The 'Demonisation' of Cholesterol

The demonisation of cholesterol

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For many years, it was thought that reducing cholesterol levels was one of the best ways to reduce the chances of a heart attack or a stroke. This appeared to make a lot of sense, as it was thought if you had too much of a certain type of cholesterol in your bloodstream, it could clog your arteries, leading to strokes and heart attacks.

We now know this was quite wrong, but armed with this information, public health bodies, along with makers of low-fat food products, went on a crusade to wipe out this silent killer. People began to change their diets in such a way that lowered their cholesterol levels, thinking that this would help them to live longer and feel healthier. However, in many cases, this type of behaviour had the opposite effect.

In recent years, scientists have discovered why this was happening. They found out that cholesterol is not the problem at all; it is the starchy and sugary junk foods coupled with polyunsaturated margarines and cooking oils that are unhealthy.

It turns out that we actually need cholesterol for our bodies to function properly, and this is why the body produces it. Low levels of cholesterol are more worrying than high levels. If the levels of cholesterol drop below a certain threshold, we can start to feel very ill indeed. Cholesterol performs a number of important functions, such as insulating nerve endings and strengthening cell walls. When we come into contact with sunlight, cholesterol in our skin turns into Vitamin D, which is essential for maintaining a number of important functions in our body. Another amazing thing about cholesterol is that it actually helps to reduce the risk of cardiac problems.

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Last updated 14 June 2012