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Cholesterol: How Low is Too Low?

The Framingham Heart Study conducted more than 50 years ago continues to impact our lives even today. The study was designed to identify the risk factors for heart disease. At the time approximately 80 variables were identified as a risk for heart problems. Yet, today, our emphasis is on one.

During the time of the Framingham study cholesterol levels under 300 mg/dl were considered good. Approximately 20-25 years ago the optimum cholesterol levels were lowered to 240mg/dl. In 1984 the upper level was lowered to 200mg/dl. New "federal" guidelines released by the National Institute of Health in 2001 dropped the upper level further down to 180mg/dl.

This new guideline targeted an additional 21 million individuals to be put on statin drugs tripling the number already taking statin drugs. This change increased the sale of statin drugs by 32.5% within 2 years. Six of the nine committee members who approved and promoted the guidelines have received grant money and consulting fees from the statin drug companies.

In the last five years statin drugs have been prescribed in increasingly higher doses even to patients with "normal" cholesterol levels (optimum should be 175-200mg/dl). Furthermore, there is a push by many of the pharmaceutical companies to make their statin drugs available over the counter without a prescription.

Because cholesterol is such a necessary substance in the body, lowering it below 175mg/dl comes with many risks that should not be overlooked. Published studies showed patients with low cholesterol developed more infectious diseases during hospitalizations and had higher cancer rates.

Many studies are being reported on the strong connection between low cholesterol levels and cerebral hemorrhage. The findings show men with cholesterol levels below 190 mg/dl risked having a cerebral hemorrhage. Those with levels lower than 150 mg/dl had four times the risk.

It is well known that statin drugs depress the immune system and have been used as an immune suppressor for transplant patients. According to an article published by the Quarterly Journal of Medicine (2003) individuals with lowered LDL have decreased T-cells, helper T-cells and lymphocytes circulating in their blood stream. Based on other studies reported in the same article, HIV and AIDS have also been linked with low cholesterol levels.

Cholesterol is also directly responsible for the amount of serotonin in the blood stream. When cholesterol is low, serotonin levels drop. Low cholesterol levels also interfere with serotonin receptors. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is synthesized naturally by brain cells and in the gut. It is responsible for mood disorders such as depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorders and essential for self-control.

In the journal "Circulation" (1992) the results of a study reported, "fifty percent more violent deaths in men with cholesterol levels lower than 160mg/dL". Another study of 6400 men published in the "British Medical Journal" (1996) linked low cholesterol levels to suicide.

To learn more about cholesterol and other health issues go to http://www.kathrynpicoulin.com/

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