Demystifying Cholesterol

We all have it, we all need it, we all make it in our bodies.  There is so much hype about cholesterol and what it does and the detriment it can be to us.  Do you have questions?  I certainly did, and as the research changes so does the understanding of this complex phenomena that we continue to be reminded of for our health.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy fat-like substance (called a sterol) your body produces that is an important part of your cell membranes (which allows things to enter and leave the cell, a vital role in all areas of health). Cholesterol also is a precursor for some hormones, including testosterone, cortisol, estrogen, progesterone and vitamin D (also vital for your health).

Where does it come from?

All the Cholesterol you need is made in the body, mostly by the liver.  However, you can ingest it via your diet, and what that diet is will determine how much is being added in your body. Foods from animals to include dairy are external sources of cholesterol.

How it works?

At least 75% is made in the liver where little fat bundles are produced, then wrapped in a protein (called a lipoprotein), to be carried into the body.  The bundles are then taken up by the body where they are needed. Excess bundles are sought out to be returned to the liver and reused, however sometimes (depending on the size of the particles), they get lodged in the lining of your blood vessels where they can build up and cause problems.

What’s all the hype about “good” and “bad” cholesterol and what does it mean?

To simplify, the size of the lipoprotein are broken down into High density lipoproteins (HDL), Low density lipoproteins (LDL), and Very low density lipoproteins (VLDL).

  • HDL is known as the “good” cholesterol because it scavenges the LDL and VLDL so it doesn’t stick to your insides and muck up your plumbing.
  • LDL is the larger and “fluffier” LDL which carries more cholesterol than VLDL and are seen to do the lesser amount of damage of the two to the body.
  • VLDL, are smaller and more dense, if they are not used in a productive manner they will clog your plumbing leading to increase heart and circulatory conditions. They carry more triglycerides than cholesterol.

As you may have guessed VLDL is the worst kind of cholesterol, the smaller the particle size and the more of them you have the more havoc they can cause.  Eventually you may need a plumber (by that I mean a cardiac specialist).  The fats, called triglycerides, are produced in the body and created after ingesting simple sugars (i.e, cakes, cookies, syrup, soda, etc.).

Here’s the breakdown:

HDL is good

LDL (Think large fluffy molecule) not as bad as VLDL

VLDL (Small dense molecules) is BAD (studies show up to 3 times more risk of coronary heart disease with VLDL than LDL alone).

High Triglycerides with high VLDL is also BAD  – There is a relationship that if your triglycerides are high your VLDL will be as well.  If your triglycerides are low your large fluffy LDL will be more prevalent than VLDL. VLDL is traditionally calculated as 20% of your triglycerides.

What can I do about it?

  1. Eat a whole foods based diet
  2. Lots of veggies
  3. Replace your vegetable and canola oil with good fats like coconut oil, MCT oil, avocado oil, and hemp oil.
  4. Stay away from sugar.
  5. If you drink alcohol do so minimally. Red wine has some research behind it for heart health so try sticking to a 5oz serving.
  6. Eat high quality proteins that include grass fed beef, animals that have not been treated with hormones or antibiotics, wild salmon, as well as raw nuts and seeds.
  7. Exercise!!
  8. Don’t smoke
  9. Avoid pesticides and herbicides
  10. Decrease exposure to radiation ( which includes phone, tablets, and computers).

For more resources on healthy living go to our Resources page. If you are working on improving your overall health and wellness we would love to help in any way we can.

What should I talk to my doctor about?

If you are already monitoring your cholesterol or you are interested in what yours looks like, talk to your doctor about getting a c-reactive protein test also known as “Cardiac CRP”, and a Vertical Auto Profile (VAP) which takes into account the VLDL and gives you a broader picture of what you are dealing with.