Cholesterol is one of the most popular medical “horror stories” of our time. It is commonly believed that this fat-like substance is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases-atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, heart attacks and strokes. High cholesterol is sought to reduce in various ways-tablets and restriction of animal products. Is there a need for this? And why do vegetarians who eat only plant-based foods often have higher cholesterol than the generally accepted norm? You will learn the answers to these and other questions in this article.
What is” good “and” bad ” cholesterol and where does it come from?
Often in the adapted literature we can find the conditional terms “good” and” bad ” cholesterol. These concepts may simplify the understanding of some processes by the layman, but in no case do they reflect the role of one and the other types of cholesterol in the body. Simply put, we are vitally needed, including “bad ” cholesterol, which is undeservedly considered harmful. Let’s talk about everything in order.
Part of the cholesterol enters our body with saturated fats, which are found in animal products – meat, milk, eggs, seafood. The enzymes of the stomach are inactive in relation to fats, and the main process of their breakdown occurs in the duodenum. Bile emulsifies (crushes) fats are reduced to small fractions, then they are processed by enzymes and absorbed in the small intestine.
Fats, including cholesterol, do not dissolve in water, and therefore in the blood. Special substances are needed for their transfer. The carrier of fats are special molecules-chylomicrons, which consist of protein and fat and are synthesized in the intestine. The chylomicron resembles a capsule that wraps around fat and cholesterol, capturing them. From the intestine, they go to the lymph, then to the blood and are delivered to the liver.
Cholesterol is necessary for all cells of the body, because it is a structural element of cell membranes, a substrate of hormones and vitamin D. From protein and fat, the liver synthesizes a transport complex – a lipoproteinthat delivers cholesterol to the organs in need. Depending on the fat/protein ratio, lipoproteins are low and high density.
- Low-density lipoproteins (LDL or LDL) – contain little protein and a lot of fat. Their task is to transfer cholesterol from the liver to other organs.
- High-density lipoproteins (HDL or HDL) – contain little protein and a lot of fat. These compounds “take” excess cholesterol from the organs back to the liver.
Accordingly, HDL is considered “good” and LDL is considered “bad” cholesterol. That’s not quite right. Firstly, HDL and LDL are not cholesterol, but a complex of cholesterol with a transport protein, and secondly, it is quite obvious that each of these compounds performs its own important function.
In the liver, excess cholesterol is converted into bile. There is a kind of cycle of cholesterol in the body. It turns out that bile is necessary for the extraction of cholesterol from saturated fat, and cholesterol is necessary for the production of bile. Excess cholesterol is eliminated from the body with feces.
Food is not the main source of cholesterol, 80-90% of it is synthesized in the liver, kidneys, adrenal glands and sex glands. The body is a harmonious self-regulating system. Lowering cholesterol in the blood is a signal to the liver and other organs, and they begin to intensively produce this substance to cover the needs of the body. This explains the increase in cholesterol levels in vegetarians and people who follow a low-fat diet.
The functions of cholesterol
- Cholesterol is a part of the membranes of absolutely all cells of the body. It provides its rigidity and supports the cellular framework.
- It is a component of bile.
- Provides the brain with nutrition. The myelin sheath of the nerves is formed from cholesterol.
It is noted that the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs leads to diseases of the nervous system, in particular to Alzheimer’s disease. It is not recommended to reduce cholesterol against the background of stress.
- Participates in the formation of immunity.
- From cholesterol, steroid hormones are synthesized – cortisol, estrogen, testosterone, and others.
The reduction of cholesterol leads to a violation of potency in men and infertility in women.
- Vitamin D is synthesized from cholesterol.
Thus, we have determined that we need cholesterol. By the way, even in the last century, doctors were more concerned not with an increase in cholesterol, but with its decrease, since this is a sign of serious diseases – immunodeficiency, liver diseases and decompensated diabetes.
The norm of cholesterol in the blood
The norm of cholesterol in the blood decreases every year. This is due not so much to concern for people’s health, but to lobbying the interests of pharmaceutical companies that produce cholesterol-lowering drugs. The relationship is direct, lower than the norm – more people are subject to correction of cholesterol levels. High cholesterol is only a marker of a person’s condition, and does not manifest any symptoms. The body itself knows when it is necessary to increase the synthesis of cholesterol. Its physiological increase is observed during pregnancy and in the elderly. In the first case, cholesterol is necessary for the synthesis of sex hormones and fetal cells, and in the second – for the preservation and restoration of damaged cells.
Let’s get acquainted with the norms of total cholesterol:
It should be noted that the total cholesterol itself does not give an understanding of the full picture, namely, the amount of LDL and HDL. Therefore, it is not necessary to draw any conclusions about the state of health on the basis of this analysis alone.
LDL and HDL blood levels:
Cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases
It’s time to find out why cholesterol is blamed for all the deadly sins and is considered a serious risk factor for developing cardiovascular diseases.
