How Cholesterol Plays a Role in Hypothalamic Amenorrhea
In this post I explain the connection between Hypothalamic Amenorrhea and high cholesterol, what causes it and how you can lower your cholesterol. Spoiler: it is neither done by restricting food nor by more exercise.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a lipid (fat) which is vital for the body. It builds up the outer layer of our cells, the cell membrane. Furthermore, cholesterol is the starting material in the production of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. It is also needed in the production of vitamin D.
HDL, LDL and triglycerides
There are two different types of cholesterol, HDL and LDL. These lipoproteins, i.e. fat-protein complexes, are involved in the transport and metabolism of fatty substances in the body.
High Density Lipoprotein, HDL, a.k.a. " good cholesterol" transports excess cholesterol to the liver.
Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL), a.k.a. " bad cholesterol" transports cholesterol to different parts of the body. It can get stuck in the blood vessels and thereby make them stiffer and less flexible.
Triglycerides used as energy. It can also be stored in the form of fat in the body's adipose tissue.
In order to get the full picture of cholesterol, a blood test usually includes HDL, LDL, triglycerides and a total value (that is, LDL+HDL+20% of the triglyceride value). Instead of staring blindly at the total value, which unfortunately sometimes is the case, it is important to look at the individual values and their relationship. I for example always have a "too high" total value of blood fats. But since this is because my HDL is very high, it's nothing to worry about. It's also worth mentioning that the test results give a snapshot. If you ate a high-fat meal shortly before taking the sample, the result will be different compared to if the blood sample is taken on an empty stomach. I will not specify any reference values here as these vary depending on, among other things, gender and age.
High values of cholesterol in Hypothalamic Amenorrhea
How come women suffering from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea often show high cholesterol, despite eating “healthy”? Actually, it is the so-called healthy eating habits that are the cause of the high values:
Nutritional Imbalance: When the body doesn't receive an adequate amount of dietary fats, it may start producing more cholesterol to compensate.
Increased Lipolysis: In the absence of sufficient calorie intake, the body may break down stored fats (lipolysis) to meet its energy needs. This process releases fatty acids into the bloodstream, which can contribute to elevated levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
Low Estrogen Synthesis. Cholesterol is the precursor for the synthesis of estrogen. And without a period, the body does not produce normal amounts of estrogen.
It's crucial to emphasize that the solution to the high cholesterol levels is not to restrict more! Instead, you need to focus on recovery, eating and resting more. Once your body is in a good place again, once the menstrual cycle is re-established, your cholesterol level will normalize.
Yes, you read right. To lower your cholesterol levels you need to eat more (fats) and include animal derived products.
Feel free to contact me if you feel unsure or confused by your labs, then we can take a look at and interpret them together.
*All content is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.