What exactly is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is one of the many types of lipids or fats found in our blood and in the cell membrane of any mammalian cell. Cholesterol attaches itself to lipoproteins present in the blood to be transported to different body parts. Depending upon the density of the cholesterol transporter or lipoprotein, the cholesterols are classified as:
• High density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C). This is also referred to as "good" cholesterol. It collects cholesterol from body tissues and returns it to the liver.
• Low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C). It carries cholesterol from liver to body cells.
• Intermediate density lipoprotein cholesterol (IDL-C). Not usually detectable in blood and are usually formed of the degraded parts of the very low density lipoproteins.
• Very low density lipoprotein cholesterol (VLDL-C or TGL or TAG). They carry newly synthesized triglycerol from liver to fat/ adipose tissues.
• Chylomicrons are the lipoproteins that carry triglycerides from the intestines to the liver, skeletal muscle, and to adipose tissue.
Are all types of cholesterol bad?
No, cholesterol is necessary for the body and has been provided to us through millions of years of evolution for a reason. Cholesterol is required for the execution of a number of crucial functions in the body. Some of them are:
• It aids the production of bile acids.
• It is required for the production of substances like cortisol, aldosterone, estrogens and testosterone.
• The production of prohormone vitamin D requires the presence of cholesterol.
• It surrounds neurons (nerve cells) as a protective layer providing insulation and helps relay messages between them more efficiently.
• Cholesterol helps in the repair and maintenance of cell or plasma membranes of our cells.
• It also promotes plasma membrane permeability and fluidity.
However, most cholesterol produced by the body is sufficient for all of the functions to run smoothly.