Category: Grain Brain


Your Brain Needs Cholesterol

Cholesterol is vitally important for brain function. While your brain represents about 2-3% of your total body weight, 25% of the cholesterol in your body is found in your brain, where it plays important roles in such things as membrane function, acts as an antioxidant, and serves as the raw material from which we are able to make things like progesterone, estrogen, cortisol, testosterone and even vitamin D.

In fact, in a recent study available on the NIH Public Access site, researchers showed that in the elderly, the best memory function was observed in those with the highest levels of cholesterol. Low cholesterol is associated with an increased risk for depression and even death.

This understanding of the important role of cholesterol in brain function raises concern as we now see changes in recommendations for prescribing statin medication. Some estimates indicate that moving forward, the number of individuals taking statins to lower cholesterol in America may actually double! This presents a worrisome proposition for brain health.

  • Jeff Layton

    Thank you Doctor for commenting on these new statin guidelines, I have been watching for some sort of comment, as I find the new guidelines quite startling in the context of your writings, and of those in the wheat belly blog.

  • Lynn Dell

    If people want to keep feeding themselves excessive carbohydrates, including high fructose corn syrup, also too much sodium, and if they don’t want to exercise or lose needed weight, or understand the difference between “good fats” and “bad fats” or the proper omega 3 to omega 6 ratio, they can have their statin meds because they probably need them. I want no part of them, and am glad to have been made aware of a path back to better health through nutrition. Thanks for explaining (in your book) that HDL and LDL are not cholesterol, btw, and that it is primarily carbs that cause free radical damage to LDL, which leads to much of the damage.

  • parkdalejim

    In the announcement of new guidelines for cholesterol, Dr. Steven Nissen, chairman of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic was quoted as saying “This is kind of fire and forget” Maybe he was being ironic, but I don’t think so. Perhaps the next announcement by the medical establishment is that they’re putting statins in the water!

  • John

    Well, but it seems (http://goo.gl/pYM5n) that cholesterol has some adverse effects after all. Is there a “safe” dosis? Could you comment on that?

    • gmeades

      the “adverse effects” of cholesterol is a concept commonly promoted by doctors in the US who are misinformed and who profit from their relationship with big pharmaceutical companies.

      Cholesterol lowering drugs provide around $32 billion a year in profits for these companies, and it is in their interest to promote the fallacy that high cholesterol is dangerous.

      The truth is artificially lowering cholesterol is dangerous, leading to varying degrees of mental impairment and even death, as the brain and the body breaks down from the deficiency of the cholesterol it requires.

      Google “the low cholesterol hoax” and you’ll find a lot of information about why high cholesterol is not bad, and how we’ve been misinformed on the subject so the pharmaceutical companies can continue to rake in huge profits at the expense of our health and our lives, all while lying to us and telling us it’s for our health.

      How can lowering cholesterol, something that impairs our brain function, inhibits various body functions, and leads to our degeneration and death be good for us? Answer – it’s not. It’s exactly like what the cigarette companies did for so many years – profiting at our expense.

      Did you know the “safe” level of cholesterol has been revised and lowered a number of times? It has, and the reason for this was because the pharmaceutical companies figured out if they lowered the “safe” level, they could get more people on their drugs.

      They have now lowered the number to a level that they believe will guarantee that almost everyone will need to be on cholesterol lowering drugs, guaranteeing them the greatest amount of profit for their product , a product that currently brings them more than $32 billion a year.

  • Sandy

    I have MS. While I believe that the brain does need cholesterol, I’m having trouble figuring out how much cholesterol makes sense for an MS patient, given the work the Swank did and your own paper on the topic. I’m thoroughly confused about cholesterol in the context of MS.

    • Gamer Gamer

      our liver produce most of all the cholesterol we have, what comes from food is a bare minimum that doesn’t really change our cholesterol level. Cholesterol is the most important molecul of the human body. we can not have too much.

      • Marilyn Kircus

        Exactly. It’s the DRUG companies that are setting the standards. And studies are showing that higher levels of cholesterol in your body make for more cognition in older people. It also seems to be protective against Alzheimer’s, along with up to 4 cups of coffee a day.

      • Tina Toburen

        Yes, the liver does a LOT of work… so make sure you take care of the liver in return. Feed it good food and try not to tax it with unknown/highly processed food-like items (fake sugars, fillers and artificial flavors come to mind).

        I also take Milk Thistle occasionally to give my liver additional support. I definitely feel better the morning after taking Milk Thistle.

