This Halloween we’ll be discussing the spooky topic of Cholesterol. Is it helpful or is it… terrifying??
What does it do and how does one know the difference between helpful and harmful cholesterol? Read on to learn more about this frightening nutrient!
Cholesterol is a controversial and often misunderstood topic. It is a substance found naturally in the human body that resembles the structure of fat, and while our bodies make most of the cholesterol that we need, it is also found in food. But how AFRAID should you be??? (mua-ha-ha-haaaaaa)
What is Cholesterol?
Our bodies need cholesterol to maintain healthy processing in almost every cell of our body. Cholesterol is needed to make all sex hormones, including estrogen and testosterone. It is further used to synthesize vitamin D as well as other substances that assist the body in digestion and metabolism. Without cholesterol, many important body processes would not exist.
HDL Cholesterol vs. LDL cholesterol:
Our Doctors and the media often tell us that there are two specific types of cholesterol, one good and one bad. However, this differentiation is not entirely true. Cholesterol is insoluble in blood and because of this it must be bound to small packages called lipoproteins(LDL, HDL, VLDL) in order to be transported throughout the body. The lipoproteins that carry cholesterol consist of fat on the inside and proteins on the outside – they are actually transport proteins, NOT different types of cholesterol.
“It is a myth that our body produces one bad cholesterol ( LDL, or low density lipoprotein) and one good cholesterol (HDL or high density lipoprotein). In reality, neither of these lipoproteins are distinct types of cholesterol and neither of them are necessarily “good” or “bad”. “
In fact, the cholesterol carried by LDL is not really bad at all. This form of cholesterol is bound to LDL because the LDL is able to carry cholesterol throughout the body. If cholesterol was not able to move throughout the body, then we wouldn’t be able to produce important hormones such as testosterone or estrogen. HDL is the form of transport protein that carries cholesterol back to the liver where it can be metabolized. HDL takes care of any excess cholesterol that we intake through our diet. Overall, cholesterol is the same whether it is transferred by LDL or HDL and is always essential for healthy bodily functioning.
The LDL Myth:
Doctors often calculate LDL cholesterol using the LDL formula:
LDL = Total Cholesterol – Triglycerides(divided by 5) – HDL
So as you can see, if you have low TG’s and even high HDL(good cholesterol) then your LDL(so-called bad cholesterol) will be elevated. Once LDL is calculated it is often used as a measure of heart health where high LDL is indicative of a higher risk for coronary heart disease or heart attack. However, recent research has revealed this calculation method to be inaccurate in predicting overall health. There are better tests to further predict your risk; use these advanced tests below.
- Lipoprotein Fractionated Test (Size and density of LDL’s)
- Apolipoprotein B and apolipoprotein A-I
- CT Score
“In fact, research examining the effect of LDL cholesterol on brain functioning actually found that higher levels of LDL were associated with less risk for many of the worrisome brain changes that occur with aging.”
It has also been found that triglyceride levels were not a significant predictor of heart attacks and were only weakly associated with cardiovascular events. These recent findings show that the use of the LDL calculation is not a good tool for diagnosing cardiovascular disease or predicting the risk for heart attack.
So as you can see, both LDL and HDL cholesterol are important for healthy functioning. Without cholesterol, we would be unable to make important substances such as hormones, vitamin D and digestive enzymes. It is important to measure your levels of both HDL and LDL cholesterol and discuss them with your Doctor to make sure are taking in enough cholesterol from food to help your body synthesize important chemicals, but not enough to put you at risk for heart disease.
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