Cholesterol gets a lot of bad publicity but the truth is that it is an essential part of all cells and so it is no real surprise that it is abundant in the human body. The prevailing theory is that cholesterol is the cause of modern diseases but how strong is the evidence to support this theory? and what, if anything could be the alternative explanation?

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a chemical that is abundant in the membrane of every cell in your body. It is a type of fat with the structure of a steroid.

read more at cholesterol and cell membranes.

What does it do for us?

Cholesterol essentially keeps the cell membrane from turning to mush. Which means it keeps the cells in your body intact because it is a structural component of the cell membrane.

Why do we worry about it?

So cholesterol is prevalent in all cells and does useful things for us so why should we be worrying about it? The general evidence is that a correlation between high levels of a certain types of particle (LDL) that transports fats like cholesterol and high levels of heart and vascular problems like heart disease and stroke. It is also clear that high levels of LDLs containing cholesterol also often occur in people with fatty streaks and plaques in their arteries which are related to heart problems aswell

What I think really causes high cholesterol

The idea that cholesterol is the culprit only makes sense when you are looking for a scape goat to blame or something to fix with drugs because it doesn’t answer the question of why cholesterol is increasing or what makes it dangerous.

You see LDL cholesterol levels also have a correlation with lack of activity and general lack of fitness and one important aspect of being fit is the ability to recover quickly. For example fit people recover heart rate, blood pressure, glucose and fat blood levels faster than unfit people. Those are just a few of the measures but most if not all measures of health are improved in fit people

So when you consider the role of cholesterol as a support for both the cell structure and processes that the cell membrane performs then the story becomes clearer. As our populations have become less active and better fed they have become less fit. Being less fit means their bodies are much worse at both repairing the daily damage that occurs to cells throughout the body and managing the excess energy that is being consumed,

If cells are not repaired properly then their contents would start to leak out and be found around the body and cholesterol would obviously start to form cell membranes in the wrong place. Given that cholesterol is a core part of cells it is also a core part of the cell recovery process. So where repairs are occurring you would expect to find a lot of cholesterol just like there are lots of bricks and mortar in a building site.

The excess energy becomes a problem because all energy is dangerous when it is not stored properly. We know this from energy sources we use like electricity, wind and fossil fuels which in the right place are safe, but very unsafe in the wrong place. Fuels in the body are the same and can start to cause big problems. Carbohydrate, fats and proteins are also dangerous if they are not properly handled. So the body of an unfit individual will not handle energy properly which will lead to even more damage.

This explanation shows why ldls with high cholesterol would be more prevalent than hdls that have low cholesterol but gives a practice explanation about how the situation occurred and how to fix it that is also backed up by research. The ratio of hdl to ldl simply reflects your bodies ability to repair existing damage to cells and reduce further damage from rogue energy.

I have deliberately kept this explanation short and punchy instead of going in depth into the science because I feel it is more important that you understand the story. If you want to know more then please ask and I would be more than happy to share but for now it’s more important that you understand on a cellular level just why your body needs to move throughout the day just as much as it needs to breath. Breathing provides oxygen and remove carbon dioxide but movement gets nutrients to where they are needed and makes your body keeping everything working as it should and in line with what you need for your life.

If you want to know more then check out a different view on cholesterol, what factors make us kick the bucket? and Can you manage Coronary Heart Disease through physical activity?

Check out my other articles to learn more about preventing obesity, heart disease and Diabetes, dementia and alzheimers and even Cancer through exercise


hyperphysics: cholesterol

cholesterol and cell membranes.

Ageing well requires staying fit


Ageing is many peoples greatest fear because many believe that to age is to wane, that life doesn’t get any better but I for one haven’t seen that to be true. Working in a gym gave me an excellent insight because I saw people from all walks of life and in all stages. What I like to remind myself every so often is that the healthiest and fittest people there, and particularly the happiest were sometimes the eldest.

Now don’t get me wrong, age is a big challenge and putting the miles on the clock is going to add some wear and tear but I do like to see the body and mind just like a car. The question being, what kind of miles are you putting on and how do you drive?

In the same way that driving aggressively can cause your car to wear out sooner or by simply not maintaining it properly the body ages badly when not cared for. The fact is that working in the gym I met many people who didn’t just look younger than they were they lived younger too. I got the chance to get to know them personally and get an insight into whether their good health was luck and genetics or whether they themselves had a greater part to play.

