What does cholesterol do? Let’s be clear. Cholesterol is a particular fat found exclusively in food of animal origin and can also be synthesized by our body. 80/90% is produced by the liver and the adrenal gland. Only the rest is introduced with the DIET. Excess food stimulates the liver to produce more cholesterol. The body then fails to dispose of it and the fat is deposited on the wall of the arteries.
What does cholesterol do and why is it important for our body.
Contrary to what many people think, is an important biological molecule. A component of all cell membranes and of the coating that covers the nerves. From which our body synthesizes some hormones (such as testosterone ecc…) and bile acids (useful for digestion).
HDL and LDL Cholesterol
Cholesterol, like other fats, is not able to circulate in the BLOOD if it is not accompanied by particular proteins (lipoprotein). The main lipoproteins are LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) and HDL (High Density Lipoprotein). The HDL (good cholesterol) acts as a “sweeper”. It collects fats in the bloodstream and takes them to the liver to eliminate them. While the LDL (bad cholesterol) does the opposite, facilitating deposits in the arteries and promoting the formation of atherosclerotic plaques.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)
LDL are low-density lipoprotein that transport the fat from the liver to the tissues. They are large molecules, in which the lipid component prevails over the protein component. When the concentration of LDL is high, it tends to accumulate not only in the adipose tissue but also on the wall of the arteries, so it is considered “bad”. The deposits that form over time harden the vascular wall that becomes less elastic. Progressively cause a narrowing of the vessels that can progress until the complete obstruction of blood flow to the tissues.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL)
In this way, the normal supply of oxygen and nutrients to the cells is compromised. If the atheroma are in vessels that supply blood to vital organs such as the heart, brain or kidney, the damage can be very dangerous. HDL are high-density lipoprotein that protect arterial vessels, act as “sweeper”. Helping to remove and cleanse cholesterol and fats from the vascular wall and diverting them to the liver (where is metabolized and reused). For this reason, HDL is considered “good”.
LDL (bad cholesterol ) and HDL ( good cholesterol) are the two main components of total cholesterol. The total values above 200 mg/dL indicate that all cell receptors are already saturated with fat. All “LDL” and “HDL” are already working at full capacity. For this reason, it is essential that the cholesterol levels remain below the maximum capacity of disposal of cells, equal to 200 mg/dl. Even more important than total cholesterol is the ratio of LDL to HDL. LDL values should never exceed four times those of HDL. Otherwise HDL will not be able to dispose of all the fats deposited along the arterial walls.
Foods rich in cholesterol
Cholesterol is contained in most foods of animal origin. Cheeses, eggs and meat, and in foods that can be cooked with these ingredients. The excessive consumption of foods rich in cholesterol ( which represents 30% of the value of cholesterol in the blood) associated with that of saturated or hydrogenated fatty acids, is considered a determining factor for high levels of cholesterol in the blood. With a consequent increase in cardiovascular and atherosclerotic risk.
How do you keep your cholesterol levels under control
First, you need to change unhealthy eating habits and gradually introduce a healthier lifestyle that includes PHYSICAL ACTIVITY. Cholesterol and blood fat levels should be checked at least every 6 months. Even more often after the age of 50. Today this is easier thanks to the self tests at home. If you have any doubts, you should always ask your doctor. Reducing only the intake of foods rich in fat is not enough to obtain a low cholesterol level. Apart from reducing foods rich in fat (which raise the level of triglycerides).
The intake of saturated fats should also be limited and a diet rich in fiber should be started if you want to lower the levels of cholesterol in the blood. By reducing the intake of saturated fats, and increasing that of unsaturated fats. The cellular receptors are cleared and the cardiovascular risk is reduced. Some diets, for example. Advice that the fibres should come from legumes rather than from cereals. According to these diets, all cereal-based foods are responsible for the increase in bad cholesterol.
Legumes contain starch, but in smaller amounts than cereals. While they are richer in proteins and mineral salts. Therefore, to obtain a better effect, they should be limited or eliminated : bread, pizza, pasta, rice, cookies, cakes, rusks, couscous, snacks, oatmeal, pearl barley, cereal-based drinks (rice, barley, milk), etc.. Considering that each case is a separate one, the best thing to do is to ask the doctor that will be able to give you more targeted and personalized indications.