We tend to say many silly things about cholesterol, often oversimplifying the issue. Maybe the time has come to clarify the confusing cholesterol situation. You’ve probably heard of so called good and bad cholesterol. So what is good cholesterol? If you don’t know, or are unsure, read on.
In reality cholesterol behaves differently depending on which proteins are associated with it during its journey into our bloodstream. The molecule which is present both in good and bad cholesterol is lipid. Lipids are not soluble in water which is why they have to bind with proteins to become water-soluble.
The two main types of proteins, LDL and HDL, have led to the good cholesterol and bad cholesterol labels. The LDL type protein is regarded negatively because it helps cholesterol remain in the arteries, but associating it with bad cholesterol is not really accurate, as it only causes problems when levels become too high. HDL, on the other hand is often associated with good cholesterol because it helps speed the transfer of cholesterol from our arteries into our liver where it is metabolized.
Moving back to ‘bad’ LDL, when LDL levels become too high, problems can arise. If the LDL is oxidized, owing to the effects of free radicals maybe, this can lead to bad cholesterol, the build up of which in our arteries can lead to three adverse effects. Atherosclerotic plaques may build up over time and these plaques can reduce the diameter of our arteries which means less blood can flow. In addition, atherosclerosis reduces the elasticity of our arteries and this makes it more difficult for the heart to pump blood around the body, so the heart has to work harder than it really needs to. Finally, plaques may break off and this can lead to blood clots which stop blood flowing.
Now you know what good and bad cholesterol is. It’s not a good idea, nor it it really possible, to reduce cholesterol to zero as it is essential to the proper functioning of the human body because it regulates the fluidity and permeability of cell membranes – in addition to being essential to the creation of important vitamin D and bile-salt related hormones.
For more information on cholesterol, you may well find our tips to on how to lower cholesterol levels interesting