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The Cholesterol Dilemma: The Myth and the Reality

by Rajgopal Nidamboor(more info)

listed in stress, originally published in issue 282 - November 2022

Originally Published in


A growing catalogue of research suggests that the cholesterol-heart disease premise is more than questionable. In other words, the idea that high cholesterol, as being the only culprit, or risk factor, for heart disease, may be more than 'orchestrated' hard sell. The contention – there's no 'watertight' proof that high cholesterol alone plays a starry role in heart disease, forget about the long narrative of the 'cholesterol hazard' hypothesis. The fact is – saturated fats and cholesterol are crucial for good health and preserving robust immune defence.

However, while it is established that a persistently high level of low-density lipoproteins (LDL), or 'bad' cholesterol in the blood – along with 'excess' homocysteine and triglycerides –is indicative of as now a baffling health concern; what needs to be underlined is that one should always deal effectively with the cause of any given, or not given, illness instead of keeping one’s blood cholesterol levels awfully low.


Cholesterol Model

Space-filling model of the heavy-atom skeleton of a cholesterol molecule, C27H46O,
as found in the crystal structure at 310 K determined by single-crystal X-ray diffraction
and reported in Acta Cryst. B (2002), 58, 260-264

Courtesy: Wikipedia

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance produced in the liver and the intestinal wall; it is synthesized in every cell, except the nerve tis-sue. The body produces cholesterol on an 'as-needed-basis'. It is noteworthy that 85 per cent of cholesterol is produced by the body, while only 15 per cent is derived from food. And recent studies have evidenced that cholesterol derived from food has no effect on the level of blood cholesterol in the body.

Our body is a smart apparatus – it knows its physiology, or functional capabilities, better than state-of-the-art drugs, or technology. In other words, our body has an extremely efficient mechanism in place, which directs, produces and regulates cholesterol levels. When we eat excess cholesterol foods, for instance, the body produces less; when we eat less cholesterol, the body produces 'more,' accordingly.

In other words, it compensates for any deficit, or surfeit.

It was 70 years ago that Ancel Keys PhD a champion of what is today 'baptized' as the lipid hypothesis, 'established' that excess cholesterol triggered heart disease. He catapulted the credo that dietary fat propelled cholesterol levels 'skyward', albeit he slowly began to believe that saturated fat was the true cholesterol-hiking baddie.

Yes, the villain in saturated fat is so deeply entrenched in our minds that it lingers to be the groundwork for the lipid hypothesis, although it has never been substantiated.

To cut a long story short, cholesterol isn't as bad as it is being made out to be – it is fundamental for regulating many essential functions. It is vital for the production of hormones – right from testosterone and progesterone to aldosterone.

Hormones play a key role in metabolism, muscle, bone, sexual function, emotional responses and also behaviour. Cholesterol also regulates the exchange of nutrients and waste products. It helps in the development of the brain and the nervous system; it acts as a 'conduit' for nerve impulses.

Cholesterol promotes the digestion of foods.

Without it, complex fats and fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) cannot be absorbed.

Cholesterol also plays an essential role in the manufacture of the adrenal and pituitary hormones.

It is a key substance in the skin that gets converted to vitamin D, by sunlight.

This is not all. Cholesterol creates a barrier, preventing water and other fluids from entering the body through the skin.

Cholesterol levels in the blood are not constant; it is dynamic, or subject to fluctuation, like your blood pressure and other bodily functions. One tends to have higher levels of cholesterol in winter than in summer. Cholesterol also rises after surgical and dental procedures. It, of course, shoots up during stress.

What triggers high cholesterol levels is job stress, or workplace pressures, lack of exercise, depression, anxiety, suppressed angst, chronic pain, inflammation, acidic stomach, sleeplessness, relationships problems, among a host of other factors.

Cholesterol is a healing 'substance'. When the body has some repair job to be done, it produces cholesterol and dispatches it to the location where it is needed. On the other hand, low cholesterol levels compromise our immune defence – when this happens, one is vulnerable to infections. Research suggests that a diet rich in cholesterol enhances our ability to recover from infections more quickly. However, one needs to be discreet – not go overboard. May be, our grandma was right. She always emphasized on moderation in everything we do – including moderation. Modern medicine acquiesces to the tenet, no less.

We are all exposed to pollutants, chemicals, viruses, bacteria and free radicals on a daily basis. When these dangerous elements reach our bloodstream, the liver receives a short 'text' message to dispatch 'bad' cholesterol to the location of harm. Your body, likewise, uses cholesterol to repair damaged artery walls.

This may not be as simple as it appears to be, because if 'that' particular cholesterol is oxidized, your body still believes the artery wall is damaged – as a result, it rushes more cholesterol to 'fix' the glitch. The inflammatory process that 'jumpstarts' to refurbish artery damage merely hastens the vulnerability of the wall, contributing to the sequential response of cholesterol build-up and additional oxidation.

On the other hand, when healing takes place, the 'bad' cholesterol returns to the liver in the form of high-density lipoproteins (HDL), or 'good' cholesterol.

Nevertheless, it needs to be emphasized that, in chronic disease or illness, our blood cholesterol tends to remain persistently high.

It is also evidenced that when people consume far too much of cholesterol-rich foods, their body may not be able to cope well with the elimination process. This can, of course, occur when our liver is not functioning at its optimal level, or is not healthy. Such a premise is an exception, not a rule.

Acknowledgment Citation

A version of this article appeared in the print on May 04 2022 of The Himalayan Times

Originally Published in



  1. Tom said..

    I completely agree with this article. My body knows better than any big pharma drug ever could. I believe there are about a dozen different types of cholesterol. Why would I ever take a statin that interferes with this process? Thanks.

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About Rajgopal Nidamboor

Rajgopal Nidamboor PhD FCCP M-CAM is a Board-Certified wellness physician, Fellow of the College of Chest Physicians (FCCP), Member of the Center of Applied Medicine (M-CAM), writer-editor, commentator, critic, columnist, author, and publisher. His special interests include natural health and wellness, mind-body/integrative medicine, nutritional medicine, psychology, philosophy, and spirituality. His focus areas also encompass contemporary research and dissemination of dependable information for people concerned about their health. He feels that it is increasingly gratifying to see most individuals, including physicians, thinking outside the box – especially in areas such as natural health, where the body knows best to heal itself from the inside out. His published work includes hundreds of newspaper, magazine, Web articles, four books on natural health, two coffee-table books, a handful of E-books, a primer on therapeutics, and, most recently, Cricket Odyssey. He’s Chief Wellness Officer, Docco360, a mobile health application/platform, connecting patients with Ayurveda, homeopathic, Unani physicians, and nutrition therapists, among others, from the comfort of their home — and, Editor-in-Chief, ThinkWellness360.  Rajgopal Nidamboor lives in Navi Mumbai, India. He may be contacted via 

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