Ohh No, My Cholesterol Is Too Low!
Although it’s true that sugar promotes cholesterol production, and the polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) interfere with it, restricting sugar consumption and increasing fat intake can lose its appeal when you learn about some of the problems associated with low cholesterol.
“We noted a clear relationship between low cholesterol and increased mortality…we observed that low cholesterol was associated with increased risks of cancer, hemorrhagic stroke, and heart failure excluding myocardial infarction.”
“During an average of 17 years of follow-up after the last examination, 747 subjects died from cancer…The group with the highest decline in cholesterol displayed an excess risk for most cancer sites.”
It can be a surprise to discover that there is a connection between low cholesterol levels and increased susceptibility to things like cancer, stroke and infection. And it can be even more of a shock to hear about scientific literature showing evidence of a direct, possibly causal relationship between low cholesterol and suicide, violence and even accidents.
“…studies show that low total cholesterol concentrations appear to be associated with an increased risk of death from suicide and injuries…finding of this study is that the risk of acute suicidality decreases with increasing total cholesterol levels irrespective of age, gender and nutritional status…”
“The present study revealed that the serum TC [total cholesterol] and serum LDL-C levels were significantly lower in suicidal patients than in both nonsuicidal patients and healthy controls…compared with the highest serum TC level category, a lower serum TC level was associated a 112% higher risk of suicidality, including a 123% higher risk of suicide attempt and an 85% higher risk of suicide completion.”
“The results of our study add to a growing body of evidence showing the association between suicidal behavior and low levels of total cholesterol in people with schizophrenia. In addition, we found that this association may also apply to low total lipids, and, in most cases, to low LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.”
Regardless, for many it would seem crazy to even suggest the idea that reducing fat intake (especially PUFAs) and increasing sugar consumption, is somehow related to this, and could be beneficial, and disease and stress preventative.
Cholesterol is however, one of the body’s primary anti-stress substances. It is produced largely by the liver, but a big amount is also made in the brain. Cholesterol gets converted into the highly protective hormones, such as pregnenolone, progesterone, and DHEA.
Proper thyroid metabolism is crucial for both the production of cholesterol and the subsequent conversion of cholesterol into the more specialized hormones. Under stress, when thyroid is often suppressed, cholesterol can continue to have a safeguarding role. In fact, during times of stress a reasonably healthy person will make more cholesterol as a basic form of defense.
So high cholesterol is likely to be a sign that energy metabolism is suppressed, which often means less of the highly brain-protective hormones – such as pregnenolone and progesterone – are being produced. There are many reason why thyroid energy system issues can be problematic.
It can then seem like a contradiction, when low cholesterol is also said to be associated with disease, or with the disorders of the mind. It’s only when you begin to understand the possible metabolic issues behind high as well as low cholesterol, that things can start to get a little clearer.
Both low cholesterol and high cholesterol can promote health issues, and the details and context are important.
The combination of suppressed thyroid function with low cholesterol production, however, can possibly be an indicator of very serious metabolic problems, and thus, can potentially be more dangerous than your basic low thyroid high cholesterol situation. Chances are, this is the time when protection against stress is at its lowest level, and so it seems to make sense that under these circumstances there is a higher risk of disease progression, including an increased likelihood of violent or suicidal thought and behavior.
Having low cholesterol because your body is unable to produce it in sufficient amounts – due to interfering drugs or dietary and other metabolic factors – is not at all the same as lowering cholesterol to reasonably ‘normal’ levels, by improving metabolism and health, producing enough and using or converting enough.
Very few health authorities seem to be aware of this basic physiological distinction. I’m not a doctor and I don’t give medical advice, but I have looked into this subject reasonably deeply, and I’m aware of the fact that there is a fair amount of good quality biological evidence out there which is far more logical than the official approach to this subject, and which does not appear to have been invalidated.
There is truth behind the suggestion that rising cholesterol is generally not a sign of optimal health, but sub-optimal health is not a justification for the use of harmful and potentially dangerous treatment methodologies, especially when you take a more holistic look at the available biological evidence, including evidence showing that in an aging population, high cholesterol has been demonstrated to be an accurate predictor of longevity.
