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Cholesterol is one of the most important molecules in your body. Often vilified by mainstream medical doctors and the media, cholesterol serves many functions including: cell membrane integrity and function; production of vitamin D; digestion (it is a large component of bile); the precursor to hormones such as testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, and cortisol.
Cholesterol is so important that every animal and every fish make it as well. Why do eggs contain cholesterol? Try forming a chicken without it!
I have written extensively on cholesterol, that is why I dedicated the first chapter of my book, “The Paleo Cardiologist” to this subject. As a cardiologist, I have listened to the anti-cholesterol rhetoric from medical doctors and the media for years. This is all Big Pharma propaganda to sell us drugs. These drugs lower cholesterol down, but do very little, if anything, for outcomes that matter such as heart attacks, stroke, and dying.
Is There Such a Thing As a Perfect Cholesterol Level?
The truth is that total cholesterol has very little to do with living and dying. Studies confirm that between 160 and 260, there is very little difference is mortality. My goal is to find the perfect cholesterol level for each patient as an individual. Your perfect cholesterol level is different from your best friend, your spouse, and your neighbor. You can follow the tenets in “The Paleo Cardiologist” to achieve the best cholesterol for your body’s needs (more on that below).
Quickly, LDL has been considered the “bad” cholesterol and HDL the “good” cholesterol. But this version of the story is false. Humans and animals alike make LDL and HDL for a reason. Both serve the immune system and transport vital nutrients (like cholesterol and fat soluble vitamins) for a reason.
The Link Between Cholesterol and Cancer
Let’s take a look at the data demonstrating that higher cholesterol confers a lower risk of cancer…
Prostate Cancer – Patients undergoing radiation and prostatectomy fare better with higher levels of LDL. Those with the highest LDL had a 33% less cancer recurrence compared to those with the lowest LDL levels.1
Lung Cancer – A recent study found those with lung cancer and the highest cholesterol levels had a 67% lower risk of dying.2
Breast Cancer – Women with the highest cholesterol levels had the lowest risk of breast cancer. In fact, the number was 30% lower. The same study found women had a 39% lower risk of melanoma and a 39% lower risk of lymphoma/leukemia when their cholesterol levels were the highest.3
Pancreatic Cancer – Men with the highest cholesterol had a 48% lower risk of pancreatic cancer along with a 33% lower risk of non-melanoma skin cancer, 86% lower risk of liver/gall bladder cancer, and a 32% lower risk of lymphoma and leukemia.4
Colorectal Cancer – Studies suggest that those with higher cholesterol levels are protected from colorectal cancer versus those with lower levels.5
Find Your Perfect Cholesterol Level (and Lower Your Cancer Risk)
Total cholesterol as a measurement is so 1970s. If your doctor is measuring this, ask for advanced lipid testing. This would include LDL particles and HDL particles. You need to know the number of particles and the size of the particles. These measurements are so much more relevant than total cholesterol, total LDL and total HDL. In fact, the ratio of LDL particles to HDL particles is the best prognosticator of all lipid parameters.
Remember, we cannot live without cholesterol and this fact is not surprising given all the functions it serves. LDL and HDL each have a unique purpose in the body. We encourage everyone to find their perfect cholesterol and perfect lipids numbers.
Here is a Top 10 list to achieve perfect cholesterol numbers for YOU:
- Eat organic Paleo foods (real, whole foods). It worked for our ancestors, it will work for you. Cholesterol in food does not increase heart disease risk, why would it increase cancer risk? Organic gatherer food and pasture-raised hunter food.
- Get sleep. Lipids such as cholesterol are made while we sleep. For thousands of years, we went to sleep with the sundown and awoke with the sunrise.
- Get sunshine. The sun converts cholesterol into vitamin D. Lack of sunshine equals excess cholesterol production. When we weren’t sleeping, we were in the sun. More sun equals more vitamin D equals lower cancer risk.
- Get exercise. Physical activity keeps lipids in check. Physical activity lowers cancer risk.6
- Get adjusted. Your local chiropractor fixes more than back pain. By correcting spinal subluxations, autonomic nervous system balance is achieved. This leads to excellent organ function.
