CHOLESTEROL.. IT'S NOT A DIRTY WORD

Written by: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, AdvDip. NutMed)

There’s a lot of fear associated with cholesterol, with it "being linked to an increased risk of heart disease & all" (which is another blog post all in and of itself). But, what you may not know is that cholesterol is required for a number of different reasons; hormone synthesis, as an antioxidant, aids the bodies healing process, is required to form vitamin D, neurotransmitters and is also needed for our cells membrane’s (the outer layer) structure (Marieb, Hoehn & Hutchinson, 2013).

Cholesterol is found in the foods we eat, but misinformation may have you believe that dietary cholesterol will increase your blood levels… When in fact our liver produces about 85% of it! You may be familiar already with the different types of cholesterol; HDL (known as the 'good' cholesterol) & LDL (known as the 'bad'). These terms in fact are referring to the lipoproteins which act as transporters carrying the cholesterol throughout the blood stream.

Dietary cholesterol will not effect your bodies cholesterol levels, saturated fat however, will & you know what else will?...

Stress.

When you’re stressed the body creates more cholesterol as it helps to mop up endotoxins. Endotoxins are released during this time of stress and are damaging to the body, creating inflammation. So, to counteract this effect, cholesterol is produced (Marieb, Hoehn & Hutchinson, 2013).

Diets low in saturated fats (commonly in vegan/vegetarian diets) can reduce the total level of cholesterol within the body, and this can result in depression and anxiety (Colin, Reggers, Castronovo & Ansseau, 2002; Papakostas et al, 2004).

As I’ve mentioned earlier, cholesterol is needed for hormone synthesis. Sex hormones testosterone, progesterone and estrogen are all dependent on cholesterol. Cholesterol is also a pre-cursor to vitamin D, an essential fat-soluble vitamin required for multiple functions in the body (too many to list here).

Morale of the story; cholesterol is GOOD, its needed by the body and it’s also created by the body. So you can stress less & as always, be kind to yourself x

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References

Colin, A., Reggers, J., Castronovo, V., & Ansseau, M. (2002). Lipids, depression and suicide. L'Encephale29(1), 49-58.

Marieb, E., Hoehn, K., & Hutchinson, M. (2013). Human anatomy & physiology. [San Francisco, Calif.]: Pearson Education/Benjamin Cummings

Papakostas, G. I., Öngür, D., Iosifescu, D. V., Mischoulon, D., & Fava, M. (2004). Cholesterol in mood and anxiety disorders: review of the literature and new hypotheses. European Neuropsychopharmacology14(2), 135-142.