Rethinking Low Cholesterol Diets

Women | | June 17, 2010 at 7:00 am
Photo by rioncm.

Photo by rioncm.

Next time someone tells you to watch your cholesterol, consider this: low-cholesterol diets have actually been shown to cause hormone-imbalances, obesity and diabetes. The emphasis on a low-fat diet reduces the intake of fat and causes an increased consumption of carbohydrates and trans fats. For women, lack of adequate levels of cholesterol in the body can be a real issue of hormone imbalances.

Why cholesterol is the most important molecule in the body:

  • It is the main component of cell membranes and plays a major role in the endocrine system.
  • It serves as precursor (a chemical compound that makes another compound) in the synthesis of steroid hormones, vitamin D, and bile acids.
  • It is vital for hormone-making (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, aldosterone, cortisol, and DHEA)
  • It is necessary for rescue-work (cholesterol plaques are formed when there is injury to the blood vessel wall)

Is there such a notion as low-cholesterol? Absolutely. But if you do not have enough cholesterol, you will not be able to make the hormones you need! In these cases, it is critical to explore the hormone imbalances all of which play an important role in the body’s hormonic orchestra.

If you have low cholesterol:

  • Increase your consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids, primarily omega-3‘s (fish oil, salmon, sardines, coconut oil, avocados
  • Avoid low-fat, low-cholesterol diets and foods
  • Consider having your other hormones checked

IgorDr. Igor Schwartzman practices naturopathic medicine with a strong emphasis in women's health, hormone imbalances, and thyroid disorders at Whole Family Wellness Center in Portland, Oregon. He is a co-founder of WellWire.com.

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5 Comments

  1. Sami Paju says:

    High cholesterol has never been a good indicator of heart-disease risk, as looking only at the total cholesterol levels results into an oversimplification of the actual science and how cholesterol behaves in the body. Also, no connection has been found between the cholesterol in the food you eat, and how much serum cholesterol is in your blood.

    Here’s a great article going deeper into the topic: http://www.spiked-online.com/Articles/0000000CAE78.htm

    //sami

    • Thanks for your comment. However, the point of this article is more about cholesterol and hormones, and not so much about heart-disease. Indeed, total cholesterol is not necessarily the best marker. Thanks for sharing the article.

      • Al Th says:

        Have you seen a shift in testosterone/estrogen as men age that also leads to an increase in LDL cholesterol? Which of the LDL cholesterol fractions that are examined on a VBAP panel are most affected by hormonal shifts in men and women?
        Thanks, Al

        • It is not uncommon to see a rise in LDL with a change in testosterone/estrogen levels in men. As for the VAP panel, I do not generally run those, so I am not able to answer that well. If you wish, I can make a recommendation of someone who may have a better response!

  2. Stephen Guy-clarke says:

    After the age of 55, more women have high cholesterol than men. One theory about this is that the rise in cholesterol among older women may be caused by a drop in levels of the hormone oestrogen in their bodies. Oestrogen is the main female sex hormone and is thought to help keep cholesterol down.