LDL cholesterol may not be as bad as you think

A classic villain redeemed?

I don’t know about you, but for all of my adult life I’ve been taught that cholesterol is divided into two distinct categories: the good (HDL) and the bad (LDL).

But now, after years of all of us struggling to bring down levels of LDL (and many people turning to risky patent medications to do so), one researcher had dared step forward to say LDL isn’t necessarily the villain it’s been made out to be.

This could be big news — particularly for people who are concerned about losing muscle mass as they get older.

A study at Texas A&M University, published in the Journal of Gerontology, brings an entirely new angle to the way we look at cholesterol.

The participants in the study were 52 adults aged 60 to 69. All of them were in pretty good health but weren’t very active. As part of the study, the participants engaged in vigorous workouts.

After those workouts, the researchers found something surprising — the people who gained the most muscle mass also had the highest levels of “bad” cholesterol. The researchers concluded that you need some LDL to gain muscle, and that there really isn’t any such thing as “bad” cholesterol.

The lead researcher explained that LDL, given a bad rap for building up in the arteries and slowing down blood flow, plays an important role in the body. LDL gives warning signals that something in the body is wrong, and the lead researcher points out that the answer is to find out what’s wrong — smoking? diet? lack of exercise?

Instead, though, we see high LDL and think “drugs!” But, to recall one of Dr. Wright’s favorite sayings, do you really know anyone with a statin deficiency?

Our body tissues need cholesterol, which is delivered by LDL. And the more LDL in your blood, the better your body’s ability to build muscle.

This could be particularly helpful in counteracting sarcopenia, the loss of muscle that comes with aging. After hitting the big 4-0, muscle declines at a rate of 5 percent every ten years.

In people over 60, 65 percent of men, and 30 percent of women, have moderate to severe sarcopenia. In the U.S., more than $18 billion is spent on health care as a result.

So if you’re looking to build muscle, you may want to think about your cholesterol levels — and what LDL can do for you.

“‘Bad’ Cholesterol Not as Bad as People Think, Study Shows,” Science Daily (www.sciencedaily.com)