      • Jane

        One of the doctors I work for looked at me guiltily when I walked into his office and he was munching on a Big Mac & fries. I smiled and said, “Your brain NEEDS cholesterol. Your secret is safe with me.”

    • STOP EATING GMO’s or “genetically modified organisms” the gov’t classifies as “food.” It’s not. It’s highly toxic and loaded with poisonous cholesterol your body cannot EVER absorb. And you need tons of healthy cholesterol to keep producing brain cells!

      If you don’t know what GMO’s are: they take the DNA of your food and re-combine it with “BT toxin,” the DNA of say a fish, and Round-up pesticide. Scientists mix this mess together to make a “synthetic organism” or GMO. In essence, the DNA of the food you’re eating is recognized by human DNA as a TOXIN and NOT FOOD. Something crazy to think about…

      Your DNA is programmed to ALL organic compounds in nature EVERY ancestor of yours has ever been exposed to!!!

      Science will try to convince you otherwise, but DO NOT LISTEN…

      **Lab-created disease is NOT the same as organic disease, just as a lab-created ruby is not a REAL ruby.

      When science starts lab-creating diseases (like BT toxin) for food (or GMOs), or lab creates plagues (like in vaccines) these microbes are UNRECOGNIZABLE to your DNA’s coding which will relentlessly fight off contamination from them. Your DNA will reprogram itself to force your body to create antibodies it doesn’t need for a lab-created disease your DNA doesn’t recognize. That’s when the REALLY BAD health problems will start. Calcium will bind these toxins (calcification) then toxic cholesterol will take the wheel and store these diseased organisms IN YOUR FAT CELLS.

      Sidebar: Did you know a study from the 1990s proved un-vaccinated children are healthier and NEVER have the same diseases (like tonsillitis & appendicitis) vaccinated children do?! Then they added GMOs to our diets (circa 1994) and now 1/2 of ALL CHILDREN in the U.S.A. are obese and/or diseased needing doctors and pharmaceuticals daily?! Now you know why…and it’s no different for American adults!!

      In GMOs, BT toxin is an organic bacteria that occurs naturally in soils. When synthesized in a lab for GMO’s it becomes extremely lethal ~ to bugs AND to humans. It will EXPLODE the stomachs of bugs and causes gastric necrosis (cell death) in humans. Your digestion contains massive amount of probiotics (good bacteria that eats bad bacteria). This is why 70% of your immune system is IN YOUR DIGESTION. GMO’s DESTROY probiotics. No probiotics in your gut equals a contaminated digestion, which WILL make you sick. What diseases you get sick with is decided by your DNA’s programming. GMO’s will damage DNA as well disrupting all of it’s programming, including how to keep you healthy!

      “Degenerative diseases” I was diagnosed with that DISAPPEARED when I switched to organic food, juicing, vitamins and NATURAL medicine:

      1. Arthritis — GONE
      2. Emphysema & COPD — GONE
      3. Herniated & Ruptured Discs — GONE…the scans indicated I GREW MY DISCS BACK!
      4. Cancer — GONE
      5. Asperger’s/Autism — GONE, or at least highly controllable symptoms as long as I stick with an 80% organic diet/medicine.
      6. Fibromyalgia — GONE
      7. Chronic reproductive diseases & cancer — GONE
      8. Obesity — GONE….I actually have a very difficult time gaining weight!

      Make the switch and NEVER have to worry about ‘bad cholesterol,’ obesity, or disease again.

      Sorry so long but I thought some would like the explanation. Namaste~~~~~

      • Marilyn Kircus

        GMO’s are not bad in themselves, but most of the modifications are for the benefit of farmers and the detriment of of the consumers. GMO’s that allow the plant to live in high concentrations of Roundup are particularly dangerous. The GMO tomato, with the gens turned backwards to prevent quick rotting, is not going to hurt you. But GMO corn, soy, and some other grains will hurt you, plus they are not good for you in the first place, particularly wheat and corn. And remember rice usually has high mercury levels.

    • Dettrea Weston

      Interesting discussion, contact me, I have some even more interesting information! Wdettrea@yahoo.com!

    • Research Dr, Wahls protocol…

    • maxx

      Do some research into “turmeric”. I know it is being researched related to MS right now.

  • Ginny

    I am 65, female and am more than half way through your book, Grain Brain. I just heard a radio program implicating cholesterol in Alzheimer’s disease. (Also research by Linda Crnic Institute for Down Snydrom and the U. of Colorado School of medicine, April 15, 2013 saying that cholesterol damages brain and blood vessels.) So I have started the low-carb diet and now I am very concerned about my cholesterol intake on this diet. Thank you.

