Over two years ago (crazy to think about, as I remember researching and writing this post!), I published a massive post on the details about cholesterol. You can read that article here, and I highly recommend you do so before continuing on with today's topic: the effects of low-cholesterol and saturated fat intake.
After finishing A Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz, several critical points stood out to me pertaining to dietary cholesterol and saturated fat intake, as well as blood cholesterol levels.
Firstly, our hormonal health is dependent on cholesterol. When we are so concerned about dietary and blood cholesterol levels, we deprive our bodies of the precursor (cholesterol!) to many of our hormones, including sex hormones. If we don’t have enough or proper function of our sex hormones, we start to see major hormonal dysfunction. This coincides with the increased rates of infertility in America, as we instruct women (and men too) to avoid fat as a way to control their weight. This hormonal imbalance doesn't just affect us either - it can be passed down the gene pool to our kids, which is most likely partially the explanation behind why infertility rates continue to increase.
Second, this same principle can be applied to our neurological health. When we don’t eat or have enough cholesterol and healthy fats in our body, we aren’t supporting our brain health. Several of the studies listed in the book that showed a decrease in cholesterol levels also showed an increase in depression, suicide, and violence. Plus, we’ve seen an overall increase in anxiety and depression in society as well. If we aren’t supporting our bodies with the natural fats that it needs and craves, we are setting ourselves up for failure (especially our children).
I've always considered myself decently smart (I can say that right? It is my blog lol), so it always is interesting for me to think about my past when I was in high school and most of college. During those periods of my life, I actively avoided as much dietary fat as possible, and my brain function seemed to be still at a pretty decent level as far as schoolwork was concerned. However, I often wonder what it could've been like if I had been properly nourishing my body and brain. I guess I'll never truly know!
Lastly, cholesterol is also a precursor to bile salts, which help breakdown fat in the digestive process. How many people struggle with digestion and gallbladder health (the organ that stores our bile)? I would count myself among that group for sure due to a history of low-fat eating and stress. When we don't properly digest and breakdown fats, we do not absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, K, and E adequately. Fatty acid deficiencies in turn create another host of issues including dry skin, poor wound healing, and tension headaches.
Overall, we need cholesterol (both blood and dietary), as well as healthy sources of saturated fats (butter, coconut oil, meat, etc) in order for our bodies to properly function. When we deprive our bodies of these natural fats required for us to function, we see the epidemic of problems that we are experiencing in society today. Obviously our recommendations aren't working. It is clear that something needs to change. And that change starts with eating real, whole food like our ancestor did before the onslaught of processed, fake foods.