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Updated: Jun 18

It has long been fashionable in the world to discuss cholesterol and what harm it does to our body. In the mass consciousness, cholesterol is almost demonized. The reason is that its consumption in food has been associated with harm to health for many years. The reason for this was large-scale studies of the last century, which showed that people who consume large amounts of cholesterol with food have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. Many experts (and not quite) recommend various diets or foods that help reduce its level. But have you ever asked yourself: "Why does our body produce cholesterol itself, if it is so dangerous?". In this post, we will briefly tell you why we still need cholesterol and how we can "make friends" with it.

Cholesterol is a fat—like substance that is used to build all the cells of the body. It is especially important in the synthesis of corticosteroid and sex hormones, vitamin D, bile acids. The main part of cholesterol, 80%, is produced in the liver, and the remaining 20% comes from the external environment with the help of food.

In order for the body to have the amount of cholesterol that it needs, the body has a mechanism for maintaining homeostasis of the concentration of this substance – the liver. This mechanism works well in all people who do not have lipid metabolism disorders.

Why then is cholesterol demonized by so many different sources?

The thing is that cholesterol is often confused with such a parameter as low-density lipoproteins (LDL). As is known, excessively high LDL levels are associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. But the key aspect is that by itself the consumption of a large amount of dietary cholesterol is not a factor leading to the development of lipid metabolism disorders and to an increase in LDL in the blood. Much more important in this aspect is the function of your liver.

What leads to an increase in LDL, if not the consumption of dietary cholesterol?

  • Increased body fat percentage

  • Smoking

  • Hypodynamia

  • Alcohol abuse

  • Decompensated diabetes mellitus

  • Some medications (for example, testosterone and its derivatives)

  • A diet saturated with trans fats

  • Genetic predisposition (hereditary hypercholesterolemia)

  • Other pathologies of various organs and systems

The correlation is explained by the fact that people who consume a large amount of cholesterol daily are often people with an increased percentage of body fat, with low physical activity, and with other lifestyle features leading to dyslipidemia.

At the same time, modern data show that the exclusion of saturated fats from the diet by itself does not make sense from the point of view of correcting cholesterol levels.

The results of a systematic review from Nutrients from 2018 lead to the conclusion: "Current data do not confirm that cholesterol in the diet increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases in healthy people."

The healthy eating model can include any products. The main factor is not their number, but the total caloric content of the daily diet and the presence of vegetables and fruits in the diet every day. The liver of a healthy person effectively supports cholesterol homeostasis and reduces its synthesis in response to increased intake from food. If you're healthy, you can eat whatever you want. The main thing is to maintain the general principles of a healthy diet: adequate caloric intake, balanced PFC (Proteins/Fats/Carbs) and a sufficient amount of fiber.

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