All these years, we have been informed that cholesterol is the evil behind stroke, cardiovascular diseases etc. But is this one-sided view, correct? Is there more knowledge behind why the body is producing cholesterol? What are the functions of cholesterol? In today’s article we’ll be reviewing some information related to these questions! Let’s read on to find out more!
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in your blood and is considered an essential nutrient for your body. As cholesterol is insoluble in water, they need to be transported to different parts of the body using carriers known as Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) and back to the liver for processing using carriers known as High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL). Cholesterol can be acquired naturally from liver production or from the food we eat. As such, there is no need to consume cholesterol from food as our liver is more than capable of producing enough cholesterol based on needs.
What Are The Benefits of Cholesterol?
Repair Damaged Vessels
Our body naturally produces cholesterol to tackle oxidative inflammations and repair damaged blood vessels, as well as aiding in wound healing. Cholesterol itself isn’t harmful as our body, without cholesterol, wounds are unable to heal, causing holes in artery walls. Hence, cholesterol plays an important part in our body.
Improves Cognitive Development
Besides healing inflammations in our body, research has also shown that high cholesterol is positively correlated with cognitive ability, general ability, processing speed, your memory, and your IQ. According to a study of 1,899 participants to explore the relationship between cholesterol and cognitive ability, participants in the lowest cholesterol group have a lower cognitive score. Cholesterol is therefore essential for our brain to function optimally and helps in improving memory and learning.
Important Hormones for Youthfulness
Cholesterol is needed for your body to make youthful hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. Having insufficient cholesterol can lead to hormone deficiency as a moderate amount is required for cholesterol to do their job.
Essential Vitamin D Making
Vitamin D is essential for good health, and cholesterol plays a role in producing vitamin D from sunlight. Vitamin D is linked to cholesterol because we need cholesterol in our skin cells to make vitamin D from sunlight. The vitamin D is later transformed again in the liver and kidneys, but cholesterol is needed for the first step. It explains why our body produces cholesterol – it has many functions which are essential to life!
Having high amounts of cholesterol can also aid in longevity as a study found that the highest cholesterol group has the overall lowest mortality rate arising from respiratory diseases (surprise surprise!). If Cholesterol is indeed the evil behind so many diseases as claimed, then the study based on 10-year data is certainly showing living proofs otherwise!
As such, it is important to understand that Cholesterol by itself is multi-functional. It is made by our own body for essential life sustaining functions. The real issue behind Cholesterol is when it becomes inflamed! When Cholesterol is inflamed (or known as oxidised LDL), it leads to blockages within our vessels, contributing to strokes and other respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
Oxidised LDL occurs when there are inflammations as LDL particles react with free radicals, shrinking in size. LDL receptors are unable to recognize it, hence the number of damaged LDL starts building up, damaging the inner layer of the blood vessel known as the ‘intima’ and slipping through the gaps into the wrong place. Damaged LDL are recognized as foreign bodies, and white blood cells in your body naturally go after it to get rid of it, forming remnants as plaque in our blood stream which may cause coronary artery disease (CAD).
So What Causes Inflammation in our Body. Please read on…
What Causes Inflammation?
The 3 key factors for inflammation are omega-6, high carbs, and chronic stress. Omega-6 is a form of radical oxidised oil which oxidises our molecules, leading to inflammation in our body. A diet high in carbs is high in sugar, having a huge impact on blood sugar spike, which quickly increases one’s blood sugar level, leading to inflammation. Chronic stress is connected to inflammatory responses, that increases cortisol production, insulin resistance, weight gain and more inflammation.
Overly High Omega-6
Omega-6 are radical oxidised oils found in plenty of cooking oil such as corn oil, sunflower oil and safflower oil where the ratio of omega 6 and omega 3 are unbalanced. Having an excess ratio of Omega 6 : Omega 3 can trigger the body to produce pro-inflammatory chemicals, resulting in inflammation, leading to oxidised LDL that causes heart diseases. We are already consuming sufficient omega 6 from the food such as Chicken, Beef etc. Hence it is important to choose oils that do not contain Omega 6, such as coconut oil.
