journal Neurology found that higher levels of cholesterol actually decreases the risk of dementia in the elderly. “High cholesterol in late life was associated with decreased dementia risk, which is in contrast to previous studies suggesting high cholesterol in mid-life is a risk factor for later dementia,” conclude the study’s authors. “The conflicting results may be explained by the timing of the cholesterol measurements in relationship to age and the clinical onset of dementia.” The research was a joint venture of the Center on Aging and Health, the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers, the Department of Mental Health, The Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Institute of Clinical Neurosciences, and others.