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This Is Your Brain on Cholesterol

Too much cholesterol can be bad for your heart. But could it be good for your brain? Nutrition Diva dives into the new research on the potential benefits of cholesterol.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
Episode #511
HD and LDLD cholesterol

Should Older People Eat More Saturated Fat? 

I don’t think we have nearly enough evidence to start advising Grandpa to eat more bacon with the goal of raising his LDL cholesterol levels.  

But we might reconsider whether we should be prescribing medications (or low-fat diets) to people in their 80s, in order to keep their cholesterol levels at 50-year-old target levels.

In fact, research has shown that giving statins to older people who have elevated cholesterol but no other signs of heart disease doesn’t have any benefit at all. In fact, it may actually do some harm.

As our population gets older (and lives longer), it’s becoming clear that it doesn’t make sense to lump everyone over the age of 18 into a single category in terms of our health benchmarks, laboratory values, medication and nutrition recommendations. The nutritional needs of a 70-year-old are a lot different than those of a 30-year-old. And by the same token, a cholesterol reading that might be concerning in a 40-year-old might be of no consequenceor even reassuringin an 80-year-old.

It’s also a good reminder that prescribing medications (or diets) in response to individual lab values is not ideal. Recommendations should always take into consideration a patient’s overall health, health history, lifestyle, age-adjusted risk factors and requirements, as well as other medications and conditions.

And finally, the complex relationship between cholesterol and health is yet another example of the fact that individual foods and nutrients are rarely all good or all bad. Most play a variety of roles...and context is everything.

See also: How Saturated Fat Could Help Your Heart and What Foods Deserve to Be Labeled Healthy?

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Cholesterol image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show. 

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