The cholesterol is a major concern for health especially from middle age and particularly in men, who tend to have higher levels than women. The reason is that it is one of the main risk factors in cardiac pathologies such as hypertension or heart attack.
In spite of this, many of us do not know exactly what cholesterol is , why there are two different types, one good and one bad, neither what makes one benign and the other dangerous, nor in which food is each one and therefore it is convenient increase or avoid in our diet.
Cholesterol is a sterol (a lipid or, colloquially, a fat ) found in cells and blood plasma of vertebrate animals and therefore of humans. We need it to live because it fulfills some essential functions in our body. Specifically, it is part of the membrane that covers the cells and regulates the substances that enter and those that exit.
Involved in the formation of bile acids , which are necessary for the digestion of food; the sun’s rays convert it into vitamin D , which protects the skin from dehydration, and is needed for the production of some hormonal , for example, sexual.
Good cholesterol, bad cholesterol?
Although we refer to it with that expression to make it easier to understand, in fact both cholesterols, the good and the bad , are the same. The difference is in the type of proteins to which they adhere when circulating through our body.
Cholesterol is produced largely in the liver, and from there it must be transported to the cells where it is needed. To do this, it binds to proteins, called low density lipoproteins , which are the ones that distribute it throughout the body . This is the so-called bad cholesterol , because when there is an excess, it ends up adhering to the walls of veins and arteries, obstructing circulation and increasing the risk of hypertension, heart attacks and thrombi.
Another type of protein, high density lipoproteins , collect cholesterol that has not been used from the cells and organs of the body and take it back to the liver to be destroyed . This is the good cholesterol , since it prevents it from wandering through the body, accumulates in the circulation and produces health problems.
How cholesterol is formed
75% of the body’s cholesterol comes from the cells of the body, and the amount depends mainly on genetic factors, while the other 25% comes from the food we eat and therefore depends on our diet.
When we eat, food is broken down into its essential nutrients between the stomach and the intestine. In the latter they are absorbed and circulate through our body in the form of fats, carbohydrates and proteins. As part of that circulation ** they reach the liver, and there they join other substances ** that are responsible for giving them a function.
It is in the liver where triglycerides, proteins and cholesterol come together to form the high or low intensity lipoproteins that will distribute the cholesterol where it is needed or collect the surplus to return it to the liver.
Tips to increase the good and reduce the bad
If you have problems with cholesterol, the most important thing is to consult a doctor and follow their instructions. The Heart Foundation makes two main recommendations:
- Follow a balanced diet without saturated fats . Betting on traditional food patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet , where fats come from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, present in fish, olive oil and nuts, as well as being rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes and cereals.
- Do aerobic exercise of average intensity regularly (three to five times a week), which helps increase good cholesterol and lowering bad.
What you should not eat
Some foods are especially contraindicated for all those people who need to reduce the level of bad cholesterol in blood.
For starters, foods rich in saturated fats , such as whole milk, palm oil, red meat and part of the traditional casquería (especially the liver).
Also avoid processed foods such as chips or pastries, because they are rich in trans fat, as well as fast food , with high levels of cholesterol and calories, and few nutrients.
Beware of products derived from animals , such as butter, bacon or sausages, which also involve a large load of fats.