The answer I found is that just like with a car it is luck the exact version you are given but the greatest impact on how you age is in how you take care of what you have. For example one of the ladies I knew is an inspiration to this day because I thought she was 60 and doing well for her age. To make conversation I asked her what she was training for to which she replied she was going on a skiing holiday in a few weeks. Skiing is in my eyes on of the most intense activities there is so you have to be pretty darn fit even to do it let alone be any good. This lady was treating it like a normal thing and I thought how great it is to be able to do something this intense as a normal activity at 60. Good for her, I thought, just think of all the other cool things she must be able to do that many of her age can’t like run around with her children because unfortunately even climbing stairs is a challenge for many at that age.



Because I worked in a gym I knew people ages because it’s part of prescribing the right activities and such so I had a quick check and found she was in fact 80. Yep you read that right, an 80 year old grandma thought nothing of popping across to the alps for a bit of skiing. Now that is a woman to be inspired by isn’t it. So the question is Was this exceptional health down to luck and genes. Not really because when I put the question to her she said she was always active through her life and didn’t want to let herself go. Her attitude determined her health, not her genes.

Maybe this is a lucky find but she was not the only person at this gym who had the same result. Several people I found were experiencing health 20 years younger than their nominal age. The pattern I found was that they all had the same attitude that they must use their body or lose it so they chose to maintain it well. The fact is that the body doesn’t just need a yearly check up but a more regular one a few times a week. In fact that’s what cars are like because they still need to be used regularly, often every day, in order to function properly. In fact most cars need to be given a decent run regularly enough to keep themselves working properly.

These insights didn’t just apply in the gym I worked in. When I look wider I find the same story every where. Being older can and should mean the same health and happiness you knew when you were younger. To those who maintain their body properly this is invariably the case.

So that is my personal experience so far and I wanted to see what the existing research has to say. For now though, as a working dad I have found plenty of fascinating insights but haven’t had the time to put them into an interesting story. I list them below so you can look through them.

I falso ound Dave Hughes ‏@HughesDC_MCMP particularly useful

“Favourable impact of sprint exercise on aging muscle” http://www.jappl.org/content/101/3/906.full.pdf … -Fibre type % in different age groups pic.twitter.com/oVcVTN0HmS

So, that is what I have so far. Please let me know what you think and what else you would like to know.

Photo Credit: Older man: Neil. Moralee, Skiier: sunflowerdave (professional loungist) via Compfight cc

Enjoy everyday activities more by knowing how digestion works

Because it’s not what you eat but the way that you eat it it is important to understand that the benefits of knowing why eating while moving can be bad for you? can be applied to more than just moving around. Exercise is is just one situation where dehydration is likely.

Being aware of all these situations and activities where dehydration can occur is key to knowing how to deal with stomach pains from dehydration.

The basic understanding of physiology covered in the related posts is useful to explain why I don’t have intense meals, ones that are hard for the body to digest before or during many every day situations:

  • intense activity
  • times of low water, either I’m dehydrated or will be because no drinks are available. 
    • Long trips in a car, train, plain or other
  • situations where I don’t want to need the toilet.
    • during meetings
    • at the cinema

It can seem obvious but it’s been really useful to know little tricks like this so I can be in control of myself during the day and make my body work for me all the time.

Please don’t help my kids

As a father I’m constantly searching for the balance between helping my son and holding him back. I was brought up to work hard and overcome challenges. It gave me a belief that I could control my life instead of expecting others to control it for me. Though I don’t feel I have all the answers and it’s not just me bringing my son up.

An article I came across Please don’t help my kids perfectly describes my approach to parenting. I don’t want to wait until later to start teaching him about life. The lessons start from birth. This is my way to teach him. I can’t say it’s perfect but I can say that it allows me to get on with my life while he gets on with his. We share all sorts but we also have independence and value it.

It seems healthy to me because taking care of my son doesn’t prevent me doing all the other things that need to get done. I know he will copy what I do because we all copy our parents, often without realising. I still overcome the challenges in my life while I take care of him. I feel that’s a better example than dropping everything in my life to focus on him and taking away his opportunity to learn for himself.

When my son is 18 he will be liable for his mistakes. He won’t be protected by me or the school any more. So I am starting the path towards independence early. So that he can practice life before he really becomes responsible for it.

BBC Secret Universe: The Hidden Life of the Cell

The secret universe the hidden life of the cell is a ground breaking TV show that opens up the inner workings on human cells in a way never before seen.

Initially developed by XVIVO from Harvard university as the inner life of the cell using the latest 3D techology the programme allows you to see human life from an angle that was previously impossible. The miniscule goings on within an invidiual cell.

