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.
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 consequence—or even reassuring—in 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.