A not-so-evil substance – and your mood.
You are in for a treat: This highly insightful, surprising, and enjoyable post is a contribution from Heather Schrock, Certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, who will be leading the class “Lifting Our Spirit With Nutrition” on April 26. Click on the “Book Now” button to get more info or to register for the class.
Could your depression be related to a deficiency in this so-called evil substance?
Ok, trivia junkies – answer me this! What healing antioxidant, both made in the body and ingested dietarily, plays a key role in the utilization of serotonin, Vitamin D and absorbing omega-3 fatty acids which are all known to affect mood?
Hint: This vital substance is critical to brain function and mood. Recent human and animal studies* have shown that inducing lower levels of it was linked to increased aggression, suicide, homicide, depression and anxiety. Also, in autopsy studies** of people with mental illness, their brains were shown to have lower levels of this particular antioxidant when compared to normal behavior controls.
Any guesses what this amazing substance is? Ok, wait for it…it’s cholesterol! (I can hear the record-screeching-to-a-halt sound in your brain right now.) Yes, folks, you heard me! Cholesterol is a powerful antioxidant that impacts brain, mood, hormones, fat digestion and so much more! So why do we hate this substance so much?
That is a long, sordid story that I won’t tell here because I want to stay focused on the cholesterol/brain connection, so go here for more on that! (But don’t forget to come back and finish reading my blog post…)
Let’s start with defining what cholesterol really is without the bias of what we have been told about it our whole lives. Cholesterol is an organic sterol (steroid alcohol). Wait, what? Cholesterol isn’t a fat? Nope! It’s part of the lipid molecule family which includes fats, waxes, sterols, fat-soluble vitamins and other important molecules that are vital to life. It is a common misconception that lipids are just fats. Cholesterol is an important component of cell membranes, allowing them to be fluid and permeable which is necessary for cellular communication and nourishment. Cellular communication is at the foundation of brain function, so you can imagine how important it would be to have proper amounts of cholesterol in the brain.
Cholesterol is also a precursor to bile acids, many hormones and vitamin D. So how does all this relate to your mood? Let’s connect the dots, shall we?
Lets start with the bile acids. Bile has the very important job of emulsifying our dietary fats, so we can access the vital nutrients in them, like our fats soluble vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. It is pretty clear these days that omega-3’s are vital to positive mood and fighting depression. Find out more about that here, but if we can’t access those nutrients because our bile acids are incomplete, all the sardines in the world may not help you!
Speaking of fat-soluble vitamins, what about vitamin D? Because cholesterol plays a vital part in the synthesis of vitamin D, it goes without saying that low levels of cholesterol could have a negative impact on your vitamin D levels. And even the most mainstream medical professionals agree that vitamin D affects mood.
Then there’s the hormone connection. Since cholesterol also is a precursor to many of our sex and steroid hormones, you can imagine the impact it could have on mood. Just ask someone who has PMS, and you will get my point.
Perhaps most interestingly is the serotonin/cholesterol connection. While it is still not completely understood, cholesterol levels in the brain have been shown to relate to serotonin levels in the brain. Higher cholesterol, higher serotonin: lower cholesterol, lower serotonin. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter responsible for helping us maintain positive feelings, flexibility (in your attitude, not your splits!), self-confidence, and even a sense of humor. So how would you feel if you had the opposite of all of these? Depressed, I would think!
So now what do we do with this? Should we all start eating a dozen eggs a day? While I, for one, would find that a super tasty challenge (all pasture-raised eggs, of course!), but I think the best place to start, is to get your cholesterol levels checked. Are you particularly low? Are you on a cholesterol lowering medication? Are you depressed or have other mood or brain issues? If so, I encourage your to seek out more than one opinion from your medical community and work with someone who might be open to exploring these health issues with you.
In the meantime, I’m going to go make a frittata!
Join Heather’s class on April 26th!