Good And Bad Cholesterol

By: Ron Lagerquist

“Animal foods have little effect on blood cholesterol; the problem is more complex.”

 Every cell of the body has the ability to produce cholesterol. Hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are made from cholesterol, without which the differences between the genders would not exist. Corticosteroid is made from cholesterol and regulates the water balance through the kidneys. Through bile in the digestive system, cholesterol helps with the absorption of fats, oils, and fat-soluble vitamins. Cholesterol is secreted from glands in the skin to heal and protect against foreign organisms, and prevents against dehydration.

I am sure you have heard of the terms “good cholesterol” and “bad cholesterol.” Understanding the difference between them will help dismantle misconceptions around cholesterol in diet. The terms good cholesterol and bad cholesterol are really referring to the tiny “boats” that carry cholesterol around the body. LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) boats carry cholesterol to the cells. All cells have little docks where the LDL boats can unload their cargo of cholesterol. When the cell’s needs have been met, the dock closes, allowing no more LDL boats to moor. HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) is the cleanup boats, which carry excess blood cholesterol to the liver where bile is produced to remove surplus cholesterol from the body.

What happens if there are more LDL boats bringing cholesterol in than HDL boats taking it away? The answer is obvious. Blood cholesterol rises, depositing in the arteries, which results in narrowing and hardening of the arteries, leading to heart attacks, strokes and many other debilitating circulatory illnesses. Arteries lose their resilience, raising blood pressure. It is not that LDLs are bad and HDLs are good; the health danger is when the ratio of the two is disproportionate. In other words, the little boats that remove cholesterol cannot keep up with the little boats that are carrying cholesterol to the cells.

There has been a great deal of focus on how much cholesterol is in our food. For instance, we have been advised that because eggs are high in cholesterol we should only eat two a week. Those who have high blood pressure are told that all cholesterol foods ought to be avoided. But in fact, animal foods have little effect on blood cholesterol; the problem is more complex. Refined carbohydrates and saturated fats are the perpetrators in raising LDLs disproportionately to HDLs. The typical North American diet is rich in high-glycemic-index carbohydrates and saturated fats, which drive cholesterol overproduction in the body. Although I am an advocate of eating animal foods in moderation, here is another example that it is better to eat naturally raised meat than vegetarian processed foods. Food processing and mismanagement of animal husbandry are the real culprits behind the cardiovascular epidemic in the western world. To really understand the high cholesterol problem, we need to take a look at saturated fat.

Related Article: Saturated Fat

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