As discussed last week, one of the symptoms of Syndrome X is hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol). This week I will explore the connection between cholesterol and insulin. Insulin resistance, where sufficient insulin is produced but is unable to move glucose out of the blood into muscles, results in ever increasing levels of both insulin and glucose.
Cholesterol is essential for life. It is the basis for the synthesis of: the sex hormones, Vitamin D, scar tissue in wound healing, the myelin sheath of nerves, and all cell membranes. Excess cholesterol in the blood is a concern because it can stick to the lining of the arteries, leading to heart disease. Dietary sources of cholesterol contribute to less than 20% of blood levels; the remaining 80% is synthesized in the liver and other tissues. Thus controlling production is more effective than diet in cholesterol management.
In the bloodstream, LDL (low density lipoproteins) transport cholesterol and triglycerides to the cells; HDL (high density lipoproteins) carry excess cholesterol back to the liver for elimination. Thus the LDL/HDL ratio is of more clinical significance than total cholesterol.
A high insulin level stimulates the storage of triglycerides as fat. At the same time it also stimulates the production of cholesterol by increasing the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase (the same enzyme blocked by statin drugs). With normal low levels of insulin the triglycerides are burned for fuel in the mitochondria of the cells instead of being stored, and instead of producing more cholesterol the cell will pull it out of the bloodstream.
Most people on a diet which manages insulin levels at a normal low level experience lower total cholesterol and improved LDL/HDL ratios without the need for cholesterol drugs. That’s a nice “side-effect” of a diet which helps you burn unwanted fat safely and easily.
This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.