Why your body needs good amount of cholesterol to function

Many people are always scared of cholesterol as a chemical body nutrient due to its cardio-vascular effects. Although it is true that high amount of cholesterol in blood can easily lead to poor heart function or heart failure, cholesterol performs vital functions to our body system. Cholesterol is a lipid that helps in the formation of the bile, an important biological component of digestion.
 Dr Joseph Kamugisha
Dr Joseph Kamugisha

Many people are always scared of cholesterol as a chemical body nutrient due to its cardio-vascular effects.

Although it is true that high amount of cholesterol in blood can easily lead to poor heart function or heart failure, cholesterol performs vital functions to our body system. Cholesterol is a lipid that helps in the formation of the bile, an important biological component of digestion.

It is responsible for the greasy texture of our skin and makes the outer coating of skin cells. It is an important body steroid from where steroid hormones are made as well as body formation of vitamin D.

Cholesterol is very contributive in formation of reproductive hormones like estrogen in women and testosterone hormone in men.

Cholesterol is usually made in the liver and comes from various food nutrients that we eat. It is advisable to have total body cholesterol of at least 150mg/dl to 200mg/dl. 

Sometimes you can have individuals with cholesterol levels below 150mg/dl in a health condition as long as they feed on plant diet that does not affect their cholesterol concentrations in blood.

Long-standing low total cholesterol levels in blood usually leads to adverse health body problems especially those linked to hormonal imbalances in the body. This is because cholesterol is very contributive in the manufacture of steroid and reproductive hormones as well. Low total cholesterol can also lead to depression and increased risk of stroke.

People with low total cholesterol and with minimal external source of vitamin D will also likely suffer consequences of vitamin D deficiency. This also reminds us that the sun is a very good source of vitamin D as it acts on the cholesterol found in our skin cells to manufacture vitamin D.

There are two important moderators of total cholesterol in the body; the low density lipo-proteins (LDL) and High density lipo-proteins (HDL). These two important body chemical substances are always the center of subject for clinicians especially when they try to help patients with coronary heart diseases.

The low density lipo-proteins (LDL) and High density lipo-proteins (HDL) are lipoproteins that transport cholesterol in the blood.

Clinicians usually focus much on low density lipo proteins because it transports cholesterol to arteries and people with coronary heart disease are usually at risk if this cholesterol carrier is high in blood.

In coronary heart disease, we usually find blood clot deposits inside the walls of the arteries. This in-turn limits or blocks blood circulation in the heart chambers to cause poor heart function or cardiac insufficiency.

Now, if you have more LDL that transports cholesterol into the arteries can worsen the situation.

High density lipoprotein (HDL) is not dangerous as compared to the low-density because carries cholesterol from the arteries to the liver.

 Feeding pattern or diet is very contributive to the formation of cholesterol in the body. Many animal products or fats have been seen to increase the amount of cholesterol in the body and, actually, this is why people with coronary heart disease are advised to limit animal food products such as meat, cheese, among others.

To maintain a good cholesterol free-diet, you need to feed on plant foods like small amounts of nuts and seeds, legumes, fruits, whole grains and vegetables.

Plant fats have minimal effect on cholesterol contributions and plant diet with avocado, coconuts, and olives are advisable.

Dr Joseph Kamugisha is a resident oncologist in Jerusalem, Israel

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