  • Ginny

    Hi. I am more than half way through Grain Brain and have started eating a low-carb diet. However, recently I heard on PBS about studies implicating cholesterol in Alzheimer’s disease. One is from April 15, 2013 by the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome and the U. of Colorado School of Medicine. They found that cholesterol damages the brain and blood vessels. So, this concerns me greatly. 65, female, trying to hang in there.. .

    • Driton S. Imami

      Eat what you want, it doesn’t matter, but don’t eat too much

      • HikeCyclePhoto

        Fine, tell that to someone who’s extremely active physically, and needs 4,000-5,000 calories per day, JUST to stay even. And, yes, it DOES matter what one eats.We need fiber, healthy fats, lean protein, and in some cases lots of calories.

        Try riding a bicycle 50-100 miles (in a day, not a year) on the “it doesn’t matter” diet, and see how you feel. Actually, if you follow the “it doesn’t matter diet, don’t even TRY something strenuous without consulting your physician.

        • Driton S. Imami

          Even If I would ride bicycle for that long, I would only increase my fat intake, because a gram of fat contains 9 calories, a gram of carbs ..6 calories and a gram of protein has only 4, so there are a lot of scientific evidences and plenty of experiments are done that show us that people who are active for a long period they need more fats, including saturated and unsaturated fats, also another thing that matters is your genetics, some people are more resistant in cholesterol than others so depend on you have you would behave with your body

        • A Day

          …bullfarts…I can work circles around you and eat pizza every day. just cause you ‘think’ you are healthy don’t mean it’s so…

      • Tina Toburen

        I agree with HikeCyclePhoto… eat 200 calories of almonds, wait an hour, then eat 200 calories of cheetos… which one was satisfying? which improved your mood? which gave you a headache? after which did you become hungry sooner?

        Food matters.

        We’re all unique. Maybe “eat what you want” works for YOU, but I would not recommend it to anyone else.

        • Driton S. Imami

          yeah, probably that is true, maybe my body can handle a lot’s of fat in my everyday meals, but we should not forget to mention that also the genetic factor matters… cause my parent ate so, also my grandparents and they never got high in cholesterol, also and I ate same way since my childhood and I never ever got a high cholesterol in blood.
          And here is the point, before starting a diet people should know hove does they body works, have are their genetics, and have is their body response… in order to make things better not worse.

        • Tom T

          are corn dogs and a big gulp good for you?

          • A Day

            …they are extremely good for you if they make you happy. Go for quality rather than quantity. You want a long miserable life or a great life maybe a few years or months shorter? That’s the question. Ain’t it?

          • Tom T

            good point

    • gmeades

      Cholesterol is vitally important for brain function. While your brain represents about 2-3% of your total body weight, 25% of the cholesterol in your body is found in your brain, where it plays important roles in such things as membrane function, acts as an antioxidant, and serves as the raw material from which we are able to make things like progesterone, estrogen, cortisol, testosterone and even vitamin D.

      In fact, in a recent study available on the NIH Public Access site, researchers showed that in the elderly, the best memory function was observed in those with the highest levels of cholesterol. Low cholesterol is associated with an increased risk for depression and even death.


      • Jane

        Everyone in my family has tested high on the cholesterol thing. Dad lived to be 83 yrs 8 months,, Mom was 79 yrs +5 days. My doc didn’t shudder after he read my test. Was high across the board, particularly HDL. He said, “Don’t worry. We usually equate that with what’s called ‘longevity syndrome’.” Well, THAT sounded okay with me! 🙂

        • Lirpa

          That’s awesome Jane! Wish that was the case in my family. Mom had high cholesterol, and although she died of glioblastoma, she was sharp and quick as a whip, till her last breath, did not lose any mental capacity whatsoever. The doctors believe the cancer was from a viral infection she’d contracted 7 years earlier, based on progression of symptoms. She graduated college at age 63, with honors of Summa Cum Laude. Doing all her schooling while brain cancer grew, and earning 4.0s along the way.

          • Field of Colors

            OOh wow..I am so sorry …she sounds like she was a magnificent and resilient lady…I am so sorry for such irreplaceable loss.
            My mom has high cholesterol since ever, she is 88 , walks ten blocks every day , eats well and enjoys every minute of her life !

          • Lirpa

            Amen to your Mom’s good health! How awesome! Thank you for your kind words, and for sharing your Mom’s story. I pray she lives to be a centurian, and shows the world that high cholesterol is NOT a killer!

