What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, whitish lipid molecule that is important in every cell in your body because it makes hormones (including vitamin D, estrogen, testosterone, and cortisol), and other substances like bile acids to help you digest food. It also plays an important role in building cells in your body.
And even though it’s rarely mentioned, maintaining an adequate amount of cholesterol levels in your body also reduces depression. Therefore, it’s not only extremely vital to your physical health, but also to your mental wellbeing.
In fact, Swedish researchers found that violent criminals in their case study, had significantly lower cholesterol than others identical in age, sex, alcohol indices and education.
Side note: Ladies…and gents, if your man is acting crazy, you might want to have him check his cholesterol levels—Just sayin’!
But, having low cholesterol doesn’t just stop at causing someone to act violently towards you—It’s also linked to suicide, according to Psychiatric Times.
What Are Healthy Cholesterol Numbers?
Medical doctors suggest that your total cholesterol numbers should be under 200. An adult’s LDL and HDL numbers should adhere to the following guidelines:
- Optimal if it is less than 100.
- Near optimal/above optimal if it is 100-129.
- Borderline high if it is 130-159.
- High if it is 160-189.
- Very high if it is 190 or above
- Low (and considered a risk factor) if it is less than 40.
- Good (and able to help lower your risk of heart disease) if it is 60 or more.
Where Does Cholesterol Come from and How is it Processed in the Body?
First and foremost, every cell in the body makes cholesterol, and the liver makes about 75% of the cholesterol your body needs. In addition, everyone tends to get about 300 to 500 mg of cholesterol daily from foods like meat and dairy products.
However, even if you consume foods that don’t have cholesterol, the liver will use those foods to make cholesterol from the carbon that they release when they break down.
The body loves cholesterol people…period! As it should- because every cell in your body is not only depending on it to function properly, but when those cells need a hit—they are probably anxiously waiting for it like a salivating dog.
Transporting Cholesterol in the Body
Once cholesterol is made, the liver releases the newly made cholesterol into the blood stream via lipoproteins that bind to the cholesterol, which is referred to as Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL). Any cell that needs the LDL can use it.
In addition, the liver also produces High Density Lipoproteins (HDL) because the body recognizes that not all of the LDL in the bloodstream will be used. Did that register? The body realizes that it will not need all of the cholesterol.
WOW! That statement alone-is an AHA moment for me. Nothing but God could have created such a magnificent, smart machine like our bodies.
Now, I know that there are plenty of science influenced people who would beg to differ, and of course, I can’t control their beliefs. As my mother used to say, “There’s only two things in this world that every man’s gotta do for himself— His own believin’ and his own dyin’!” Having said that, I believe that we are devinely created.
Ok, soooo about that leftover LDL. Whatever is left in the bloodstream will be reclaimed by the HDL and transported back to the liver. The liver will then use it to make bile acids to digest food, which will eventually be discarded as waste. Again, what an efficient organ. However, as with any system, sometimes things can go wrong and your body will start to go haywire.
Genetics or a Poor Diet Can Cause Us to Have too Much or too Little Cholesterol
When your body is working properly, it will regulate your cholesterol levels effectively. So, if you are eating too much cholesterol, your liver will not produce as much. On the other hand, if your body isn’t properly regulating cholesterol levels, the liver will still continue to make cholesterol even when you are getting a high amount from your food. Obviously, this can lead to high cholesterol.
What Happens When You Have Too Much Cholesterol
If a doctor tells you that you have high cholesterol and is concerned about your health, he is referring to LDL cholesterol. As I mentioned earlier, LDL is transported through the blood stream in your arteries. Each cell that needs the cholesterol will grab it from the blood stream and use it. However, there is always some leftover LDL that will remain in your arteries and can cause health problems.
Now, the good news is—If you have a larger amount of HDL in your blood stream, you’re good because its main job is to remove the leftover LDL.
But, what if you don’t have enough HDL in your bloodstream to remove the LDL? According to Medical News Today, you still might be good because not all LDL is bad.
There are two types of LDL—small, dense LDL particles and large LDL particles. The newer research suggests that the large LDL particles will not lead to inflammation and heart disease. However, the small, dense LDL particles can because of the following reasons:
(1). They are small enough to permeate the arterial lining and become oxidized, and therefore; create inflammation, and
(2) They can remain inside the arterial wall and harden into plaque that can create a blockage because they carry a large particle number.
Conversely; the large LDL have a smaller number of particles so they are less likely to lead to heart disease.
Contributors to High Cholesterol
Research has shown that the greatest contributors to high cholesterol are:
- High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
- Refined carbs
Therefore, if you limit eating foods that contain the sugar and/or HFCS and cut out the refined carbs, you should see a dramatic change (within two weeks of consumption) in your LDL numbers because these foods drastically increased triglycerides and ApoB (a marker for LDL-p) in the blood of healthy subjects.
This is probably why children are increasingly becoming diagnosed with high cholesterol and now have an alarming rate of fatty liver disease. In fact, fatty liver disease resulting from eating sugar, HFCS, and refined carbs is rising quicker than fatty liver disease from alcohol—Now chew on that for a minute!
What to do to Reduce LDL and Increase HDL
After eliminating these foods for two weeks to one month, go back and get your cholesterol level checked. If your HDL is increasing and your LDL is decreasing, stay the course because your diet is working. In addition, you might want to also lower your intake of meat and dairy products and gradually add them back in when your numbers have stabilize. This will allow you to see if meat and/or dairy are problematic for you too.
Lastly, you can consume omega three fatty acids by eating walnuts, flaxseed, and fish oils to increase your levels of HDL.