Types of Cholesterol

Feb 9 by

The Main Types of Cholesterol in the Body.

There is actually only one type of cholesterol in the body. Cholesterol is a kind of fat created by the liver or obtained by eating animal products. It’s essential for a body to function and thus needs to travel from the liver through the bloodstream for cells to use.

Proteins

However, since cholesterol is a fat it is not soluble in the bloodstream. This means that cholesterol separates itself from the bloodstream much like oil separates itself from water. In order for cholesterol to travel through the body it must be packaged with proteins. Proteins form a shell around the fatty cholesterol creating a “cholesterol complex”. When people refer to “types” of cholesterol they are actually referring to the proteins used to create these complexes.

Lipoproteins

The structures used to transport cholesterol throughout the body are called lipoproteins and they create two main types of cholesterol complexes. These are high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). These two complexes have different structures and drastically different functions. In common parlance HDL is often known as the ‘good’ cholesterol while LDL is known as the ‘bad’ cholesterol.

Bad cholesterol

A lipoprotein is actually made up of proteins and lipids. A low-density lipoprotein, as the name suggests, has fewer proteins in its structure than does a high-density lipoprotein.

This enables it to carry more cholesterol throughout the body than a HDL.

This transportation is important as the body does need some quantities of cholesterol. LDL is a major transporter of cholesterol and carries almost three-quarters of the body’s cholesterol throughout the bloodstream.

Artherosclerosis.

 

However, when there is too much LDL in the blood, it can slowly build up on the inner walls of the arteries. It can then form plaque which is a hard deposit that narrows the arteries and makes them less flexible – this condition is called artherosclerosis.

As the arteries get more narrow a blood clot can form causing a heart attack or stroke. Doctors often measure LDL to gauge a patient’s risk of having heart disease. This is why it has come to be known as ‘bad’ cholesterol.

Good cholesterol

On the other hand, HDL is known as the ‘good’ cholesterol because high HDL levels in the body seem to protect against heart attacks. HDL appears in the body at lower levels than LDL naturally and only one-fourth to one-third of blood cholesterol is carried by HDL.

However, HDL is important because it can collect “excess” cholesterol carried by LDL and return it to the liver where it can be flushed out of the body. Some medical experts believe that HDL can also remove cholesterol from arterial plaque thus slowing buildup.

Low-density lipoproteins and high-density lipoproteins are the main types of cholesterol complexes in the body.

VLDL and IDL

However there also exist very-low-density lipoproteins (VLDL), intermediate density lipoproteins (IDL), and chylomicrons all of which contribute to the total amount of cholesterol in the body. Although important to body function, they do not appear in nearly the same quantities as LDL and HDL or have the same pronounced effect on a person’s overall health.

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