Cholesterol is the primary nutrient of the brain
Some facts about cholesterol
Cholesterol is a type of fat found only from animal sources. It is a natural molecule that all our cells can produce when necessary. As opposed to other fats, the cholesterol molecule is not burned to make energy. Indeed, it is used to synthesize other molecules like sex hormones and vitamin D and it is incorporated into our cell membranes to preserve their 3D shape.
Cholesterol is critical in order to obtain optimum health. Unfortunately, we do not consume enough cholesterol to sustain our daily needs. This is why some organs like the liver produce the majority of the cholesterol our cells need for proper function. Our body needs about 14,000 mg of cholesterol a day. The average American consumes about 400-500 mg a day. Thus, we can see that the complete elimination of animal proteins does not impact the huge production of cholesterol by the liver. In addition, the body has the ability to adjust to the amount of cholesterol we ingest (1). Therefore, the avoidance of animal proteins is not necessary as the body will need 14 000 mg of cholesterol a day no matter what. In support of this, it is well known today that cholesterol does not cause health problems like we have been told for decades (2). Thus, you should not be concerned to eat cholesterol if you have a history of heart disease.
Doctors warn their patients to avoid animal proteins when they are diagnosed with high blood cholesterol. As previously mentioned, this recommendation has no scientific basis. In other words, avoiding cholesterol is not a cure for high cholesterol as the body will adjust to its actual intake. This now begs the question: what is the cause of high cholesterol? There are a few factors but the main one is the over consumption of sugar. This situation leads to a flood of insulin in the blood stream which leads to the storage of fat into our fat cells, called adipocytes.
Cholesterol makes you smarter!
The brain contains more than 25% of the total cholesterol present in the entire body. Cholesterol is not only an important element of our brain cells, but is essential for our entire nervous system (the nerves and the spine). Cholesterol is required for the proper formation of synapses between nerve cells (a synapse is a structure that allows two nerve cells to communicate between each other). Without cholesterol, our brain will not be able to communicate with the organs of the body, clearly showing the importance of cholesterol for proper bodily function. In addition, cholesterol is required for the proper function of the serotonin pathway. Serotonin is a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness and is a regulator of appetite, sleep as well as a natural antidepressant molecule. Serotonin also has cognitive functions, including memory and learning. Serotonin is considered a natural antidepressant molecule. The ability of serotonin to regulate moods explains why people who have a low level of blood cholesterol are more subject to suicide, depression, anger, and rage (3). Cholesterol is critical for the brain and it has been shown to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson disease, multiple sclerosis and Huntington disease. The great majority of doctors believe that cholesterol consumption leads to Alzheimer’s disease, but this is far from the truth as we will discuss in my next article.
In addition, it seems that for some people, the consumption of cholesterol is necessary, as the body struggles to produce the daily requirement, therefore making it a necessity to eat animal proteins. There is evidentiary support to demonstrate that the elderly need to increase the consumption of cholesterol in order to minimize the development of neurological issues like Alzheimer’s disease (1). Therefore, for this group of people, cholesterol is a vital nutrient that has to come from their diet.
- Know Your Fats : The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol by Mary G. Enig, 2000
- The Great Cholesterol Con: The Truth About What Really Causes Heart Disease and How to Avoid It by Malcolm Kendrick, 2008
- Bjorkhem, I. and Meaney, S. 2004. Brain cholesterol: long secret life behind a barrier. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 24(5): 806-815.