Copyright 2006 In Touch Media Group, Inc.
Contrary to popular belief, cholesterol is not fat, says Dr. Conrad Maulfair, director of the Maulfair Medical Clinic in Topton, Pa. Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is produced by the liver and also ingested through foods we eat. It often has fatty acids contained in it and therefore it is considered to be fat, but it is not fat in and of itself.
According to Dr. Maulfair, up to 80 percent of cholesterol is used to make cholic acid, which is essential in bile salts that are in turn necessary for digestion and absorption of fat from the diet. Additionally, cholesterol is used to make the hormones progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone.
There is also a significant amount of cholesterol in the skin that helps the skin to resist water absorption and water evaporation. The presence of cholesterol in the skin also helps to decrease the penetration of toxic agents such as solvents.
According to Dr. Maulfair, Perhaps one of the most important roles of cholesterol is in the formation and maintenance of cellular function through the integrity of cell membranes, as well as many of the membranes of the other structures within the cell – including the organelles that produce energy. He indicates that membrane integrity is essential for life, health, and the prevention of disease. Here is a substance that is, in fact, a health-enhancing life necessity but that is purported to be life threatening, says Dr. Maulfair. Cholesterol has gotten a bad rap. We are told that we eat too much cholesterol in our diet and that elevated levels in the blood cause hardening of the arteries that, in turn, cause heart attacks and strokes. Low fat diets are prescribed and if that isnt effective, cholesterol lowering drug therapy is prescribed.
Dr. Maulfair says that this philosophy has been touted for so long as scientific fact that it is accepted without question by the majority of physicians and patients, despite the fact that there are thousands and thousands of people who have low cholesterol levels in their blood and have blocked arteries all over their bodies, and those who have elevated cholesterol levels without any problems.
Dr. Maulfair notes the important distinction between LDL and HDL cholesterol. The LDL structure (fatty acids with protein) is the primary source of plague in hardening of the arteries. The HDL form of lipoprotein (protein with fat attached) is not the type of lipoprotein which contributes to plague build up and actually helps to lower the fat in the area by carrying it away from tissues.
According to Dr. Maulfair, LDL cholesterol in its natural form is not inherently bad, but that changes sometimes take place that alter its form. The process that alters the natural LDL is called oxidation, and is caused by free radicals, says Dr. Maulfair. This damage can be prevented by utilizing anti- oxidants.
He concludes, To summarize, LDL cholesterol/ fatty acid is normal in the body and has a function. When it becomes altered by free radical damage it is transformed into a detrimental form. The native or normal LDL can pass freely through tissues, such as the lining of arteries. The damaged LDL cannot and gets stuck in the artery wall. The scientific evidence of this has been known for years and continues to proliferate.