Elaborating further on my previous post about saturated fat and cholesterol, I feel like a lot of people just think of cholesterol as something that causes increases your risk of heart disease so I’m going to go into further depth about cholesterol.
What is the Purpose of Cholesterol?
Cholesterol serves to aid the body in producing steroid hormones, sex hormones and vitamin D (with help from the Sun). In addition it helps the liver to produce bile, which aids digestion. Without bile, we would struggle to digest food, especially fats. Cholesterol travels within our body in the form of two particles: high density lipoproteins and low density lipoproteins, also known as good and bad cholesterol. There’s also another particle known as vLDLs (very low density lipoproteins), but I won’t talk about that.
These lipoproteins are made up of proteins on the outside and fats on the inside since fats and water don’t mix, the water being your blood plasma. Since fats aren’t water soluble, they bind with these fatty-protein structures to help move through the bloodstream. Your body requires adequate levels of both LDLs and HDLs to transport cholesterol in and out of cells as they help to regulate cell damage.
Cholesterol: LDLs and HDLs
LDLs carry around 75% of the cholesterol in our bodies and are most heavily involved in the repair and protection of cells and tissues. HDLs do the other 25% of the work, transporting cholesterol to and from the liver (where cholesterol is created) and help to ‘recycle’ cholesterol. When HDLs are high in your blood, they remove extra cholesterol and plaque build up in your arteries where it is sent to your liver which expels it from your body, helping to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Cholesterol does not dissolve in the blood, so it’s best if HDL cholesterol levels are high as this will allow for removal of excess cholesterol, preventing potential harmful effects of the oxidation of cholesterol which can lead to inflammation, increasing your susceptibility to heart disease and other health related conditions.
This feature of HDLs is what helps to regulate your LDL cholesterol which is why the ratio of HDLs to LDLs is said to be more important than the total cholesterol found in the blood. The higher your HDL to LDL ratio, the better, and the lower your risk of heart related conditions.
What affects Cholesterol Levels?
Ultimately, when you eat food such as eggs, your consuming dietary cholesterol. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing since most cholesterol is produced by your body anyway, and the more cholesterol you consume, the less cholesterol that is produced by your liver, so in a way it evens out.
Your body makes LDLs or HDLs using instructions from your DNA. However, the ratio of HDLs to LDLs created is affected by various lifestyle factors such as:
- Lack of exercise (this study found that cholesterol levels were reduced following a weight training session)
Diet is the main one here, and the types of foods you eat will affect whether your body produces HDLs or LDLs to deal with cholesterol.
Not all high cholesterol foods will have a negative impact on your total cholesterol levels. Foods that cause inflammation are what you should be wary of as these will increase your risk of heart related conditions most. The previous article linked at the top tells you the main foods which will influence your HDL and LDL levels as well as going a bit further into saturated fats as well as cholesterol.
Cholesterol – The Take Away
To sum everything up as best as I can: your body manufactures high density lipoproteins (HDLs) and low density lipoproteins (LDLs). These deal with cholesterol which is either produced by the liver or consumed as dietary cholesterol in food. HDLs and LDLs act as a means of transport for cholesterol within the blood. LDLs are used for producing various hormones and other essential functions as well as repair of cellular damage. HDLs help to remove excess cholesterol within the blood by transporting them to the liver where they are removed. The ratio of HDLs to LDLs is affected by various environmental factors that you control, the main ones being diet, obesity and frequency of exercise. Eating certain foods may encourage the production of more LDLs whilst others may encourage the production of more HDLs, thus improving your HDL to LDL ratio which is best for regulating total cholesterol levels. HDL to LDL ratio is the main thing that matters as having high amounts of HDLs will help to deal with excess cholesterol which can increase your risk of heart related diseases.
If in doubt feel free to have your cholesterol levels checked and try changing some lifestyle factors. See what effects you feel physically and mentally and then have your cholesterol levels checked and see if there is a difference.
Did this article help give an insight to how cholesterol works? Let me know what you thought down below!