|Can Your Cholesterol Get Too "Low"?|
In the blitzkrieg on fat by the media, cholesterol has been held hostage and charged with clogging human circulatory system, restricting blood flow to vital organs, and causing heart and brain problems. But with the war crime tribunals' verdict on the obesity war, the cholesterol stands vindicated and its rightful place in the dietary kingdom restored.
All along, we are being told ---fat is the root of all evil. Lower your fat, lower your cholesterol. But how low can cholesterol getall Can it get "too low"?
In general, you want more of high density lipoprotein (HDL), the "good cholesterol", and less of low density lipoprotein (LDL), "the bad cholesterol". Your total cholesterol level should not be not less than 160 - 180 mg/dL and your HDL cholesterol level should be not below 100 mg/dL. A low total cholesterol reading is not necessarily good, because it can hide a low level of HDL. Similarly, having a high total cholesterol reading may not be bad; in fact it may be good if it's the HDL component that is high. The LDL sticks to artery walls and builds up the plaque, but HDL removes excess cholesterol from the plaques, slows their growth and protects us from heart attack. Similarly, a low HDL cholesterol level too may raise stroke risk, whereas a high HDL level acts as a protective shield.
Trust our body to know what is good for it. Ever wondered why the body itself produces most of the required cholesterol? Cholesterol is essential to the body. Breast milk has high levels of cholesterol and the breast-fed babies learn to metabolize cholesterol better, with the result their blood cholesterol levels and the risk of coronary diseases as adults are lower than the formula-fed babies.
Cholesterol plays an important role in cell membrane structure. About 10 to 20% of the brain is composed of cholesterol. Essential substances like the sex hormones and vitamin D are also made of cholesterol. Cholesterol is the precursor to bile acids, which are needed to digest and absorb long-chain fatty acids. Hence low cholesterol is bad for the liver.
A growing body of evidence indicates that very low cholesterol can be dangerous, just as high cholesterol is hazardous to health. Low cholesterol levels can cause depression, anxiety, violent behavior or suicide, because of the reduced levels of serotonin in the brain. Researchers suggest, though not very conclusively, that very low cholesterol levels may be associated with an increased risk of cancer. Atromid-S, the first drug approved for the lowering of cholesterol,was withdrawn from the market in 2000 as it was found to increase the incidence of gallstones, cancer, liver disease, and pancreatitis.