High Cholesterol, Nice to Meat You

I want to discuss a topic that is vital to your health and longevity. Something that has been given a bad wrap. Something that, if not flowing through our bodies all the time, we would die. That something is cholesterol.

5 Benefits of Cholesterol

  • Cholesterol functions as a powerful antioxidant in the body and protects us from free radical damage to our tissues.

  • Cholesterol is vital for proper functioning of the brain and is used by serotonin receptors. Serotonin is the body’s natural “feel good” chemical.  Low cholesterol levels have been associated with aggressive and violent tendencies, depression and suicide.

  • Human breast milk is rich in cholesterol and contains an enzyme lipase enabling babies to utilize it. Babies and children require cholesterol for proper growth and development of the brain, nervous system, and immune system.

  • Cholesterol is necessary for proper functioning of the intestines and maintaining the integrity of the intestinal wall. Low cholesterol diets can lead to leaky gut syndrome and other digestive problems.

  • Cholesterol is critical to the repair of damaged cells. This is why cholesterol levels naturally rise as we age.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol performs these main functions:

  • It helps make the outer coating of cells.

  • It makes up the bile acids that work to digest food in the intestine.

  • It (7-dehydrocholesterol) makes Vitamin D3 through an interaction with sun UV B rays and the skin.

  • It allows the body to make sex hormones (estrogen in women and testosterone in men). 

Cholesterol flows through your body via your bloodstream. Since cholesterol is an oil-based lipid (fat) and your blood is mostly water, they don’t mix.

However, in order to be transported through the blood, cholesterol requires a protein referred to as an apolipoprotein. Apolipoproteins are responsible for transporting cholesterol to the correct destination, and when assembled together in the liver, are collectively referred to as lipoproteins.

Cholesterol and the Liver

Cholesterol is so vitally important, your body makes it for you. If there were no animals to eat (cholesterol only exists in animal products i.e flesh, eggs, milk), your liver would make the approximately 1,000 mg it needs to function properly. Because of this, your body has the ability to regulate the amount of cholesterol in the blood, by producing more when your diet doesn’t provide adequate amounts. Further, excess cholesterol is eliminated from the body via the liver, which secretes cholesterol in bile or converts it to bile salts. The liver removes LDL and other lipoproteins from the circulation by receptor-mediated endocytosis.

Once made by the liver, cholesterol is ready to move into the bloodstream and go to the various organs and tissues in the body.

HDL

Cholesterol is too fatty to be directly absorbed into the bloodstream. High density lipoprotein (HDL), are the heaviest lipoproteins and are primarily responsible for carrying cholesterol from various organs and tissues back to the liver for recycling or degradation. This is also referred to as the "good" cholesterol and is associated with heart health because they help to clear excess cholesterol from the blood.

LDL

Low density lipoproteins (LDL), are commonly referred to as "bad" cholesterol, are lighter than HDL and are primarily responsible for carrying cholesterol from the liver to organs and tissues of the body. These lipoproteins are less stable because they contain less protein and more lipids, making them more likely to break apart. Since LDL is not responsible for bringing cholesterol back to the liver, it tends to hang around in the blood, often attaching to inflamed vessels. This condition is referred to as atherosclerosis.

VLDL

Very low density lipoproteins (VLDL) are also referred to as the "very bad" cholesterol. They are even less dense than LDL and are mostly converted to LDL, but have equally detrimental effects on the circulatory system.

Cholesterol and our Brain

The brain is mostly fat and contains a large amount of cholesterol when compared to other organs in the body. About 25% of your body’s total cholesterol level is found in the brain. The brain is unique as it cannot absorb cholesterol from the blood, and must produce its own. According to the Harvard Medical School website, the cholesterol in the brain is generally found in the myelin sheaths that surround the nerve cells, protecting the cells and helping to facilitate the transmission of the electrical impulses that govern thought, movement, and sensation.

Without cholesterol, none of these functions would take place, and without these functions, human beings would not be able to survive.

If you found this interesting, feel free to share it with your friends and family.

-David

David Shirley

CrossFit Upland is an Official CrossFit Gym in Upland California. Since 2014, CrossFit Upland has been guiding its members to find their fitness.