Having a healthy level of certain fats in your diet is showing to be greatly important as our bodies age. While too much cholesterol can cause problems in the body, it has been shown recently that cholesterol actually contributes to brain and psychological health.
Cholesterol does not just clog the arteries and cause health problems, but rather is thrown off balance by refined carbs and hydrogentaed fats, and that is what causes the problems.
Cholesterol on its own from whole foods is not something to be feared. While it is important to keep cholesterol under control, it is also necessary from foods such as eggs and butter.
The part of cholesterol that needs to be controlled and used with caution is the part that comes from foods that disturb the balance and use of different types of cholesterol in the body. These include sugary foods, fried foods, processed meats, refined oils, etc.
New Studies on Cholesterol and Cognitive Health
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition is helping shed some light on fat intake and brain health. Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland identified that neither cholesterol or egg intake seemed to increase the risk for dementia or Alzheimer’s by themselves.
Matter of fact, the tests seemed to indicate a higher performance level on neuro psychologial tests when eggs were consumed consistently.
The study was on the association of cholesterol and egg consumption with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and cognitive performance. The researchers tester 2,497 men, between 41-60 from Eastern Finland. Some of them were tested and were shown to be positive for APOE4 phenotype (which is believed to be tied to genetic markers for cognitive decline).
APOE4 phenotype is relatively common in Finland, with about 1/3 of the population having it. Initially this gene was thought to be a major contributor to dementia and other cognitive problems.
This study followed the participants for 22 years. During this entire time, their food intake was recorded and logged. Out of the participants, 337 men were diagnosed with dementia and 266 men were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s after the study.
The APOE4 phenotype did not change the cholesterol or egg intake (meaning the correlation between these foods and the phenotype did not contribute to the diagnosis rate in the men who were diagnosed).
Other studies have shown that elderly people who added healthy fats to their diets seemed to have higher cognitive function over a time period. A “Mediterranean diet” seemed to help the most.
Benefits of Dietary Cholesterol
Because it has been widely assumed that cholesterol is the sole cause for many sicknesses and disease, people have the wrong idea about what cholesterol actually does for your body.
Recent studies have helped show that cholesterol itself is not the cause for things such as heart disease or coronary artery disease. What causes these issues is the inflammation. Cholesterol actually has benefits, including:
- It is essential to the functions of neurons. Cholesterol is used as a source of energy since neurons cannot make their own nutrients
- Cholesterol helps build cell membranes and nerves. It helps nerves communicate with each other more efficiently
- It is an antioxidant and is necessary for brain-supporting molecules like Vitamin D. is a precursor to the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen
- Helps deliver nutrients to the brain from the blood stream via LDL
The key to understanding which cholesterol is helping and which is not, is the type of cholesterol we are talking about. LDL is bad cholesterol that will cause the inflammation and problems associated with it. HDL is good cholesterol and that is what you want to keep balanced.
When cholesterol is thrown off balance, you will start to see the problems like inflammation and can potentially see some of the cognitive issues that made people think that all cholesterol was bad in the first place.
So if eggs and cholesterol do not contribute to dementia and cognitive decline, what does?
There is a lot of overwhelming evidence that implies that inflammation is responsible for far more disease than originally thought. This includes cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Sugar and lack of fiber allow unwanted, ‘bad’ bacteria to flourish and increase the chances of becoming inbedded in the intestines. This can lead to changes in the cell properties, and can compromise the immune system, making it harder to fight inflammation and infection. If you let it go for long enough, it can reach the brain and cause cognitive decline.
Inflammation is good because it is our body’s defense against harmful things, but it also is not good to stay inflamed. Inflammation is not designed to be a long term solution in the body, it designed to allow the body to combat a problem and get rid of it.
Continued sugar intake will keep the inflammation around and give it time to spread. This inflammation is linked to a rise in obesity, diabetes, cancer, and many, many other health problems.
Genetics certainly plays a part in how your brain will react to the inflammation, but it is believed that the actual cause of some of these issues is inflammation. If the body does not get relief from the inflammation, it starts to adapt to the inflammation, causing health issues.
What Can I do to Prevent Memory Disorders?
Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet:
Eating foods such as fresh veggies, healthy fats, nuts, seeds, and foods that contain antioxidants will help cut inflammation in the body. This will help you prevent the disease causing inflammation, and can contribute to a healthy cognitive function.
This can also prevent high cholesterol without the use of medication. The best foods to eat the most of are unprocessed, raw foods (as processing often adds inflammatory ingredients back in).
Improve Your Gut Health:
Studies are showing how important gut health really is, and we are just now beginning to understand how it plays a part in inflammation and other issues. Gut flora is important to the entire body systems and how they work together. GABA is an important amino acid that is made in the gut, but regulates memory and moods.
This proves that gut health and brain health have a link of some sort. Keeping your body healthy overall will lower your chances of having cognitive problems as you age.
Maintain Normal Sugar Levels in your Blood:
An excess of sugar is a leading cause for inflammation. Today’s foods have so much salt and sugar in them, it can be hard to reduce your sugar intake if you aren’t careful.
Sugar can be toxic in high levels, and needs to be kept to a minimum in the diet (to avoid the inevitable inflammation that comes from sugar).
Exercising is not only a great way to keep you fit on the outside, but helps you stay fit on the inside of the body also. It lowers your risk for depression and anxiety, but also keeps inflammation down in the body and keeps it healthy.
Stress can cause inflammation and strain on your body and mind. It is important to make sure you manage stress effectively, or you can cause other problems for your body. Stress weakens your body, leaving you susceptible to inflammation and other problems.
Although the previous belief about eggs and cholesterol was that they up the risk factor for cognitive decline, it has been shown that cholesterol is not the only factor to play in this belief. Inflammation has been shown to be the actual cause.
People who consumed more eggs seemed to be at less of a risk for brain issues, and recent studies are starting to shed light on the benefits of cholesterol and egg consumption.
Rather than focusing on lowering cholesterol or eggs in your diet, it is better to focus on consuming a more body-friendly, less processed diet to improve health overall instead of just focusing on one area.