Cholesterol has a bad reputation but without it we couldn't exist and it does a lot of good.
- It's a constituent of bile which allows us to digest food
- It allows the body to make Vitamin D and hormones (e.g. oestrogen and testosterone)
- It makes up the outer coating of cells.
High levels of cholesterol are bad and are a major contributor to heart disease. Around half of men and a third of women will get high cholesterol levels during their lifetime.
It isn't just obtained from the food we eat - our bodies make it because we need it. If you did not eat any cholesterol at all your body would make all it requires to function and can regulate what it makes depending on how much you consume.
Good cholesterol (HDL)
HDL stands for High-Density Lipoproteins. This type of cholesterol sucks up excess cholesterol from your cells and tissues and transports it to your liver where it is deposited. Your liver then takes our the cholesterol and turns it into bile or recycles it.
- Exercise increases levels - good
- Smoking decreases levels - bad
- Obesity decreases levels - bad
- It contains antioxidant molecules
- High HDL levels are associated with a low risk for heart disease
- Statins increase HDL by up to 15%
Bad cholesterol (LDL)
LDL stands for Low-Density Lipoproteins. This type of cholesterol transports 60-70% of your cholesterol around the body to where it is needed and too much is bad for you.
- Too much in the blood means it gets deposited in the arteries
- It can lead to blockages in the arteries
- Blockages mean you have a higher risk of heart attacks
- In most cases it can be decreased with a low fat diet
- Statins reduce LDL by up to 50%
A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.