Why is Cholesterol Needed by the Body?
Disclaimer: Not medical or professional advice. Always seek the advice of your physician.
We are Often Told That: "We should exclude fat from our diets" and "All people should take cholesterol-lowering drugs despite the serious side effects." But is that true? Should we lower cholesterol levels? Let's figure it out together.
In 2001, The Lancet, a leading British medical journal, published a study and confirmed earlier findings of higher mortality among older adults with lower cholesterol levels.
In June 2016, statistical analysis at the British Medical Journal, which involved more than 68,000 participants over 60 years of age, showed that the higher the level of "bad" cholesterol in the blood, the longer life expectancy.
Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, conducted a continued observation of 350,000 Americans aged 20 or more and detected the following phenomenon. The cholesterol levels below 4.6 mmol/L increase.
- The risk of stroke by 200%
- Liver cancer risk by 300%
- The risk of pulmonary emphysema and asthma by 200%
- The risk of clinical depression and suicide by 200%
- The risk of alcoholism and drug addiction by 500%
The human body contains up to 350 grams of cholesterol. And 80-90% of cholesterol production occurs in the liver.
What is Cholesterol?
- The structural element of cell membranes.
- The key component in the synthesis of male and female sex hormones. The state of health and reproductive function depend directly on cholesterol level.
- Material for the synthesis of adrenal hormones, which provide ALL reactions of human adaptation to changes in the external environment (including stressful situations), and also protect the body from cancer and heart disease.
- The precursor of fat-soluble vitamin D, which is essential for bone growth and maintenance, neural activity, the production of insulin, the regulation of muscle tone, mineral metabolism, immunity, reproductive organs, as well as for the growth and development of children.
- The basis for the formation of bile, which provides balanced digestion and absorption of essential fats from food.
- Intracellular protection against the destructive action of free radicals, which are formed during metabolism and under the influence of external factors.
- Self-defense of blood vessels from destruction: cholesterol plaque occurs at the site of arterial injury and strengthens it.
- The crucial requirement for the normal functioning of serotonin receptors in the brain. Serotonin deficiency and low cholesterol levels are associated with depression, aggressive behavior, etc.
- Breast milk is rich in cholesterol and contains a special enzyme that allows the baby to absorb cholesterol. Infants need fat-rich foods for the full development of the brain and nervous system.
- Cholesterol in the diet plays a particularly important role in maintaining the normal function of the intestinal mucosa. A cholesterol-free diet often leads to gastrointestinal disorders.
Good & Bad Cholesterol
Cholesterol is divided into “good” and “bad” types. Simultaneously, both types are present in the body, which means that they are essential. What is the difference between “good” and “bad” cholesterol?
Cholesterol and triglycerides (fats, lipids) can't float around in your blood on their own. They always travel by “cars": they are carried by special proteins. Ironically, it is important to know the difference between “cars” and the purpose of a “trip”.
Fats (triglycerides) and cholesterol from food are combined with special proteins in the intestine. It leads to the formation of tiny chylomicrons. This is the first vehicle. Chylomicrons will carry their passengers to muscles and adipose tissue through the lymphatic and then blood vessels. At this stage, chylomicrons drop off fats (fuel). And the cholesterol in the residual chylomicron will go further to the liver. Here the chylomicron will be broken down. And the liver will give cholesterol molecules different “cars”, allowing them to perform different tasks.
Now it’s time to learn more about the brands of our “cars”. These are lipoproteins: lipid (fat) - protein complexes, where protein is the transport, and cholesterol is the passenger.
- VLDL — Very Low-Density Lipoproteins
- IDL — Intermediate Density Lipoproteins
- LDL — Low-Density Lipoproteins (they are known as "bad" cholesterol)
- HDL — High-Density Lipoproteins (this type is commonly referred to as"good" cholesterol)
The liver lets free cholesterol travel from VLDL to IDL and finally to LDL. These "bad" lipoproteins contain 3/4 of all blood cholesterol.
While “bad” LDL is sent to all the parts of the body, its task is to transport cholesterol through the blood vessels to each section. For example, to the adrenal glands and sex glands for the synthesis of hormones, to the brain for the production of myelin. It travels where it is necessary to renew the body and build new cells, including cells of blood, liver, myocardium, skin, etc.
LDL is known as a “bad” type because in the case of damage to a blood vessel, the cholesterol is delivered there as a part of LDL. The body uses it for repair by forming a cholesterol plaque (filling). Think, is the filling really to blame for the formation of a carious cavity in the tooth?