A newborn baby that is being breast-fed by its mother receives a high dose of cholesterol right from the beginning of its life. Mother's milk contains twice the cholesterol of cow's milk! Nature certainly has no intention of destroying a baby's heart by giving it such high amounts of cholesterol. On the contrary, a healthy heart consists of 10% pure cholesterol (all water removed). Our brain is made of even more cholesterol than the heart is and half of our adrenal glands consist of it. Cholesterol is an essential building block of all our body cells and is needed for every metabolic process. Because cholesterol is such an important substance for the body, every single cell is capable of producing it. We could not even live a single day without it.
The benefits of cholesterol
- is important for brain development
- protects the nerves against damage or injury
- repairs damaged sections (seals off lesions)
- supports immune functions
- gives elasticity to red blood cells
- stabilizes and protects cell membranes
- is the basic ingredient of most sexual hormones
- helps to form the skin
- is the essential substance which the skin uses to make vitamin D
- is the basic ingredient used to manufacture the body's stress hormones
- is needed to form bile acids to help digestion of fats and keep us lean
- helps to prevent kidney damage in diabetes
Cholesterol plays a vital role in every living being. Microbes, bacteria, viruses, plants, animals, and human beings all depend on it. Since cholesterol is so important for our body, we can not solely depend on its supply from external sources, but must be able to produce it independently as well. Normally, our body makes about half a gram to one gram of cholesterol a day, depending on how much the body requires at the time. The main cholesterol producers are the liver and the small intestines. These organs release the cholesterol into the blood stream where it is immediately tied to blood proteins that are responsible for transporting it to their designated areas for the purposes listed above. Cholesterol constituents of fat and protein molecules, which gives it the name 'Lipo Protein'. Only about five percent of our cholesterol circulates in the blood, the rest is used for numerous activities in the body's cells.
If a healthy person consumed 100g of butter a day (the average European eats 18g a day), he would ingest 240-mg cholesterol, of which only 30-60% would be absorbed through his intestines. This would give him about 90 mg cholesterol every day. Yet, of this amount, only 12 mg would eventually end up in his blood and raise the cholesterol level by as little as 0.2%. In comparison, our body is able to produce 400 times more cholesterol than we could get from eating 100g butter. In other words, if you eat more than the usual amount of cholesterol with your food, your blood cholesterol levels will naturally rise. However, to balance this increase your body will automatically reduce its own cholesterol production. This self-regulating mechanism ensures that cholesterol remains on the exact level that your body requires in order to sustain optimum functions and equilibrium.
If eating fatty foods does not significantly increase cholesterol levels to meet the body's demands for this vital substance then the body must take other more drastic measures. One of them is the stress response. If your body runs low in cholesterol, you are likely to feel stressed. You will lose your calm and patience, and feel tense. Stress is a powerful trigger for cholesterol production in the body. Since cholesterol is the basic constituent of all stress hormones, any unsettling situation will use up large quantities of cholesterol. To make up for the loss or increased demand of cholesterol, the liver starts making more of it.
Take the example of the cholesterol-increasing effect of television. Research has shown that watching television for several hours at a time can drive up blood cholesterol more dramatically than any other so called risk factors, including diet, sedentary lifestyle, or genetic disposition. Exposure to television is a great challenge for the brain. It is far beyond the brain's capacity to process the flood of incoming stimuli that emanate from the overwhelming number of picture frames appearing on the TV screen every second. The resulting strain takes its toll. Blood pressure increases to help move more oxygen, glucose, cholesterol, vitamins, and other nutrients around the body and to the brain, all of which are used up very quickly by the heavy brainwork. Add violence, suspense and the noise of gunshots etc., to the spectacle and the adrenal glands respond with shots of adrenaline to prepare the body for a “fight or flight”. This causes contracting of many large and small blood vessels in the body, leading to shortage of water, sugar and other nutrients in the cells.
The signs for this stress-response can be several. You may feel shattered, exhausted, and stiff in neck and shoulders, very thirsty, lethargic, depressed, and even “too tired” to go to sleep. If the body did not bother to increase cholesterol levels during such stress encounters, we would have millions of television deaths by now. Thanks to rising cholesterol levels for saving TV viewers!