- Get hydrated. Drinking quality water ensures that your cells are bathing in health. Water molecules make up over 99% of the molecules in the body.
- Get grounded. Harness the energy from the earth to charge the body. Good things happen to those that walk/stand barefoot.
- Get away from environmental pollutants. Toxins and heavy metals lead to inflammation and inflammation leads to excess lipid production. Clean air, clean water, clean food, and a clean environment.
- Get evidence-based supplements. Some of my favorites include spirulina, garlic, and berberine but nothing is more important than probiotics. Read about bergamot as well.
- Get advanced testing. Total cholesterol is “old school” medicine. You need to know LDL and HDL particle number and size.
What About Pharmaceuticals?
Corporate America loves to promote better living through chemistry. To be candid, there is literature supporting drugs such as aspirin and statins lowering cancer risk. But do humans get cancer because of a pharmaceutical deficiency? Obviously not. Cancer has a cause. Heart disease has a cause. Find the cause and you will have the cure.
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Cholesterol is one of the most important molecules in your body and serves many functions including: cell membrane integrity and function; production of vitamin D; digestion; the precursor to hormones such as testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, and cortisol.
The truth is that total cholesterol has very little to do with living and dying. Studies confirm that between 160 and 260, there is very little difference is mortality.
Your perfect cholesterol level is unique to you and will be different from your best friend, your spouse, and your neighbor.
LDL has been considered the “bad” cholesterol and HDL the “good” cholesterol, but this version of the story is false. Humans and animals alike make LDL and HDL. Both serve the immune system and transport vital nutrients (like cholesterol and fat soluble vitamins) for a reason.
If your doctor is still measuring total cholesterol, ask for advanced lipid testing. You need to know the number of particles and the size of the particles which is much more relevant than total cholesterol, total LDL and total HDL.
Here is a Top 10 list to achieve perfect cholesterol numbers for YOU:
- Eat organic Paleo foods (real, whole foods)
- Get sleep
- Get sunshine
- Get exercise
- Get spinal sublaxations adjusted by a chiropractor
- Get hydrated
- Get grounded
- Get away from environmental pollutants
- Get evidence-based supplements
- Get advanced testing. Total cholesterol is “old school” medicine. You need to know LDL and HDL particle number and size.
Dr Judith Edwards says
Thanks a lot Jack Wolfson, all very sound advice- we hope readers of this who are cansurvivors will also try the free cansurviving website for more on how to tackle the multi-factorial issue of developing cancer…
Great to hear. Thank you Doctor Judith
I have done all of the above i understand all u are saying BUT after all of that and taking in the fact i am a runner an arobics in structor and loved doing weights i am now a hip disarticulation amputee because of a liposarcoma in the vastus medialus of my right leg any ideas on why id love to know. The Truth About Cancer
Silvia Logan says
My mother had high cholesterol and she still developed breast cancer. My great aunt ate a lot of fruits and vegetables and she still got breast cancer and high cholesterol. My mother did drink a lot of milk products. Do vitamin D3 supplements and Brewer’s Yeast supplements prevent people from getting cancer?
Here is a shorter route to health, your body knows its needs. I am a dowser, sensitive to the earths vibrations, I decided to prove this theory and started using a pendulum exercising what my body needed. Every one was born with instinct and lost it down the highway. Ty I get from the right, I get it from the left my body says your both wrong.
Maryln Sass says
In my opinion, if a person over or under feeds the body what needs or don’t, this is what causes a break in the body’s ability to be healthy. As for myself, I have always been healthier eating more of a paleo type diet! When I attempted really lower the fat in my diet, my weight shot up to 175 pounds (I’m 5ft 2 tall) and I developed diabetes. That was over 20 years ago, today I am 110.5 pounds and on no meds for diabetes. So for me, eating a low fat diet isn’t the answer to being healthy!
I will ask my doctor to run the cholesterol testing to show particle size & numbers. Then what? What are the healthy margins? Meaning what is the measuring stick to be able to know if our sizes & numbers are within range? Thanks!