There is good reason to think that the mainstream view of sugar is also not particularly well informed or accurate. Apart from assisting in the production of cholesterol, sugar consumption is important for the promotion of good thyroid metabolism. When sugar is restricted – particularly in the presence of lots of stress – glycogen stores are often quickly depleted, increasing levels of exposure to cortisol and adrenaline (and other stress substances), as well as encouraging the release of fat out of storage.
“Previous studies have shown an association between low concentration of serum cholesterol, as well as high concentration of serum cortisol, in suicide behavior…Patients with a violent suicidal attempt were found to have significantly lower cholesterol levels and significantly higher cortisol level than patients with non-violent attempts and the control subjects.”
When free fatty acids are highly polyunsaturated in composition, the impact of stress – combined with sugar restriction – upon cholesterol metabolism and thyroid function, can be potentially intensified, leading to more serious issues.
Ongoing exposure to excessive amounts of PUFAs can play a big part in the promotion of the kinds of physiological conditions in which thyroid function is low and cholesterol availability is low, and the substances of stress and inflammation are rising. Metabolically speaking, this is not a good condition to be in.
PUFAs have been shown to directly interfere with digestion, promoting bacterial overgrowth and increasing endotoxin (as well as serotonin, estrogen and nitric oxide) levels. Endotoxin – and other substances of stress – can suppress thyroid metabolism and interfere with cholesterol production. All of these factors have also been shown to be able to promote the disorders of mood.
“It has been found that metabolic deregulation, especially altered lipid profile including low total cholesterol…may underlie higher suicide risk in patients with schizophrenia…affective disorders…schizoaffective disorder…anorexia nervous…panic disorder…obsessive-compulsive disorder…dissociative disorder…patients with epilepsy…and mixed groups of patients with various psychiatric disorders…”
“…correlation between plasma levels of nitric oxide metabolites (NO(x)) and suicide attempt…Among the patients with a diagnosis of major depression, suicidal depressive patients had significantly higher plasma NO(x) levels than non-suicidal depressive patients.”
As cholesterol plays an important role in the detoxification of endotoxin (and other bowel toxins), low cholesterol can increase damage caused by exposure to endotoxin, including a greater likelihood of the liver being exposed to more stress, and becoming overloaded. Interfering with the liver can interfere with the production of cholesterol, and this can potentially then create a vicious cycle or downward spiral of worsening metabolic performance, inflammation, as well as worsening mood issues.
“Of the various reasons offered for the hypocholesterolemia seen in critically ill and injured patients…one that seems especially important is related to the ability of lipids and lipoproteins to bind to and neutralize bacterial endotoxin…It has been noted that LPS [endotoxin]…stimulates the release of a cascade of proinflammatory cytokines…If LPS binds to lipoproteins (e.g. cholesterol)…then cytokine release is decreased…”
“…there is a growing body of evidence that inflammation, as manifested by increased levels of pro‐inflammatory cytokines and inflammatory metabolites, is present in patients with suicidal behaviour and ideation.”
The relationship between low cholesterol, endotoxin, rising levels of inflammation, and increasing stress, with rising levels of violence and suicide, seems to be quite logical when observed from this perspective.
“We have examined if abnormalities of the innate immune receptors, known as Toll-like receptors (TLRs), in the brain are associated with depression and suicide…The observed abnormalities of proinflammatory cytokines in the brain of suicide victims may be related to an abnormality of TLR3 and TLR4 over-expression.”
There is also a lot of evidence suggesting that the inflammatory byproducts of bacteria – including endotoxin – rather than cholesterol per se (which is inherently protective), plays an important part in the development of atherosclerosis.
“Atherosclerosis is initiated by inflammation in arterial endothelial and subendothelial cells, and inflammatory processes are implicated in its progression to clinical heart disease. Endotoxin and TLR4 play a central role in the inflammatory process…”
This is especially true in combination with ongoing exposure to PUFAs – known to be fundamental promoters of inflammation – which can have a damaging effect on cholesterol, possibly reducing its protective capability, potentially making it harmful under certain circumstances.
