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When "Bad" Cholesterol gets Too Low.

Updated: Jul 12, 2019

If something is truly "bad" isn't the lower the better?

The New York Times recently summarized new - but not surprising - findings - LDL that is too low presents a significant stroke risk.

Interestingly, the level that creates this massive increase in hemorrhagic stroke is a LDL target that your doctor wants you to achieve!


Summary: Take your statin drug - lower your LDL per doctor's order - Increase Stroke risk dramatically


This is not a small study and included 96,043 people for an average of nine years.

Low LDL values don't just cause strokes. It's very well known that low LDL values (<100 mg/dL) - especially when artificially lowered with a statin or other drug - cause severe mood disorders including "violent deaths," usually caused by suicide. This article was published in 2000.

Please "ask your doctor" (as so many drug commercials say) why this might be the case. Sadly few understand because cholesterol has been so demonized in our society. I have asked many doctors the following question, "What other substance, other than cholesterol, that is produced in our Liver, is harmful to our health and causes disease?" No one can name a single substance! So how can this one molecule be the only one that our own bodies make to harm us?


Quick Fact: Your brain holds 25% of the cholesterol in your body. Since your brain is quite small compared to the rest of your body, your brain holds 10 TIMES MORE CHOLESTEROL compared to the average in the rest of your body.

I highly recommend you read this article where Harvard explains high cholesterol levels in the brain and states that new guidelines call for reducing LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels to 70 mg/dL - an amount that dramatically raises your stroke risk. Of course, stroke is a breaching of a large blood vessel servicing your brain. Do you see the paradox here? At least Harvard recognizes this low LDL value is NOT good for your brain.


Here is the simple truth about cholesterol (opposed to what we have been taught).

Cholesterol: A substance made in the liver and obtained from food. This molecule is essential to life and is a building block for many of our hormones and cell membranes.


Quick Fact: When you start losing weight your LDL goes up! Why (answer below).


Mechanism: LDL and HDL are "lipoproteins." Translation: LDL and HDL are taxi cabs that shuttle fats and fat soluble substances - critical ones - through our water-based blood stream. Oil and water don't mix so for our tissues to get fats, our bodies have this beautiful transport mechanism. You can look upon HDL and LDL as soap that moves the "grease." However the "grease" the LDL and HDL is moving through out bodies are essential to life. This grease includes:

  • Vitamin A

  • Vitamin D

  • Vitamins K

  • Vitamin E

  • EPA and DHA - the brain healthy omega-3 fatty acids (and heart healthy too)

  • Triglycerides (moved for either fat storage or fat consumption)

  • Cholesterol

  • Many other fats that don't mix with water (blood) but are essential to life

What is the difference between HDL and LDL?

LDL carries important fats TO our tissues in our bodies from our liver.

HDL carries important fats FROM our tissues back to our liver for recycling or disposal.

That's their job - it's not much more complicated than this. So which is the "good" and "bad" cholesterol? Is it LDL or HDL cholesterol? NO - it's just a vehicle to move fats through our water-containing blood vessels.

Answer to why your "cholesterol" goes up when you lose weight. First, your LDL goes up, NOT your cholesterol. They say your cholesterol goes up because LDL is included in the total cholesterol number. Now the answer: LDL (and HDL) transports fats. When you lose weight, you "burn" fats in your cells (tissues). How do the fats (triglycerides in this case) get to the tissue to be burned? I hope you guessed "in LDL." Yes, the fat you are burning to lose weight is transported in LDL - thus, as you burn fat, your INTELLIGENT body (liver) produces more LDL to transport the fats to be burned. Your HDL might go up too if you are sufficient in healthy fats.

HDL and health benefit: It's well known that HDL levels are associated with benefit. Here's why: High levels of HDL simply imply sufficiency of important fats in our body. If HDL levels are low, your body is consuming all the fats that LDL brings to your bodily tissues. When HDL is high, it means you have enough fats to satisfy your tissue needs. This also explains why, as HDL goes up, the health benefit levels off. This simply means that, at a certain level of HDL, your tissues have a sufficiency of important fats.


Quick Fact: Do you know what foods are highest in cholesterol? Answer: Brain! Isn't it interesting that essentially all mammals have very high cholesterol levels in their brains? Please read the Harvard article linked above.


Finally, here is an image I use to explain that, despite studies trying to prove lowering cholesterol is beneficial, objective data suggest the opposite. What am I saying? Statin and other "cholesterol" lowering drugs actually INCREASE your risk of death:

This slide may be a bit hard to understand so here is an explanation.

  • Heart disease deaths have been on the decline since ~1970 and mirror the decrease in smoking rates.

  • In 1987 statin (cholesterol-lowering) drugs were introduced

  • The red dotted line is a projection of the expected decrease in heart disease deaths based on a 20 year trend.

  • When statins were introduced, the rate of heart disease deaths trend went UP not DOWN. If these drugs were a cure, then the heart disease death curve should have fallen - not risen!

  • UCLA reported that in ~140,000 people who were hospitalized for a heart attack, 75% had "normal" or "low" cholesterol. 75%! This theory is less accurate compared to a clock that has stopped. At least it's right twice a day.

Final Thoughts: Is cholesterol bad? Ever? You don't want to be 50 with a total cholesterol of 350 - but too many studies show very minimal benefit - if any - when the cholesterol is artificially lowered. The cholesterol (LDL) is NOT the "root-cause." Fire trucks are at fires - but they didn't cause the fire. Medicine needs to look broader and deeper for the real root causes. That's when we will see cardiovascular death stop being the #1 killer in America.

In a future series of blogs, I'll go over these root causes. My next blog will return to the 26 way you get and stay hungry.

Take pills thoughtfully to get or stay well - it's worth it!

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