When we consume carbs and sugar, our body produces insulin to help blood sugar enter the body’s cells to be used for energy. However, over consumption of carbs can result in insulin resistance, and cells in your muscles, body fat and liver do not effectively respond to insulin. Cells are unable to absorb excess glucose from your blood, resulting in a buildup of blood sugar as glucose is unable to convert into energy, leading to the vicious cycle of more insulin resistance and inflammation.
Chronic stress has a high correlation to inflammation as intense stress causes an imbalance response between inflammation and anti-inflammation. When you’re stressed, cortisol, your body’s stress hormone goes off, increasing heart rate, glucose production in your bloodstream and increases substance that repairs tissue. Elevated cortisol makes insulin resistance worse and increases appetite, and that leads to higher blood sugar and possibly weight gain. This, in turn, increases insulin resistance, weight and blood sugar, contributing to even more inflammation, demonstrating how an inflammatory storm is created and builds.
How Do We Know We Are Having Inflammation?
Insulin is a hormone that helps blood sugar enter the body’s cells so it can be used for energy. With insulin resistance, cells in your muscles, body fat and liver do not effectively respond to insulin. Cells are unable to absorb excess glucose from your blood, resulting in a buildup of blood sugar as glucose is unable to convert into energy, resulting in a blood sugar spike. Insulin resistance test can be ordered with a blood test.
HBA1C, a blood test that averages out your blood sugar level over the past 3 months, as sugar in your blood binds to hemoglobin in your red blood cells, and a HBA1C measures how much glucose is bound. High blood glucose happens when there is too much sugar in the blood, usually linked with diabetes and a cause of insulin resistance where your body is unable to absorb excess glucose from the blood. Having a high HBA1C result implies either a pre-diabetic or diabetic patient, which may have insulin resistance, resulting in a higher risk of inflammation.
High Triglycerides and High VLDL
When we consume excessive carbs, we store more than what we can burn off, resulting in a high triglyceride level (essentially fats in the liver). On the other hand, VLDL – Very Low Density Lipoprotein is a variant for LDL. VLDL are made up of cholesterol, triglycerides and proteins that help to supply body tissues with triglycerides. As compared to LDL, VLDL carries a higher ratio of triglyceride to cholesterol, with the function to transfer excess triglycerides from liver to cells to be converted as energy.
When triglycerides are transported to cells, VLDL will be converted to LDL, with a lower ratio of triglycerides to cholesterol. However, when insulin resistance is present meaning that cells are already saturated, VLDL is not able to transfer triglycerides further. Thus, high VLDL occurs.
How To Compute VLDL?
Very Low Density Lipoprotein (VLDL) can be calculated by subtracting HDL and LDL from total cholesterol level. The recommended VLDL ranges between 15 to 20mg/dL, 20-30mg/dL shows signs of insulin resistance, and having a VLDL range of more than 30mg/dL represents high levels of insulin resistance. Hence, it is important to have a low VLDL range by burning more triglycerides to convert VLDL to LDL.
Lowering the Chance of Inflammation!
A ketogenic diet is a diet consisting of a very low carb and high fat diet to put our body into a state called ketosis, proven to have multiple health benefits. You may learn more about the benefits here.
At the same time, one may also opt for a healthier oil selection – Ecoco Extra Virgin Coconut Oil – it does not contain Omega 6. Organic Coconut oil is good for the brain and heart, promoting good cardiovascular health and cognitive development.
ECOCO Organic Coconut Oil is also available in your local supermarkets, at Fairprice, Sheng Siong, Cold Storage and Giant!
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Disclaimer: This is not medical advice, nor can we provide you medical advice. Everything here is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing medical advice. You should contact your doctor to obtain advice with respect to any particular health issue or condition. Also, some of the links in this post may be affiliate links, meaning, at no cost to you.