Cholesterol is a topic of great importance when it comes to our health.
Understanding cholesterol and its effects, helps us make informed decisions about our lifestyle and diet thereby maintaining a healthy balance.
In this article, we will explore the various aspects of cholesterol, including what it is, its role in the body and how it can impact our overall well-being. So, let’s delve into the world of cholesterol and discover its significance together.
Cholesterol is needed to make vitamin D, hormones (including testosterone and estrogen), and fat-dissolving bile acids. In fact, cholesterol production is so important that your liver and intestines make about 80% of the cholesterol you need to stay healthy.
So, What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a type of lipid that performs many essential jobs in the body. Lipids are substances that don’t dissolve in water, instead, they travel through your blood to reach different parts of your body that need them. Cholesterol itself isn’t bad. It’s actually vital for you to live. But too much cholesterol can be harmful.
When you eat, the food you eat contains fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Then the intestine breaks down some of these nutrients during the digestion process. For instance, the fats are reassembled into triglyceride molecules and a small amount of cholesterol is added and repackaged into chylomicrons.
Carbohydrates and proteins are then sent to the liver for further processing. When these nutrients get to the liver, they get changed into triglyceride molecules and then put together with apolipoproteins and cholesterol.
This combination results in VLDL particles. The VLDL particles are then sent into the bloodstream. Some Chylomicrons and VLDLs travel through the bloodstream and sometimes get stuck to blood vessels or fatty tissue.
The resulting particles are known as remnant particles, if they are from chylomicrons or IDLs, if they are from VLDLs, the IDLs circulate in the bloodstream, then they undergo further changes and eventually become LDLs.
Types of Cholesterol
LDL cholesterol refers to low-density lipoproteins. These particles are made mostly of cholesterol, which they deliver to your body’s cells. LDLs have a reputation for being the “bad” cholesterol.
However, although LDLs are important, they become bad when you have too much circulating in your blood. This is because they can combine with other substances and build up on the walls of your arteries. The build-up is known as fatty deposits and it forms plaque which gets bigger over time. This plaque growth is called atherosclerosis, and it raises your risk of a heart attack, stroke and other diseases.
This cholesterol refers to high-density lipoproteins made mostly of protein. HDL is the “good” cholesterol because it takes extra cholesterol out of your bloodstream and transports it to your liver. Your liver then breaks down the cholesterol and gets rid of it.
This process is called reverse cholesterol transport. The primary function of HDL is the transportation of cholesterol from the peripheral tissues to the liver, playing a role in the biodistribution of lipids.
IDL (Intermediate-density lipoprotein)
VLDLs shed fatty acids which create particles. Some of these particles are removed rapidly by the liver, while some are changed into low-density lipoproteins.
VLDL cholesterol refers to very low-density lipoproteins. VLDLs carry triglycerides and cholesterol, and their protein content is low. Like LDLs, they are bad because they can contribute to plaque buildup in your arteries.
Factors that affect Cholesterol levels
How it Affects Nutrition
The major nutritional source of cholesterol (called dietary cholesterol) is animal products. These include meats, cheeses and dairy products.
According to research, when it comes to lowering your cholesterol levels, it’s not dietary cholesterol you should be wary of. Instead, the two types of unhealthy fats you should avoid are saturated fat and trans-fat.
Saturated fat is a type of fat that’s solid at room temperature. Common sources of saturated fat include:
- Processed meat, including hot dogs, sausage, bacon and pepperoni.
- Fatty cuts of meat, including ribs, poultry with the skin and highly marbled meat.
- Full-fat dairy products, including butter, heavy cream, cream cheese and sour cream.
- Coconut oil and palm oil.
- Fried food.
Your body needs some saturated fat to be healthy. But you can easily consume too much if you are not checking nutrition labels. Aim to get no more than 5% to 6% of your daily calories from saturated fat.
Trans fat is a combination of liquid vegetable oil and hydrogen. Common sources of trans fat include:
- Fast food.
- Fried food.
- Commercial baked goods, such as cookies, doughnuts and pastries.
These can be substituted with soluble fibre. Furthermore, a balanced diet will be highly beneficial in lowering cholesterol levels. There are some foods that can lower cholesterol levels, they include:
- Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel),
- Dark chocolate,
- Apples, citrus, berries,
- Olive oil,
- Green tea and black tea.
Although Cholesterol is vital to your health and well-being. It is important that you balance the LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol). Likewise, develop a healthy lifestyle that comprises of a balanced diet and exercise. This will ensure that you remain healthy.
RESEARCHED BY: OLUKOTUN JOAN