I am one who does utilizes the newer generation cholesterol tests, I was getting the Vertical Auto Profile (VAP) test performed to analyze the makeup of my Cholesterol but the lab that I was using no longer performs this test. One can get the Lipoprotein Particle Profile (LPP) test performed which I went too. You should have your cholesterol levels checked by one of the newer generation blood lipid tests, such as the Lipoprotein Particle Profile (LPP) test (developed by SpectraCell), the NMR LipoProfile Test (developed by LabCorp), or the Cardio IQ Report (offered through Quest Diagnostics), there are certain ranges you want your scores to be in for a number of different categories. Here are the recommendations that I have found for healthy cholesterol levels:
• Total cholesterol: 180–250 mg/dL
• Total HDL cholesterol: 40–90 mg/dL for women; 35–90 mg/dL for men (Note: Very high HDL over 90 can be dysfunctional)
• HDL cholesterol subtypes: Greater than 25 mg/dL for HDL2; greater than 15 mg/dL for HDL3
• Total LDL cholesterol: 80–130 mg/dL
• LDL cholesterol subtype Lp(a): less than 30 mg/dL
• Total triglycerides: 50–100 mg/dL
• Triglycerides subtype VLDL3: less than 10 mg/dL
In addition to the recommended healthy cholesterol level ranges above, your doctor can review your test results to see if your LDL cholesterol is mostly made up of large, fluffy particles that are not dangerous, or small, dense particles (known as “LDL-pattern-B”) that are dangerous.
Hope this answers your question
Is this info in your book?
As well as what to do if even these numbers are off?
Quoting from the article: “You need to know the number of particles and the size of the particles.” If I request these tests (number of particles and size of the particles,) to what am I comparing my personal results? I also need to understand/know how to interpret the results. You have left out a very important piece of information. I feel as though your article is ‘unfinished’. Please provide this piece of information.
Jessica McCabe says
I had my levels tested recently and was shocked to learn that my cholesterol was VERY low. I follow a Paleo lifestyle – lots of bone broth, fermented foods, grass-fed beef pastured chicken/eggs, all organic produce. I exercise several times a week and avoid toxins wherever possible. Is there anything I can do to raise my cholesterol, and any idea why it would be so low? It is Winter here (so not a lot of sunshine), but I supplement with Vitamin D, and those levels were optimal when tested.
Ty Shlackman says
Maybe you have poor liver function because you’re eating too much animal fat and animal protein. Animal products are very acidic and very dehydrating. Chronic dehydration causes your blood to thicken and weakens your liver’s ability to eliminate toxins. You might be exercising too much as well depending on what type of exercise you do and how long you exercise. Fermented foods are dead foods so they are worthless.
Lorraine Lister says
Fermented foods are not dead foods.
Where can I get the studies that are the bases for the link between cholesterol and cancer? Thank you.
See the sources at the end of the article
Irina Firuti says
…and where are they listed?
What is the ideal LDL to HDL ratio or ratio range?
Ken Pataky says
More than minimum intake of animal protein is definitely linked to cancer. T Colin Campbell s work The China Study is a legend that is not to be ignored by those who want to be healthy. Top Cardiologists such as Caldwell Esselstyn and Dean Ornish have broken new ground in the healing of chronic diseases including cancer by way of eliminating animal food from the diet. Those who are addicted to meet will always find ways to justify it but they never live long. Meat and animal food generates high amounts of uric acid which ages the body rapidly. Sure you can get a lot of muscles but your internal chemistry is screwed up. You are ultimately creating an acidic anaerobic environment which chronic diseases such as cancer loves to thrive in. I think of the famous runner Jim Fixx who wrote the pivotal book The Joy of Running in the 1970s who used to eat a lot of meat and stated that it didn’t matter how much meat he ate because he ran so much that he burned it all off. He died while running. In the end Paleos have everything right except their addiction to meat. I often tell my clients that I agree with everything the Paleo’s do except that one single thing.
