“A diet high in cholesterol may help people with a fatal genetic disease which damages the brain, according to early studies in mice“.
Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease (PMD) is an inherited condition which involves the brain and spinal cord. The disease is caused by an inability to form myelin (promotes efficient transmission of nerve impulses). This means that individuals with the disease have impaired intellectual functions such as memory, difficulty with co-ordination and walking.
A study which was published in Nature Medicine showed that a high cholesterol diet could help production of the “fatty sheath around their nerves, which is essential for function”.
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine, in Germany performed an experiment where some mice with the disease were fed a high cholesterol diet and the other mice with the disease were fed a normal diet. The cholesterol fed diet, delayed the decline in motor co-ordination.
It is thought that eating extra cholesterol can help the cells in the brain and free up the protein.
Overall, the report concluded that “Dietary cholesterol does not cure PMD, but has a striking potential to relieve defects.” It’s worth bearing in mind that the study was done on mice and not able to show if similar effects could be shown in people.
For many years, science has turned cholesterol into a bad thing for us. However. much of the evidence shows that cholesterol is really critical for proper brain functioning. Fat and cholesterol have had such bad press because 100 years ago, a researcher found feeding rabbits (which are vegetarian) a high cholesterol meat diet blocked their arteries with plaque.