What really makes a thing bad or good?
For example, cholesterol has been misunderstood and vilified when it comes to health and wellness.
In this post, we will be discussing the different types of cholesterol and how they affect us.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance most often produced in the body, and sometimes made available through our meals.
About 80% of the cholesterol available and necessary for use in the body is made internally from the liver. Only about 20% of the cholesterol in the body is obtained from the diet. In fact, the liver even produces more cholesterol when there is none coming in from our diets for use. That’s how essential cholesterol is to the daily functions of the body.
Why is Cholesterol so Important?
Did you know that some cellular functions and tissue buildings are dependent on cholesterol?
- Sex-related hormones are produced with the help of cholesterol.
- Bile produced by the liver, which is used in the digestive process of fats, is also a derivative of cholesterol.
- Cholesterol is also a precursor for the production of vitamin D in the presence of sunlight.
- Cholesterol is used by the nerve cells as an insulator.
- Cholesterol is also used in the synthesis of cortisol and aldosterone.
- Cholesterol helps in the proper functioning of the brain cells.
- Cholesterol is, interestingly, seen to be beneficial for repairs in the body—a reason why more quantities are produced naturally in adults and the elderly.
- In children, cholesterol is needed for development and uniform growth.
What are the Types of Known Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is not naturally found in plant-based foods. Cholesterol can be found only in animal-based foods, eggs, and dairy products.
According to a Harvard health publication by the Harvard medical school, cholesterol is carried around in small globules of lipoproteins. Lipoproteins are a carrier formed by a combination of lipid (fat) and proteins (you can tell from the name).
The types of lipoproteins within which cholesterol is carried are known to be:
- Very Low-Density Lipoproteins (VLDL)
- Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL)
- Intermediate Density Lipoproteins (IDL)
- High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL)
Different lipoproteins carry different fats in the body.
The Very Low-Density Lipoproteins (VLDL) are produced in the liver to carry triglycerides into body tissues that need them. When the tissues receive the fat (triglycerides), the fat is transformed into Intermediate Density Lipoproteins (IDL) and is finally converted to Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL).
Since the LDL is the form of lipoprotein that has lost its healthiness by reason of transporting fat (triglyceride) to the tissues, it is then dangerous to the arteries if not quickly cleared up and excreted, still via the liver. Low-density lipoproteins have the ability to clog arteries.
High-density lipoproteins are the salvage lipoproteins that help with the mopping out of LDLs from the blood and arteries into the liver for excretion.
Chylomicrons are made and resident in the digestive system. They carry dietary triglycerides. Their presence and quantity in our body are dependent on our diet.
However, for the sake of this article, we will be focusing on these two: the very popular Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) and the High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL). These ones are the most controversial. The so-called “good” and “bad” cholesterol.
The “Good” And “Bad” Cholesterol
It is no longer news that LDL is the “bad” cholesterol, while HDL is the “good” cholesterol.
Why is this? Well, the LDL only goes around sticking to walls of the arteries when moving with the blood to cause plaques. This can lead to chronic disorders such as strokes, heart attacks, and other vascular diseases. Such attacks can cause disabilities and even be fatal.
And High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL) are like the community workers that go around pushing off the bad LDL into the liver where they are excreted from the body.
Now you know why one is good and the other, bad!
Cholesterol molecules are, by reason of texture, waxy. That means they are able to stick on surfaces. Sound disturbing? Yes, they have the ability to stick to artery walls and organs when they are excess in the blood circulations. The excess cholesterol moving in the blood is what we should aim to avoid, even the bad (LDL) cholesterol.
And on the other hand, cholesterol is needed and its functions highly beneficial to the body.
Fish, sunflower oils, cashew nuts and almonds are all rich sources of unsaturated (omega-3) fatty acids which are translated to be beneficial and good sources of the healthy cholesterol.
How Do We Avoid Excess Cholesterol?
All natural cholesterol from whole foods are better than those present in processed foods. It is better to eat cholesterol moderately in whole foods than to eat it in the oxidized or processed state.
The cholesterol in whole milk, for example, is much healthier when consumed than those oxidized cholesterol added to skimmed milk to give it some mass. That’s why people could still take skimmed milk and yet develop excess weight and even heart diseases.
Another tip is to avoid too much fat in our meals. When meals are not balanced (too rich in carbohydrates and fats), the body tends to have an excess and stores them. In this case, a raised LDL can stick to walls of blood vessels and cause problems.
Exercising is another sure way to stay healthy and ensure a balance in the body. Most people have one reason or another why exercising regularly isn’t practical for them but you can start by doing something as simple as skipping with a rope. Alternatively, you can get a home elliptical to keep yourself as fit as possible even when you’re busy.
Sources Of Cholesterol
Cholesterol is readily present in virtually all animal-based foods, and some other sources like:
- Poultry chicken
- Liver cuts
- Palm oil
With this, I hope you now know that not all cholesterol is bad. In fact, cholesterol is a big game player in the body’s functionality.
Visiting your local doctor for blood tests to determine the status of your health can provide you with further insight to your cholesterol levels. If you don’t, there’s no way to tell whether your LDL or HDL is high or low.
Eating a balanced diet and practising physical exercise remains paramount in keeping the systems in your body stable and healthy.
Cholesterol molecule – Wikipedia Creative Commons
Almonds – pixabay creative commons
Guest Author Bio
Dr. Charles-Davies OA (MBBS) is a licensed medical doctor, who graduated from the College of Medicine, University of Lagos with a degree in Medicine and Surgery. He’s worked in different private and government-owned hospitals in the tropics. He also likes to create and share relevant health content to help people make the right health choices.