Jim Fixx, the father of the modern day running movement, died at the age of 52. His theory was that it didn’t matter what you eat, as long as you exercise, you’ll be healthy. God bless him, he put his theory to the test, and we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that exercise alone is not enough. It really does matter what you eat. BTW, newborns can live and grow on mothers milk alone for at least two years. Mothers milk is 5-10% protein. I tell that to people when they tell me a vegan diet is deficient. We need even less protein when we are fully developed.
Dr. Wolfson, thank you for such a great article. I have often wanted to ask a top cardiologist about the possible contents of substances in the plaques which build up and cause blockages, other than fat and cholesterol.
When we buy apples, I scrape the wax off with a flat edge knife and the end result is a little pile off tiny, waxy, sticky, powdery, substance. I do not like to peel the apple for nutrient’s sake, but the shellac/carnuba wax is even on Organic Apples.
Do the enzymes in our digestive system take care of such things, or is it possible for it to end up add to plaque as well?
Thank you for your outspoken expertise and calling the Pharmacological Modality and those who practice it solely, what they ARE!
Lisa Tarbert says
Interesting read! My husband had a stroke 3 weeks ago. Asprin, HBP medicine, and Cholesterol meds are the poisons the doctor has put him on. The MRI showed a small particle in the right side of the brain. Doctor said it wasn’t a clot. The funny thing is my husband doesn’t have HBP nor is he Diabetic. Now his Cholesterol has been high, but nothing outrageous. My husband and I are baffled as to why this happened. I’m not happy about the Cholesterol medicine. I have voiced my objections to my husband and the doctor about it. I’m looking into the Ketogenic for he and I. Any thoughts on any of this mess doc? Thank you for sharing
Annette Corrado says
Get Caldwell Estellyn MD book on Heart disease. You can google him and watch you tube videos. Low fat plant based diet and zero oils of animals or plants that is what coats the inside of the vessels of the heart inflammation and inflammation in the body.
Norman Wrensch says
I have been reading a lot of articles and books on the subject for the last two years and I find what Dr Wolfson to be correct. I took my 90 year old mother off lipitor in Dec 2015, the differences it made are amassing. No more neuropathy, he mind has cleared up considerably and still improving, she has much less edema in her legs. The only thing I do give her and I also take it is Citrus Bergamot, it gets the cholesterol to the correct ratios and keeps the triglycerides down to where they should be. and as an added plus, Citrus Bergamot also helps reduce blood sugars some. Her pulmonary Dr is very happy, her family physician is old school so that will take handing her a bunch info, but she is happy with her improvements but she is unhappy about the so called high cholesterol, but that’s a matter of education. She will be getting a folder full of stuff and a book or two on the next visit
Where can I get citrus bergamot ? I know bergamot as an essentiel oil
In what form is it used here ?
Customer Service says
Hi Alison, you can find Bergamot in a variety of forms of dietary supplements. Please choose the form that works best for you.
Ron Burke says
This article “The truth about Cholesterol levels … and what doctors don’t know” by Dr. Wolfson is very informative. For almost twenty years I have been learning about the “cholesterol myth” and the lies taught to the doctors by the pharmaceutical industry and disemintated by the medical industry at large. This article has some new information that has come to light about cholesterol and cancer. Keep up the good work.
I am still waiting to read what is the ideal ratio of LDL and HDL particles and the effect of their size.
See my reply to Jenna above that I just posted.
Serena Macbeth says
This is a great article, but why do you repeat the list of 10 points three times? Less is more, and we get information overload anyway. You said it well the first time and had an article summary at the end with all 10 points repeated. The middle listing is so overstated that I wonder whether you are just trying to fill space. Please respect our time, and give us a chance to read your excellent information in the middle of our busy days.
TTAC Customer Support says
Thanks for your feedback!
Rick Dawson says
Agreed with not lowering cholestrol as it is produced by the body in an attempt to protect the cells from high acidity in food we eat .(too much protein and cooking of food) The blood can not become acidic or we die ! Eat more raw fruits and veggies like our ancestors did which helps balance the PH and hydrate (carry more oxygen) then the liver doesn’t have to make more cholestrol and if you lower it with drugs that hurt the liver so it can’t produce as much cholestrol then the acids have free range to destroy cells . NOT GOOD !! WE have the same digestive tracks as apes , monkeys and chimps etc. that live on mainly fruit and we’re not meat eaters like cats and can’t digest it very well heal very well with raw food not paleo which can cause heart disease and cancer etc . . I raise cattle so don’t take this lightly as I was eating the protein way and going down hill but with a lot of fruit and veggies all raw and only lightly cooked meat once in a while am doing great now .