From an organised invasion by a cold virus to following one of the many transport workers taking its cargo to its destination this is an truly awe inspiring exploration of the intricate ecosystem of every one of the trillions of cells within a human body.

If you missed this on Tv then check it out. What we can express about the cell is truly amazing and what the cell actually does on a daily basis is even more mind blowing

There is a supporting site secret-universe.co.uk

I found a episode 7 at naturedocumentaries.org so I had to share

BBC.Our.Secret.Universe.The.Hidden.Life.of.the… by singaporegeek

The pandemic of physical inactivity: global action for public health

For a while I have been seeing evidence that governments are waking up to the nothing that inactivity itself is its own risk factor for health problems and therefore something that needs to be addressed on its own. I’ve know this for a long time through my degree but found little support in the wider community. Particularly in the health service itself.

I have just discovered a seminal article in The Lancet named The pandemic of physical inactivity: global action for public health that puts activity clearly in its own category as a risk factor independent of other risk factors. Expanding the findings the article effect of physical inactivity on disease worldwide provides statistics on the causes of disease through inactivity I am taking this as a clear sign that inactivity is now truly recognised as a direct contributor to serious disease. Meaning that governments must now build this into policy and infrastructure and make it easier for people to move around throughout the day.

It has taken decades to get this far and so it will take decades to see the full impact of this message. I just wanted to record this for any one like me who gets ignored or laughed at when they say that being inactive is dangerous. The best science journal in the world agrees and so do the major governments.

How to be active to improve your health is a whole other issue that this blog is dedicated to. This post is simply about the clear statement that inactivity is its own path to serious health problems.

If you don’t have time to read the report I’ve included some of its key aspects for you.

Some of the key messages include:

  • The high prevalence of physical inactivity, its harmful health and environmental consequences, and the evidence of effective physical activity promotion strategies, make this problem a global public health priority
  • Physical activity and public health is a new discipline, merging several areas of specialisation including epidemiology, exercise and sport science, behaviour science, and environmental health science, among others; these different areas are needed to tackle the global pandemic of physical inactivity because multidisciplinary work is essential
  • Early development of the discipline has been largely opportunistic and, as a result, physical activity has usually been coupled with other public health agendas and is often not a fully recognised, standalone, public health priority

The overview covers the main aspects:

Physical activity promotion to improve the health of populations, rather than individual behaviours, has only had an identifiable infrastructure since 2000. The reasons for this late start are myriad and complex.

First, there is a perception, albeit incorrect, that the science base for physical activity and health has lagged behind other important issues such as tobacco use and diet.

Second, as a result of a grafting of exercise science to public health science, the specialty of physical activity and public health has its roots in several areas. Exercise science, epidemiology, behavioural science, environmental health science, and others have each contributed to the emergence of the discipline of physical activity and public health and the absence of centralisation has resulted in diffuse and uncoordinated development. As such, early action in training and growth of infrastructure has often been opportunistic rather than systematic. 

Finally, physical activity has frequently been coupled with diet, to address obesity, rather than defined as a standalone public health issue, despite evidence for many independent health effects of physical activity and physical inactivity. Such opportunistic approaches by coupling or integration with other health determinants might have merit for the physical activity policy agenda for some health outcomes, but they unavoidably restrict the scope of action and impede a full approach to address all aspects of physical activity and inactivity. Further, such partnering for convenience should not to be confused with building of equally footed partnerships for action.

Finally the conclusions also make very interesting reading:

Physical inactivity is pandemic, a leading cause of death in the world, and clearly one of the top four pillars of a non-communicable disease strategy. However, the role of physical activity continues to be undervalued despite evidence of its protective effects and the cost burden posed by present levels of physical inactivity globally. There is an urgent need to build global capacity. 

Although progress has been made in policy and planning, leadership and advocacy, workforce training, and surveillance, much needs to be done to fully address this global issue. Advancement of global capacity needs intersectoral collaboration, improved understanding of what works, particularly in countries with low and middle incomes, comprehensive monitoring to assess progress in implementation of policies and action plans, and momentum in development of a highly skilled workforce in physical activity and public health. 

New partners, an expanded leadership base, resources at the country and local level, and expanded infrastructure are crucially needed to advance physical activity as a public health issue. 

Furthermore, a systems-based approach is needed to address the complex interactions between the various conditions that promote or impede population levels of physical activity. Understanding and application of complex systems to affect physical activity will allow infrastructure changes that will give individuals and populations the freedom to be more physically active and healthy.

At last I have a specific article I can point people to that says categorically that as hunter gatherers we need to get back to hunting and gathering in order to be healthy. It’s been a very long time coming but finally it’s here.