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The Importance of Vitamin D and Cholesterol

written by Guest Blogger May 20, 2010

Editor’s note: This guest post was kindly contributed by holistic nutritionist and health counselor, Natural Neda.

Is your brain starving for nutrients? Do you know that human biology requires fat not just on the person but also in diet?

Consider these facts of nature (and man)

Chicken eggs are now considered “unhealthy” due to their high concentration of cholesterol. They are also one of the best food sources of vitamin D. Why? A mother hen supplies her unborn chick with nutritional supplements that include a rich supply of cholesterol and a rich supply of vitamin D.

Cow’s milk is also high in fat (unless it’s been manipulated into skim milk and would be high in natural vitamin D if it weren’t pasteurized – the high temperature destroys the vitamin D). Currently, the dairy industry artificially restores vitamin D in a synthetic form to replace what’s been destroyed by pasteurization.

Even fish supply their offspring with plenty of vitamin D and cholesterol, as evidenced by the fact that caviar (fish eggs) is high in fat and a good source of vitamin D.

Human milk has an even higher fat content than cow’s milk; 55% of the calories in breast milk are from fat. It would also be loaded with vitamin D if the mother had not aggressively protected herself from the “damaging” rays of the sun.

Mother nature considers it important for newborns, whether chicks or calves, fish or human infants, to be well supplied with fats and vitamin D in order to assure healthy development.

Redefining cholesterol

Everybody in North America believes they know what cholesterol is: it’s that bad stuff that gunks up all your arteries and leads to sudden death by heart attack. If you have too much in your blood, you should be very worried. The argument is then that, to lower the level, you need to adopt a low-fat diet.

Like everything else, the pendulum has swung too far. Where our goal was to be healthy and reduce the risk of heart disease, we may have actually done more harm than good!

One of cholesterol’s many functions in the body is to act as a precursor to vitamin D. Vitamin D can also be obtained from foods. Interestingly, foods that provide this vitamin — all of which are animal foods — tend to be high in cholesterol.

Since cholesterol is a precursor to vitamin D, inhibiting the synthesis of cholesterol will also inhibit the synthesis of vitamin D. Since sunlight is required to turn cholesterol into vitamin D, avoiding the sun will likewise undermine our ability to synthesize vitamin D. And since vitamin D-rich foods are also rich in cholesterol, low-cholesterol diets are inherently deficient in vitamin D.

What have we been doing to ourselves by reducing our cholesterol and lowering our vitamin D intake/synthesis?

The most crucial role for both vitamin D and cholesterol in the embryo is in the development of the brain and central nervous system. The human brain makes up only 2% of the body’s weight but it contains nearly 25% of its total cholesterol.

It’s easy to imagine that by severely reducing the amount of our cholesterol, we’re starving the brain of an integral developmental component.

One of the critical processes during the development of the embryonic brain is the growth of millions of nerve fibers or “axons” to form connections among all the neurons in the developing brain. These axons are coated with a thick fatty substance called the myelin sheath, which provides insulation that keeps the signal intact and allows for fast and long-distance transport with minimal loss. This myelin sheath has very high cholesterol content — higher than that of any other brain tissue.

It is the extra length and thickness of the myelin sheaths around the nerve fibers of the human brain that most clearly differentiates it from the brains of other mammals.  Thus, humans uniquely need even more fat in the baby’s milk for a good reason: the infant needs to grow substantially more, longer and thicker myelin sheaths than any other animal.

Do you or someone you know have ADD/ADHD or on the spectrum of Autism?

In America, the rates of autism spectrum disorders have increased alarmingly over the last thirty years: in the 1980’s, there were at most 4-5 cases reported per 10,000 population. Today it’s estimated to be 66 per 10,000, a relative increase of 1200% or more!

So what is causing this epidemic? Some say the number of vaccinations, the ingredients in vaccinations, and so forth.

Dr. John Cannell, who is a psychiatrist and prominent advocate for vitamin D, believes that our nation’s aggressive efforts to protect ourselves from the sun through excessive sunscreen and sun avoidance may be behind the epidemic rise in the incidence of autism. He points out that the skyrocketing rise in autism rates coincides with the introduction of widespread practices to avoid unprotected exposure to sunlight, a message that has been pounded into the American public since the late 1980’s.

Newer evidence would suggest that this coincided with the concept of a low-fat diet.  This deadly combination of the switch to a low-fat diet and sun avoidance may very well be the answer to the rise in autism.

About the Author
Natural Neda was trained at Columbia University’s Institute of Integrative Nutrition and helps people achieve a healthy, balanced life using holistic nutrition and the body’s own wisdom. Her counseling is personalized and focuses on balancing all aspects of life that satisfy our hunger for living.

To learn more about Natural Neda and how she can guide you towards health and happiness, visit her site and contact her for a free consultation.

We’ve talked about how vitamin D can save your life but we’ve never covered the misconceptions of cholesterol before or it’s importance to our diets. Will you be getting a little more sun and more cholesterol in your diet now?

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Dee May 21, 2010 at 4:47 am

Excellent article Neda!! I have become increasingly aware of truth & nutrition over the years, and things which compromise our health.
I know the difference between Good (Healthy) HDL cholestrol and Bad (Lousy) LDL cholestrol, but not the importance of total cholestrol relative to sunshine and metabolizing vitamin D within the body. Thanks for the enlightenment! 🙂

Robin May 22, 2010 at 9:08 pm

Great information. This topic seems to keep creeping up on me. It’s hard to get good advice when society keeps telling us that nourishing foods are bad.

Jason Fonceca May 27, 2010 at 12:45 pm

Woo! After all the paranoia I’ve encountered about sun damage and tanning over the past while, it’s so refreshing to see someone looking on the “brighter side” (couldn’t resist) of sun and focusing on the oh-so-brilliant, vitamin D.

Thanks so much for writing!

Neda Smith May 31, 2010 at 9:26 pm

I’m glad you are all seeing the brighter side of this controversial topic. Please be careful to tan and not burn as it is very dangerous. Sun exposure should be limited during the hours of 11 AM to 1 PM. If you must be out during these hours, please do the following:
* cover yourself with light long sleeve clothes
* be in the shade
* wear a hat or a visor, so that you can still receive UVB rays through the retina but prevent wrinkles and sun damage to your face
* wear natural suncreens containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, 2 non toxic ingredients.

Thank you for all your comments,

Head Health Nutter June 1, 2010 at 6:42 pm

Thanks for all your comments and for your extra tips, Neda.

I’ve heard that direct sun is the best and that windows filter out the beneficial UV rays, leaving us exposed to damaging UV rays. What are your thoughts on tanning beds, Neda, for those of us who have a hard time getting direct sunlight?

Neda Smith June 2, 2010 at 10:39 am

I highly recommend being outside for at least 20 min a day for people who are lighter skinned and anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour for those who are on the darker side. If not possible at all, then simply add foods into your diet that will synthesize into vitamin D, especially in the winter months, such as cod liver oil. shrimp, liver, raw dairy, eggs (the yolk has the cholesterol therefore the vitamin D), herring, oysters, and sardines. Then I recommend tanning beds. But not all tanning beds are equal. Please check the amount of UV’s you are getting from the tanning bed, from one session you will want to only produce a slight pinkening of your skin. Also check the EMF exposure as this can contribute to cancer. So if you hear a loud buzzing noise while tanning, you will want to stay clear of it.

I hope this was of help to you.

Stephanie a.k.a. Head Health Nutter June 7, 2010 at 6:12 pm

Fantastic, Neda! Thanks for the additional tips and info. Hope to read some more of your posts here on Live Lighter. 🙂


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