Rick Dawson says
We only had to start eating meat etc. because of population growth wars etc. pushing us out of the tropics . And in those days no good way to store fruit through the winter like today or ship it over night . Lower the acidic foods and the body lowers the cholestrol , holds less water(edema) less blood clots and less calcium pulled from bones and cells to try and bring PH up . We are the only mammals that cook (destroy) our food !!! But realize that no one makes any $$$ off this as you have to eat anyway and not play the cholesterol game or big wasted $ on drugs .
Rick Dawson says
The worst thing for health and diet and cholesterol is any dairy after the age of 2 as we don’t have the enzymes then to break down milk . But even before 2 we should only have mothers HUMAN milk not milk from another animal . Cows milk is made to raise a calf to 10 times it’s weight in 8 months then a 7 lb. baby would weigh 70 lb. in 8 months not good . WAY TOO MUCH protein , fats , minerals etc. for humans to digest or remove from the body !! And already has mucus in it then the body makes more mucus and cholesterol to protect the cells . Just what I’ve learned ….
graham frew says
Interesting but not quite correct the body puts cholesterol in the arteries to protect the red blood cells almost all cancer patients have low oxygen in the blood due to low red blood cell count cholesterol levels are tied in to this as the levels will return to normal when the red blood cell count is at 100pc a big clue to heart problems is shown here cholesterol helps protect any more wear to red cells if levels are low to fix take vitamin b3 and vitamin a with breakfast daily and iron and folic acid with the evening meal daily this will restore the red blood cells to normal levels in 4 to 6 weeks should take a course of these vits and minerals once a year at the start of winter or if you are tired all the time or have had chemicals in the blood gives the body a chance to repair damaged cells so optimum levels are achieved
How about instead of eating meat, people eat more Wild Caught FIsh?
Yes I agree with everything you have said regarding the meat eating and I have never understood how the Paleo fraternity think it can be a good idea when meat putrifies in the body as it is in there for so long. Humans were not meant to eat it, our saliva is alkaline for the digestion of starch whereas a carnivore has saliva which is acid and geared to the digestion of animal protein, our teeth and jaws are for grinding not like a carnivore’s which are all long, sharp and pointed for tearing and biting. A carnivore’s intestines are 3 times the length of the trunk designed for expulsion of foodstuff which quickly rots whereas humans have intestines 12 times the length of the trunk and designed to keep food until all nutrients are extracted. Humans have livers capable of eliminating only a small amount of uric acid whereas the carnivore is capable of eliminating 10 to 15 times more uric acid as all meat consumption releases large quantities into the system AND humans do not have the enzyme uricase to break down uric acid. There is not one anatomical faculty the human has that would indicate that it is equipped for tearing, ripping and rending flesh for consumption. I didn’t know about Jim Fixx…………………. and I definitely don’t understand about the Paleo Way….. it’s just plain crazy!! One more thing of interest…. protein does not increase strength….. the 1978 Journal of the American Medical Assoc said “the ingestion of protein supplements by athletes who eat an otherwise well-balanced diet is of no use in body-building programs – they need the same amount of protein foods as no-nathletes. Indeed it often takes greater energy to digest and metabolize the excess of protein AND excess protein in the athlete can induce dehydration, loss of appetite and diarrhea” something Jim Fixx should have read.
See the sources at end of the article.
Michael M Alt says
I am surprised no one mentioned Niacin(vitamin B3) It was the go to treatment for high cholesterol for years before the drug companies promoted statins and other expensive drugs with serious side effects. Niacin has none of those and when compared to statin drugs it is completely safe and equally effective if not more so.( Google the scientific studies.) In most studies, when compared to statins, niacin performed better. ( Obviously there is no serious money in vitamins)