      • Emmanuel Goldstein

        Fair point, but the cholesterol produced by the brain has nothing to do with the cholesterol HDL and LDL found in the body outside the brain. The question is, can we raise our brain cholesterol levels, good for myelination, by raising our food intake high in cholesterol?

        • Aliviana

          There is only one type of cholesterol. It’s cholesterol. VLDL, LDL, and HDL are all the same type of lipoprotein, which transports cholesterol and triglycerides, of which its classification changes respective to size as triglycerides are removed from it by fat cells.

        • Tom T

          cholesterol produced in the liver crosses the blood brain barrier in a complex mechanism requiring abundant and healthy cholesterol molecules

        • Tom T

          that is simply not true emmanuel. cholesterol has to cross the blood brain barrier.It is not produced in the brain

      • maxx

        I am definitely in your camp with regard to cholesterol. When I found out how much cholesterol makes up the brain I immediately began to wonder about Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s only became a popular topic in recent times, about the same time statin drugs began to be used. I also never heard that the brain creates cholesterol. My information says cholesterol is produced by the liver which is a bio-active organ. That seems to correlate with why people taking statin drugs most often suffer from liver failure. Additionally I never could fully understand why Big Pharma was allowed to patent statins because they were already a naturally occurring substance in Chinese Herbal Medicine. Red rice yeast is a naturally occurring statin. How the patent office allowed this is very very suspicious to say the least. Then there is the story of how the safe cholesterol level of 200 was determined. My information says it was an arbitrary number picked not by an actual medical doctor but by a country coroner.

      • maxx

        I have long held the same belief once I read how much of the brain is made up of cholesterol. Also that cholesterol is the substance the body uses to build or repair all cells. When it does so to repair the lining in blood vessels it mixes in some calcium and it’s called “plaque”. I believe the huge uptick in references to Alzheimer’s is directly related to the increased use of statins. I also believe that anti-perspirants that commonly contain aluminum salts can cause the aluminum to be absorbed and make it’s way into brain tissue where it stays forever just like other heavy metals. I was prescribed a stain about a year and a half ago due to having a TIA, a very minor stroke, that I am trying to get off of. It did lower my original reading of 230 to 183 but I did not think 230 was that bad in the first place. My dose is 10mg. I know about Red Rice Yeast but haven’t found a doctor that I can speak to about switching or stopping the statin altogether. I have another belief that Autism is more likely caused by women taking
        anti-depressants while pregnant. Considering how anti-depressants affect an adult brain God only knows what it does to a developing brain. I also believe that there is no possible valid reason for using mercury in the manufacture of mandated childhood vaccinations.

  • Gayle Geer

    Dr. Perlmutter, I would appreciate reading your comments on the questions that were posted here months ago. Thank you for your efforts on behalf of our health.

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  • IdiocyAbounds

    Somebody on this site needs to address the questions that are posted here. OR STOP posting on the site. It is not only rude but just idiotic to post articles that you KNOW give people questions and then just IGNORE them

    In Today’s world of social media… that is bad JUJU and you need to Grow UP, Man up and knock it off

    • I.C.Clearly

      The article is about cholesterol and the questions are about carbohydrates. Don’t expect an answer if your question is off topic.

  • Jarod Benowitz

    Cholesterol is a main constituent of mylien, the “white matter” of the brain. The mylien sheath acts as a dialectic sandwiched between the intercellular and extracellular fluids of the axon. The thicker the mylien the more rapid the action potential. Eating more cholesterol isn’t the solution to diseases related to thinning of the mylienated sheath from low cholesterol. Your body has specific metabolic mechanisms that take cholesterol from the foods you eat and distributes it throughout your body. Anything that goes to your brain goes threw the blood brain barrier, the most selective membrane in the human body. Your diet is not nearly as important as these metabolic mechanisms. If these mechanisms are malfunctioning adjusting your diet for more cholesterol worsens your health as it will target your heart. Dr. Perlmutter is literally a moron.

  • Jarod Benowitz

    Dr. Perlmutter please elaborate on the specific metabolic mechanisms that delivers toxic amounts of carbohydrates past the blood brain barrier. While your at it please publish it and have it peer reviewed. Until then you’re simply a TV figure head that ‘somehow’ obtained an M.D. in neurology.

    • Tom T

      u doubt that cholesterol moves past the blood brain barrier??