It is believed that ” bad ” cholesterol leads to the development of atherosclerosis of blood vessels. It is deposited on the walls of the vessel, forms a plaque and interferes with normal blood flow. As a result, blood circulation is disrupted and the organs do not receive the necessary amount of oxygen and nutrients. In addition, the vessels lose their elasticity and can not fully regulate blood pressure. This can lead to hypertension, myocardial infarction, or stroke.
Let’s see how much cholesterol is “to blame” for this process. The primary cause of atherosclerosis is a violation of the integrity of the blood vessel wall. Simply put, for some reason, cracks and scratches appear on the smooth inner wall of the vessel. The reasons can be many-inflammatory diseases, high blood sugar, smoking, and so on. The first to come to the rescue are the cells of the immune system, which are trying to” patch ” the damage. The universal material for this is cholesterol. Cholesterol carriers, as we already know, are supposedly ” bad ” LDL. It is important to note that the immune cells do not capture all the cholesterol indiscriminately, but only the modified, peroxided cholesterol. Free radicals – that’s exactly who is ” bad” in the body! It is these molecules that modify cholesterol and indirectly contribute to the formation of cholesterol plaques in the blood vessels.
In most cases, high cholesterol is a consequence of disorders in the body, and not their cause.
Thus, cholesterol is not the main cause of atherosclerosis and other diseases. This is evidenced by the numerous facts of the absence of vascular diseases in people with high cholesterol, including LDL.
“What about the studies that confirm the link between high cholesterol and disease?– – you ask. Yes, indeed, modern practical medicine has a decent amount of fundamental research that can not be ignored. But none of them considers cholesterol alone as a risk factor. As a rule, the studied patients have a lot of them – these are cardiovascular diseases in the anamnesis, excess weight, hypodynamia, hormonal and metabolic disorders, diabetes mellitus, and so on. So it is impossible to say with certainty that it is all the fault of cholesterol alone.
Lowering cholesterol without medication
As we know, high-density lipoproteins remove excess cholesterol from the body. Including from the formed cholesterol plaques on the walls of the vessel. Therefore, it is important to monitor the LDL/HDL ratio in the blood. This is especially true for people diagnosed with hypertension, coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis. It is necessary to reduce the level of cholesterol correctly, and it is very desirable to do without any drugs. Cholesterol-lowering medications have a number of side effects, and this should be remembered.
A cholesterol-free diet is also ineffective. In the 70-80 years of the last century, there was a real ” boom” in the style of food that excludes meat, butter, milk and egg yolk. Over time, the failure of these diets became apparent. The fact is that only 10-20% of cholesterol we get from food. By blocking this reserve, the body begins to synthesize cholesterol on its own. The liver at the same time produces a large number of low-density lipoprodeids, because they transfer cholesterol to organs and tissues. So, the amount of “bad” cholesterol is growing. Thus, with the help of a low-fat diet, we only worsen the indicators of the blood lipid spectrum.
There are other ways of eating and living that reduce cholesterol in a physiological way:
- Fish and seafood. They contain a large amount of cholesterol. Food rich in cholesterol reduces the need for cholesterol synthesis in the body. In addition, Omega 3 reduces LDL and increases HDL.
- Foods containing vitamin B4 (choline) – egg yolk, liver, kidneys, meat, cottage cheese, cheese, unrefined vegetable oil, legumes, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes. Choline protects cell membranes and lowers cholesterol levels.
Some sources identify foods that contain “good ” cholesterol, such as egg yolk or seafood. This is an incorrect interpretation. In all products, cholesterol is the same – both in meat and in egg yolks.
- Products containing pectin – apples, citrus fruits, beets, carrots, eggplants, plums, herbs (coriander, parsley, dill). Purify the blood vessels and remove cholesterol.
- Protein products. Protein is necessary, first of all, for the synthesis of high-density lipoproteins, because they contain it in much larger quantities than LDL. In addition, protein is necessary for the repair and maintenance of the vascular wall.
- Foods containing vitamin D and sun exposure. With a deficiency of this vitamin, the liver begins to intensively synthesize cholesterol.
- Fight against excess weight. With obesity, there is a large amount of fat in the blood, and with them, cholesterol.
- Physical activity. It is proved that sports can reduce cholesterol levels by 30% more effectively than medical drugs.
- The sorbents. Together with toxins and harmful substances, excess cholesterol is removed. The reception is recommended for a short course, 3-4 days with a two-week break.
Despite the ongoing debate, we have found that cholesterol is more of a friend than an enemy. You can’t do without it. Normal cholesterol metabolism in the body is possible due to the well-coordinated work of high-and low-density lipoproteins. A low-fat diet is not suitable for regulating cholesterol levels. As paradoxical as it may sound, but to lower cholesterol, you need cholesterol. But everything is good in moderation. Do not eat packs of butter or fatty meat-excess weight contributes to an increase in LDL. A healthy lifestyle, proper nutrition, vitamins and regular physical activity are our main helpers.
Control your cholesterol without medication!