Contrary to a lot of the more popular belief systems going around, levels of endotoxin, cortisol, serotonin, estrogen and nitric oxide tend to rise as a result of stress, inhibited thyroid performance, and low cholesterol availability. All of these stress substances have been demonstrated to promote inflammation, and most have been shown to be connected to violent behavior and suicidal ideation and completion.
“Compared with nonpsychiatric control cases, suicides had four times as much total 5-HT [serotonin]…The difference in 5-HT between controls and suicides was present throughout the rostrocaudal extent of the brainstem samples…5-HT synthesis in suicides is greater…”
“…significant difference of cholesterol concentration between groups, with lowest concentration in depressed patients with attempted suicide…serotonin was significantly lower in the group of depressed patients with no suicide attempt…compared to the same diagnosis in the group of depressed patients with suicide attempt.”
“…authors have noted an increased incidence in mortality due to murder, accidents and suicide in subjects who have had their cholesterol levels reduced…Following cholesterol-lowering drug treatment…a trend toward an increase in serotonin levels was observed.”
Sugar consumption can help lower stress in general, reducing exposure to the stress hormones and related substances of inflammation and energy metabolism interference.
Bacterial endotoxin promotes serotonin and estrogen, and circulation of PUFAs can make all three more inflammatory and metabolically harmful. Thyroid and cholesterol combine to make the anti-inflammatory pro-metabolism hormones (including pregnenolone), and it would be illogical to think that this is not important information when it comes to looking at what is protective against disease and abnormal behavior.
Pregnenolone has been shown to protect against the symptoms of mental illness, including schizophrenia.
“…exogenous administration of…pregnenolone…in humans may help alleviate loneliness. Congruent with our hypothesis, exogenous administration…in humans has been shown to improve various stress-related disorders…”
Avoiding PUFAs (including the fish oils) and restricting difficult to digest starches and fibrous materials, can help to reduce exposure to bacteria and endotoxin, as well as the other inflammatory stress substances.
This can eventually allow for an improvement in thyroid function and cholesterol production, and for improved conversion of cholesterol into the protective brain function enhancing anti-stress substances.
A diet with sufficient protein from milk, cheese and gelatin, and plenty of simple sugars from sweet ripe juicy fruits, fruit juice, white sugar and honey, is a logical approach to lowering cortisol and restricting the release of PUFAs from storage, thereby potentially improving overall metabolic function, and helping with the prevention of depression (and other mood disorders) as well as suicidality.
It is very common for a person with high cholesterol to be told to consume more of the ‘heart healthy’ PUFAs, to avoid sugar at all costs, and to take cholesterol lowering drugs. Biological texts and experiments seem to suggest that this combination is more likely to be highly stressful and anti-metabolic.
Sugar restriction, consumption of PUFAs, and popular cholesterol lowering medications, can all be seen to interfere with thyroid performance, and with the production of cholesterol, thereby damaging cellular function, promoting degenerative disease (including cancer), as well as significantly interfering with brain function.
“Behavioral and psychiatric changes in the cases presented range from violent nightmares to aggression, mood/personality change, violent or homicidal ideation (in some instances culminating in suicide), each in apparent association with statin use.”
None of what is discussed in this article is intended as medical or psychiatric advice, nor am I suggesting that the information provided here is all necessarily correct. Even if it turns out that it is, the issues discussed can be complex, and are often caused by multiple factors, many of which are not even mentioned. Get the medical help you need, and take this article for what it is. It is my opinion based on my experiences and observations, on my understanding of the work of some great scientists (in particular Dr. Ray Peat PhD), and on my comprehension of what I consider to be the most relevant, well performed and rationally argued science.
However you approach this subject, if you take a step back from the mainstream view, and look more closely at a wider range of scientific information available regarding the relationship between cholesterol and metabolic function, at the very least it should start to be easier to understand how things that promote stress (and that interfere with the natural ability of the body to effectively defend itself), can encourage degeneration and disease, and possibly lead to a higher susceptibility to dysfunctional, suicidal and violent behavior. Once you understand this, you can make better decisions, and this can then lead to better outcomes for yourself or for others.
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Image: Healthagy: “How to Keep Your Cholesterol in Check During Thanksgiving”