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Friday, December 03, 2010

Lower Cholesterol = Memory Loss

I have made disparaging comments on the medical establishment before in previous posts, particularly with regard to the elderly.  This post will be no different.

I have been doing a lot of research on the effect of fats and oils in your diet as they relate to health.  One of the most notorious supposed offenders is cholesterol.  A class of drugs called statins, such as Lipitor and others, are prescribed along with a cholesterol-lowering diet under the rues of "reducing your risk of heart attack".

So let's be clear here first.  From the Lipitor site ( and this link specifically): "High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke. In fact, 80% of people who have had a heart attack have high cholesterol."

I have written here about the concept of risk factor before in "Cholesterol, Heart Disease and Magical Thinking".  The marketing speak is utter nonsense because there is no demonstrative causal link between cholesterol and heart attack.  The reason is that a risk factor is merely a correlation between two things, like saying 80% of children with animal bites have shoes on.  Does a statement like that mean wearing shoes causes an animal bite or does it just happen to be coincidence that there is a correlation between the two.

My concern is that what's causing you to have the heart attack may also be causing you to have "high cholesterol".

So let's talk a bit about cholesterol.  From this site: "Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is manufactured by our liver. It is an extremely important building block for many of our vital functions including our brains, eyes, nervous systems and sexual apparatus (both varieties)." From Wikipedia: "Cholesterol is a waxy steroid metabolite found in the cell membranes and transported in the blood plasma of all animals. It is an essential structural component of mammalian cell membranes, where it is required to establish proper membrane permeability and fluidity."  Its good that these are somewhat different.  They say the same thing and, if you are interested, do you own research to identify just what cholesterol is.

What's key is that cholesterol is a fat and is not soluble in water.   Its manufactured by the liver as well as entering the body via diet.  Its transported to and from other parts of the body as follows (from the healthmattters link): "Cholesterol, being a fat, does not disolve in the blood stream which is mostly water. In order to be transported around in the blood, it must be carried by a Lipoprotein carrier which has an affinity for water. When it is being carried from the liver to the rest of the body, the Lipoprotein involved is LDL (low density Lipoprotein). When Cholesterol is being carried from the body back to the liver for recycling, the carrier is HDL (high density Lipoprotein)." More is going on than this but we are concerned here about this process because its how doctors decide to give you statins.

The common medical wisdom is that the LDL cholesterol is what builds up in your arteries and the higher you LDL number is the more "bad" cholesterol you have.

But there is another explanation.

The consumption of many types of manufactured and "unnatural" fats and oils can create a condition in your body call Hyperinsulinemia.  As I described in my previous post Type 2 Diabetes "... manifests when insulin progressively loses its effectiveness in sweeping the blood glucose from the blood stream into the sixty seven trillion or so cells that constitute our bodies."

What happens is that the consumption of these oils (hydrogenated vegetable oil, margarine, etc.) fool the body's system for processing fat and oils.  This happens because these manufactured fats and oils, while similar to healthy ones, do not support the transport of glucose through the walls of the cells like the natural version does.  The effect of this is that when insulin appears in the blood to cause cells to consume glucose the cells do not consume enough.  Hence the pancreas creates more insulin.

The result of this is that eventually the pancreas produces too much insulin or fails (conversion to Type 1 diabetes).

The fact that your cells are ignoring the insulin message leaves more glucose in your blood.

Diabetes is defined by this "high glucose" level in your blood - regardless of the cause.  And this is key.  Type 1 and 2, to my way of thinking, are two different problems.  The manufacture of insulin in your pancreas is an unrelated function with respect to the absorption of glucose in response to insulin in your cells.

You may say this is nonsense, or that I am an ignorant fool.  However, for anyone who questions this, and I encourage you to, please make sure any alternative explanation matches the history.

The classic diabetes diagnosis, i.e., too much glucose in the blood, occurred in about 0.0028% of the population around 1900.  Today its as much as 50% of the country suffers from it. 

What has changed in the last century?

I will argue that we no longer eat natural foods, specifically fats and oils.

Personally I have ordered my first bottles of Cod Liver Oil.  I have been taking fish oil for the last five or so years so I think I have been on the right road.  I am also working to eliminate the unnatural fats and oils from my diet.  I believe that consuming wrong types of oils and fats have a definite impact on this.

But circling back to the title of this post, what does all this have to do with your memory and brain function and, specifically, memory loss?

Cholesterol is vital for brain function.

Reducing cholesterol in the blood apparently does direct harm to your brain along with studies to confirm this.  If you're taking a statin to reduce the "bad" cholesterol in your diet consider this (from the link): "The LDL transports antioxidants, fat soluble nutrients and essential fatty acids to the brain for proper brain functioning. ... Cholesterol also promotes the growth of new brain cells and protects the integrity of the myelin sheath. The myelin sheath, essential for the proper function of the entire nervous system, covers the length of brain and nerve cells and is one fifth cholesterol. Low cholesterol levels make the myelin more vulnerable to breakdown and malfunction." - perhaps even Alzheimers?

If you're not taking fish oil pills or eating healthy fats and oils I would seriously consider it very soon - your mental health may depend on it.

The worst impact of statin drugs with regard to memory loss may be in the elderly.

Isn't research fun?

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