Cholesterol and Vitamin D are essential to life; MIT Senior Scientist Stephanie Seneff

Everybody in America thinks they know what cholesterol is: it’s that bad stuff that gums up all your arteries and leads to sudden death by heart attack. If you have too much in your blood, you should be very worried. The argument is then that, to lower the level, you need to adopt a low-fat diet. If that doesn’t work, you’ll have no choice but to start taking a cholesterol-lowering drug like

There is actually only a weak correlation between high cholesterol and heart disease. Many people with high cholesterol never get heart disease, and, conversely, many people with heart disease have low cholesterol levels. And the ever-so-popular statin drugs lead to many disturbing side effects that should convince the informed reader that they can’t possibly be good for you [5] (Statin Side Effects) .


Vitamin D is also familiar as the “sunshine” vitamin: most people remember the story about 19th Century Great Britain and the rickets epidemic, brilliantly solved by the realization that rickets is a consequence of vitamin D deficiency, a problem which can easily be solved by getting out in the sun. Recently, researchers are finding out more and more critical roles that vitamin D plays, far beyond strengthening the bones, in diverse systems throughout the body. One thing most people may not realize is that vitamin D and cholesterol are chemically almost indistinguishable. Vitamin D is manufactured in the body from cholesterol , specifically, from 7-dehydrocholesterol, through a very small change in chemical structure (which involves dropping a single hydrogen molecule) [6] (Vitamin D from Cholesterol) . This happens in the skin, and only happens if a catalyst in the form of ultraviolet rays from the sun, is present. If you’re wearing a sunscreen with an SPF level of 8 or greater, then you’re pretty much guaranteeing that you won’t generate any vitamin D.

Furthermore, cholesterol is the predecessor to a host of other factors that the body uses as catalysts for all kinds of biological processes. For example, testosterone, the male hormone. And cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands that plays a critical role in managing stress. Furthermore, the myth that high cholesterol is bad is not borne out by the facts. In 1990, researchers from 19 studies worldwide met in Bethesda, Md, to compare results on cholesterol studies, and produced plots summarizing their conclusions ([7], p. 81). For women, there is, over the entire curve, an inverse correlation between cholesterol levels and mortality rates. That’s right: the lower the cholesterol reading, the more likely she is to die. It is true that men with very high cholesterol (> 240 mg/dl) have an increase in mortality due to an increased incidence of heart disease; however, mortality increases on the low side as well (below 160 mg/dl), due to increased risk of cancer and respiratory and digestive diseases. This means that both men and women have higher mortality if their cholesterol levels are too low. Women should worry only about low cholesterol, never about high cholesterol.

But my concern is not so much about the longevity of the adult, but rather the health of the unborn child; specifically, the unborn child whose mother conscientiously adheres to the regimens of a lowfat diet and sun avoidance. If her cholesterol levels are high, she will likely lament that fact. But one thing she won’t do, if she’s planning on having a child, is take a statin drug like Lipitor to lower her cholesterol readings. The reason is simple, although not widely advertised by the drug industry. Statin drugs will with high probability render her unborn child non-viable.




Researchers at the U.S. National Institutes of Health found severe abnormalities in the central nervous system, as well as limb deformities, in nearly 40% of the babies in a study of women who took statins during the first trimester of pregnancy [8] (Statins in Pregnancy) .



Statins are labeled as a category X drug with respect to pregnancy by the Food and Drug Administration, the same category as that given to Thalidomide. If you are above a certain age, you will remember this infamous drug that swept Europe by storm in the 1950’s. Widespread use of Thalidomide led to an epidemic of infants being born without arms; without legs; without ears; deaf. They eventually traced the source to the new wonder drug that was supposed to be a calming tranquilizer with essentially no side effects. A pregnant woman who takes Thalidomide between the 4th and 7th week of her pregnancy has a 20% or greater risk of producing a baby that is missing significant body parts. But at least these children were mentally sound. Their brains were generally fine, and they grew up to have normal intelligence, which allowed them to lead productive lives. The effects of statin drugs are so potent that there’s little hope for survival, let alone anything resembling a normal life. This outcome is due to the disruption of a critical step in a biological pathway that leads to the production of cholesterol, an essential building block of the nervous system.

A serious disorder known as (“Smith-Lemli-Opitz”) ” syndrome (SLOS) is characterized by a genetic defect resulting in an inability to synthesize adequate cholesterol. Most fetuses that are unfortunate to be conceived with this genetic defect don’t make it to 16 weeks of gestation before the pregnancy ends in a miscarriage. If they do manage to make it to term, they typically suffer from major brain defects, resulting in autism or other forms of mental retardation [9].

Thus far, I’ve spoken about the roles of cholesterol/vitamin D in preventing rickets and in brain development. I will return to the topic of brain development in a moment, but first I’d like to list only some of the conditions/syndromes/illnesses that are, in my view, associated with vitamin D deficiency in children. I will argue that many conditions frustratingly growing in prevalence in today’s youth in America can be explained by a simple theory that combines vitamin D deficiency with fat deprivation.

Some are a consequence of the poor regimen of the mother while the child was in the womb and/or nursed. Others are principally due to the continued deprivation that the child experiences after it’s born. Surely many are influenced by both the mother’s and the child’s deficiencies. The list includes childhood obesity, teenage adult-onset diabetes, increased incidence of broken bones, increased frequency of everyday illnesses such as colds and flu, autoimmune disease, teenage depression, asthma, allergies, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).


This is a portion of Dr. Seneff’s article Sunscreen and Low-Fat Diets: A Recipe for Disaster

About the Author
Stephanie Seneff is a Senior Research Scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. She received the B.S. degree in Biophysics in 1968, the M.S. and E.E. degrees in Electrical Engineering in 1980, and the Ph.D degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in 1985, all from MIT. For over three decades, her research interests have always been at the intersection of biology and computation: developing a computational model for the human auditory system, understanding human language so as to develop algorithms and systems for human computer interactions, as well as applying natural language processing (NLP) techniques to gene predictions. She has published over 170 refereed articles on these subjects, and has been invited to give keynote speeches at several international conferences. She has also supervised numerous Master's and PhD theses at MIT. In 2012, Dr. Seneff was elected Fellow of the International Speech and Communication Association (ISCA). In recent years, Dr. Seneff has focused her research interests back towards biology. She is concentrating mainly on the relationship between nutrition and health. Since 2011, she has written over a dozen papers (7 as first author) in various medical and health-related journals on topics such as modern day diseases (e.g., Alzheimer, autism, cardiovascular diseases), analysis and search of databases of drug side effects using NLP techniques, and the impact of nutritional deficiencies and environmental toxins on human health.
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