Bad Cholesterol builds muscle – not so bad afterall

Today I was going to follow up on my previous post concerning enlarged prostate, but this news just couldn’t wait and I will post my follow up in the next few days. I so am excited about the news that LDL cholesterol helps build muscle mass and I just couldn’t wait to tell you.  Yes – you read me right! New research reveals that people who have high levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol are able to build greater muscle mass than those with lower levels of LDL cholesterol.   Since I have chronically high LDL cholesterol I’m just about turning somersaults with joy to know that there can be some benefit afterall.  The catch is that you need to workout.  Specifically fifty two participants who were between 60 and 69 years of age and in good health, and not involved in any regular exercise program, took part in a study where surprising results transpired.   Those with the highest levels of LDL cholesterol, commonly called the bad or ‘lousy’ cholesterol were able to build the greatest amounts of muscle.   So all of us with high levels of LDL can take heart that when we put on running shoes, load up on the weights and get going (on the treadmill in my case) that we will have every advantage of building muscle.   This is great news because muscle is so important to good health and especially as we get older.  Horribly 5% of muscle mass is lost per decade after the age of 40, and muscle loss leads to frailty, weakness and falls.  Loss of vitality is probably the most aging thing of all, so it’s good to know that while your doctor is telling you that your LDL is high and you need to reduce it, you can be planning to take full advantage and grow some muscle.

I do take my high cholesterol levels seriously even though I do not take cholesterol lowering drugs despite the advice from my doctor. My defense has always been that I eat loads of antioxidants and my HDL to LDL ratio is high (this is a good thing).  In addition I take psyllium mostly every day because the soluble fiber in psyllium helps to remove cholesterol from the body forcing your body to make more. Now brand spanking new undamaged LDL cholesterol is not the damaging kind.  So to my way of thinking turning the cholesterol supply over seems to make good sense.

I don’t mean to vilify modern medicine, but it’s just that we don’t know everything.  Sometimes it appears as though we do, and many health professionals seem to really think they’ve got it all worked out and then something like this comes along and blows us out of the water.  I have posted before about cholesterol and to briefly recap it’s not LDL cholesterol that hurts us.  It is damaged cholesterol, and specifically small LDL cholesterol – size does matter when it comes to cholesterol. Some people refer to this as cholesterol type A and cholesterol type B.    Type B is a small dense LDL cholesterol particle while type A is large and buoyant.   The small dense particles are more easily oxidized and these damaged particles cause nicks and cuts in the arteries which require a body band-aid.  That band-aid comes in the form of foam cells which are sent to clog up the bleed.  It is commonly referred to as plaque which can build up and narrow the artery.  In addition it can become unstable and if dislodged can cause stroke.  That’s why most of the medical profession is so worried about high cholesterol levels.  Actually most of them don’t even look at the ratio of HDL cholesterol which has the function of bringing LDL cholesterol back from the blood stream to the liver.

The research comes from Texas A&M University and Dr Steven Riechman points out that people tend to get it wrong when it comes to LDL cholesterol. For one thing if you didn’t have any, then serious problems would occur.  That’s for sure.  You’d wind up disintegrating since cholesterol is involved in keeping cell membranes stable.  That’s just one of the effects read about the rest here.   Riechman says that having high levels of cholesterol is a warning sign that something else is wrong.  In other words, it’s not having high cholesterol that is the problem we need to ask what else is going on – is it diet, lack of exercise, smoking?

It is also the case that as we age cholesterol levels increase – partly due to the decrease in human growth hormone (HGC). Perhaps this is nature’s way of helping us to compensate.  AS HGC decreases, muscle mass declines, as muscle mass declines, metabolism slows, weight gain occurs with increase in body fat compared to muscle mass.  However if we do what we are supposed to do – that is  - engage in physical activity as we did in generations  and centuries past – on the farm, in the fields, hunting and gathering – then the corresponding increase in LDL levels can actually help us to maintain and not lose that precious muscle mass.  I think that’s pretty wonderful.

Muscle mass burns twice the calories of fat mass, stronger people have better balance, are less prone to falls, recover more easily from injury, and are much able to carry out what is termed in the health industry as ADLs or ‘activities of daily living’.  Those that can’t carry out ADLs wind up in nursing homes or are cared for by others – if they are lucky.  Riechman is on to the same possibility of the benefits of high LDL.  He reports that the study might be useful to consider in conjunction on a condition called sarcopenia – the medical term for getting old and losing muscle mass.  Severe sarcopenia affects 65% of men and 30% of women over the age of 60.  So……ladies and gentlemen of the baby boomer era  and those of Generation X– it’s time to make good use of your high cholesterol and put it to work building some muscle.  If pumping iron doesn’t appeal to you, just get some light weights and put them on your wrists and ankles while you walk, or jog or whatever you do.  When I’m being ‘good’ and using my treadmill I use wrist weights and when I’ve built up enough and that gets easy I add hand weights.  It really adds to your work out to carry some additional weight.   I have to say I am elated to know my high LDL cholesterol level can be put to some good use.  And I can’t wait to tell my doc!


Serum lipid levels in growth hormone-deficient
H. de Boer G.J. Bloka, H.J. Voermana, M. Phillipsa, and J.A. Schoute,
Metabolism Volume 43, Issue 2, February 1994, Pages 199-203

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply

Bad Behavior has blocked 293 access attempts in the last 7 days.