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What Is Cholesterol And What Does It Do?

People who have been recently diagnosed with high levels of cholesterol, it becomes very important to know how much of it is required by the human body and what should be avoided, to keep its escalation, at bay.

Cholesterol can be both, good as well as bad. It is equally essential for the body till a certain limit. But, if its level increases, it can become the major reason for heart attack.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a lipid-based biochemical, which cannot mix with blood as blood is water-based. It is manufactured in the liver and is an essential requirement for many vital functionsof the human body.

It cannot be produced in plant products and hence, its main source remains animal-based diet like dairy and meat. Cholesterol can be carried through the blood as lipoproteins, which can be of two types.

  • LDL: This is the low density lipoprotein, also known as the bad cholesterol.
  • HDL: This is the high density lipoprotein which is good and quite essential for the body.

Essential Functions Of Cholesterol In The Body

Cholesterol is a complex lipid which is mainly gained through food and is also produced by the body. Though seeming potentially dangerous to many who do not know about cholesterol, it plays a key role in many vital body functions.

1) Hormone Synthesis

  • Almost, all Adrenal and Gonadotropic hormones contain cholesterol as their steroidal part.
  • They help in handling stress and energy production in the body and look after the process of reproduction.
  • Estrogen as well as progesterone in women and testosterone in men (i.e. the sex hormones), trigger development of primary and secondary sexual characters.
  • Cortisol hormone helpsin regulating blood sugar and provides defense against infections.
  • Aldosterone acts as an osmoregulatory hormone, by maintaining adequate salt and water in the body.

2) Cell Membrane Production

  • Cholesterol is the basic lipid component in the cell membrane. It is also present in the membranes of cell organelles.
  • Cholesterol, along with the right proportion of phospholipids and fatty acids, makes the cell membrane, flexible.
  • Cholesterol in the cell membrane prevents fatty acids from crystallizing and maintains its temperature to gain desired fluidity.
  • Itrestricts phospholipids from accumulating on the membrane.

3) Vitamin D Production

  • Cholesterol aids in the formation of Vitamin D3.
  • This vitamin is synthesized with the help of certain useful UV radiations from the sun, in the skin cells.
  • It is, hence responsible for calcification of bones, especially in infants and children.

Recommended Read : How to Lower Cholesterol Levels Naturally ?

4) Digestive Aid

  • Cholesterol is important in forming bile in the liver.
  • Bile is an emulsifier, which breaks down large fat globules into smaller droplets, which easily mix up in the water-based enzymes.
  • After the fat is digested, bile aids in its absorption.
  • Hence, bile in cholesterol is responsible for the body to gain cholesterol through food.
  • Bile also helps the intestine to absorb fat-soluble vitamins D, A, E and K.

5) Immunity Booster

  • Cholesterol helps immune cells to fight against, as well as get repaired after, an infection.
  • LDL can potentially, bind to the bacterial toxins, during an infection and blocks them for doing any further damage to the tissues.

6) The Healer

  • Cholesterol is sent to the site of injury or wound.
  • It is reported to fight against bacterial and viral attacks at these places.

High Cholesterol Diseases

Given here is a list of all the diseases occurring due to high HDL levels:

  • Atherosclerosis
  • Angina pectoris
  • Myocardial infraction
  • Stroke due to arterial thrombosis
  • Aortic dissection
  • Nephroangiosclerosis

Opposing Popular Belief

Cholesterol is taken as a taboo word but, it is interesting to know that excessively low cholesterol in the blood can make the arteries, sloppy and hinder smooth blood circulation. An optimal density of 50-200mg per 100ml of cholesterol is healthy.

About Anirudh Singh

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