In the last few decades, quite a fuss has been made about how bad cholesterol is, but some of the "facts" that have been presented are misleading and in some cases untrue. These are some of the most common myths perpetuated about cholesterol.
Eggs Are Bad
For years, the myth has been perpetuated that eggs are bad, especially for those who already have high cholesterol. But recent research has proven this to be patently false. While it's true that eggs do contain cholesterol, the bad is outweighed by all the good. Eggs are an excellent, affordable source of protein that are rich in good fats. Research has also shown that the body compensates for the cholesterol that is consumed by producing less within the body.
[Related: Health Benefits Of Eggs]
Cholesterol-Free Means Healthy
Most people think that if a food label says that the product is cholesterol-free that it must be healthy. The truth is that the dietary cholesterol found in foods is the least important indicator of how healthy a food actually is. What is most important? The amount of fat, particularly saturated fat and trans fat. These two fats seem to play the largest role in the development of atherosclerosis, a dangerous condition that can be deadly if left untreated.
[Related: How To Spot Misleading Food Labels]
The Lower Your Cholesterol, The Better
It's a commonly held belief that the lower a person's cholesterol is the healthier they are. This is patently false. While low levels of LDL cholesterol have typically been considered healthy, health officials and experts are reconsidering. In fact, several studies have found that those with low LDL (low-density lipoprotein, the "bad" cholesterol) seem to have a higher risk of developing cancer. This has led some researchers to question whether or not the drugs used to lower cholesterol are causing other problems.
Kids Are Immune To High Cholesterol
This is false. A child's body works the same way that an adult's body does. If that child consumes large amounts of saturated fat and trans fat (fried chicken nuggets and french fries, anyone?) that child can indeed develop high cholesterol. In fact, research shows that atherosclerosis, the narrowing and hardening of arteries that often leads to heart disease, can develop in children as early as age 8. The good news for these children is that by changing their diet and increasing activity levels, they can usually avoid cholesterol medication.
All Cholesterol Is Bad
The fact is that the body needs a certain amount of cholesterol to survive. Cholesterol is produced in the human body by the liver to support the body's cholesterol needs. However cholesterol is carried in the body by lipoproteins, and some of these are bad. These lipoproteins fall into one of two categories. The first is HDL, or high-density lipoproteins, which are also called "good cholesterol". The second is LDL, or low density lipoproteins, which are known as the "bad cholesterol". It is the LDL cholesterol which causes atherosclerosis and heart disease, but the HDL cholesterol is what you want more of.
[Related: How To Raise HDL Cholesterol Naturally]
Triglycerides Signal an Impending Heart Attack
Triglycerides are a type of fat in the blood and while a high fat diet does contribute to heart disease, high triglycerides are actually a sign of another impending problem: diabetes. Triglycerides don't invade the lining of the walls of arteries so they don't cause heart attacks in the same sense that LDL does. High triglycerides are a warning sign of metabolic syndrome, which are a group of conditions that can contribute to coronary heart disease and stroke.
Cholesterol Drugs Are Magic, Cure-All Pills
Unfortunately there is no such thing as a magic pill that's going to cure everything. And cholesterol drugs, in particular, can be a part of a sordid tale of doctors receiving monetary kick backs from the companies that manufacture the drugs, leading to over prescribing, according to a report from the Huffington Post. Cholesterol drugs also come with a host of side effects and they may not even be needed in most cases, according to the report.
There Is No Way To Lower Cholesterol Naturally
Again, this is an assumption that most people make when presented with the option of cholesterol lowering medications. But the truth is that there are a lot of ways that people can maintain a healthy cholesterol level naturally. A healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, exercise and no smoking will go a long way. There are also natural alternatives to cholesterol drugs available that use healthy plant sterols that lower cholesterol.
High Cholesterol Is The Best Indicator For Heart Disease
This is a myth that has been perpetuated for decades. The truth is that high cholesterol is the least reliable indicator of overall cardiovascular health. One study found that about 75 percent of people who were hospitalized for a heart attack had LDL (bad) cholesterol levels that fell within the normal range. There are a number of possible reasons for this, including some skewed numbers on just how high is too high for cholesterol.
Americans Outrank The Rest Of The World
While the United States does have an obesity epidemic, giving rise to the popular notion that we are among the unhealthiest people in the world, Americans are far outranked by some other countries when it comes to cholesterol. American men come in 83rd among other nations, while American women come in 81st, according to Health magazine.
The portrayal of cholesterol within the media, in advertisements and even within our own daily conversations isn’t entirely correct. Perhaps as people become more familiar with cholesterol and differentiating between myths and facts, they will be able to decrease their risk for heart disease. For starters, it’s important to understand the difference between HDL and LDL cholesterol.