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  • rfoxmich

    The study you cite involves examining LDL and cholesterol levels in a population that also has a specific genetic marker: The lack of the
    apolipoprotein e4 allele.
    The conclusion paragraph says:
    “In oldest old nondemented noncarriers of the APOE4 allele, high cholesterol is associated with better memory function. Further examination of the role of APOE genotype on the association between cholesterol and cognitive performance, especially in the oldest old is warranted.”

    Note that this is not an endorsement for high cholesterol for all.

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  • Hana Dolgin

    I was eating only fish and eggs and plant based food for over 30 years. I thought I was doing good. Then last year, I developed asthma and tried to treat it naturally and had to use meds. Recently, I did a special computerized scan and was told that I was severely protein deficient! It was recommended to me to eat some red meat, and I was also prescribed supplements that contained animal glands and organs. Within two days, I felt a complete shift in my energy, which is now sky-high! I guess I was low on saturated fat and protein, and I now feel fantastic! It shows how dietary theories that sound good can in fact be wrong…. I guess it’s a matter of how much time one goes till the consequences start to show.

  • VegCoach

    I know some of you are hard core with this stuff, however, the preponderance of scientific evidence points otherwise. Evidenced based nutrition facts can be viewed at http://www.NutritionFacts.org. Also, a great read is Neal Barnard’s Power Foods for the Brain. There is no debate about the fact that that “refined” carbs are not a healthy food choice, however, “Whole” carbs are an excellent source of energy, many nutrients and fiber. Less than 5% of the people in the US get the RDA of Fiber! And, the longest lived civilizations on the planet have all been starch based.
    the 2015 Dietary guidelines are finally, in line with the science and not industry interests in their recommendation to keep saturated fat, and cholesterol, (found only in animal products), to a minimum. Our #1 killer in the US is Heart Disease. The only way known to reverse it is lifestyle, primarily switching to a diet low – (or no) animal products and refined oil, and rich in whole plant foods. I encourage you to do your own research on this. (See Dr. Caldwell Esselsyn’s Preventing and Reversing Heart Disease)

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  • Elizabeth

    Yes, your body NEEDS cholesterol. What people don’t understand is that the body makes as much cholesterol as it needs. Eating too much cholesterol, or taking cholesterol-lowering drugs, are both equally bad for your health. Just stop eating things that contain high amounts of cholesterol and saturated fat (a.k.a animal products). It really is that simple.

    • Antony Daamen

      you r body adjust the cholesterol it creates. so if you eat something high in cholesterol, your body makes less. …

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  • Not just Alzheimer’s…

    “Statin Use Linked to Increased Parkinson’s Risk”

    This contradicts a study by the same authors which suggested an opposite link, but they recommended the link be investigated further… (which is why you can’t take a single journal article on its own as fact in any scientific debate) …

    ” “We know that overall weight of the literature favors that higher cholesterol is associated with beneficial outcomes in Parkinson’s disease, so it’s possible that statins take away that protection by treating the high cholesterol,” – the lead author, Dr Huang explained.”

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  • ohneclue@yahoo.com

    Alzheimer’s Disease has now been shown to have a “tipping point” and that is high sugars that glycate or sugar-coat the brain’s MIF cells. They found that Early AD people had 15% glycation of brain cells, Moderate AD brains had 38% glycated brain cells and Late Stage AD had 75% of their brain sugar-coated or glycated. Again, SUGAR is evil and not the least bit necessary to us as human beings.

    • Antony Daamen

      where did you get this from.. this fits with what i found ..
      can you pls give me a reference?

      • ohneclue@yahoo.com

        This was reported February 23, 2017, and came out of the UK from the same medical group that has Dr. Roy Taylor but I don’t have it memorized as to how to find it. Do a search on “Sugar glycation of MIF cells” and see if that helps you find it. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170223124253.htm I just found it on that Google topic so here you go — that will be 25 ¢ please

  • A Day

    Everyone in my family with the exception of my step mother has high cholesterol readings at every test. My father just passed at 97, his mother passed at 98, while my step mother who is 87 has been in a nursing home for years with alzhiemers disease. Go figure. I’d rather go out fast than gruelingly slow with a thing like brain freeze.

  • Lauren

    Vegans are in for a cognetive surprise in their later years after not eating any food with cholesterol, their brains might not be happy.

    • That doesn’t really make sense. Animals (like cows and sheep… and humans) don’t have cholesterol because they eat other animals.

      As anecdote. I’ve been vegan 25 yrs and my current cholesterol levels are healthy (and have gone slightly up on last year’s).

      I’m now just under 50 and starting a PhD in bioinformatics.

      Our bodies make enough cholesterol for our day-to-day needs.

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