Cholesterol is fat-steroid compound that is produced naturally in the liver. Much of the cholesterol in the body is produced in the liver although some amount is introduced through the diet. Some of the foods that introduce cholesterol in the body include meat and dairy products since they have high levels of saturated fats (BUPA, 2009). It is notable that even after introducing cholesterol into the body through the diet, it gets stored in the liver where its secretion is regulated.
Virtually all cells of the body contain cholesterol since it is an essential component which is part of the cell membrane in addition to being a building block for synthesis of hormones. In essence, cholesterol is an important compound in the body despite the fact that it can also present as a harmful compound. It is pertinent to note that cholesterol is transported through the bloodstream in form of lipid-protein complex called lipoproteins. In that case, there are two forms of lipoproteins namely the low density lipoproteins (LDL) and the high density lipoproteins (HDL).
The low density lipoproteins contain a higher percentage of fats compared to protein component. It is also notable that LDL is transported from the liver to all other parts of the body and it is deposited in cells of the body especially on the walls of the artery if it is in excess amounts. It is for this reason that LDL is usually referred to as “bad” cholesterol. LDL form of cholesterol makes about 60-70 percent of cholesterol in the body (Freeman & Junge, 2005). On the other hand, high density cholesterol (HDL) contains a higher proportion of protein compared to fat content.
In addition, HDL is transported from all other body cells to the liver. In the process, it helps in removing cholesterol deposits from the walls of the artery taking it to the liver for storage hence it is referred to as the “good” cholesterol. Other than LDL and HDL, it is important to note that there also exist very low density lipoproteins (VLDL) as well as intermediate density lipoproteins (IDL). Combining all the form forms of cholesterol constitutes total cholesterol (Wedro & Kulick, 2010). To many people, the mention of cholesterol means health risks such as development of cardiovascular diseases.
It is however important to note that cholesterol is a very important compound in the body as it acts as a precursor molecule for the synthesis of estrogens, androgens, vitamin D, mineralcorticoids, bile acids, glucocorticoids and progesterone. The integrity and functioning of the cell membranes, especially permeability, is permeated by cholesterol (Freeman & Junge, 2005). It is therefore evident that cholesterol is an important compound in the body. Cholesterol becomes an undesirable compound when its presence in form of LDL is high since it deposits on arterial walls causing arteriosclerosis and heart attack.
Otherwise, the presence of high amounts of HDL is desirable since it reduces the risk of heart diseases by removing cholesterol deposits from arterial walls to the liver for storage. Other than identifying that cholesterol is mainly a naturally produced fat-steroid in the body, it should remain clear that cholesterol per se is a very vital compound in the body being the precursor for most hormones and vitamin D. Understanding that cholesterol it cholesterol exists in form of low density lipoproteins and high density lipoproteins helps in clearing the misconception that cholesterol is always a bad compound.
Only when LDL is present in excess amounts does cholesterol present as a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. Otherwise HDL is preferable in countering possible negative effects. Reference BUPA. (2009). High cholesterol. Retrieved 4, June 2010 from http://hcd2. bupa. co. uk/fact_sheets/html/cholesterol. html Freeman, M. W. and Junge, C. E. (2005). The Harvard Medical School guide to lowering your cholesterol. ISBN 0071444815, 9780071444811: McGraw-Hill Professional. Wedro, B. and Kulick, D. (2010). Lowering your cholesterol. Retrieved 4, June 2010 from http://www. medicinenet. com/cholesterol/article. htm