Dr. Becky Maes - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Becky Maes

Is Cholesterol Bad For You?



Short answer

Due to the fact that without cholesterol, we'd die, cholesterol cannot be said to be bad. An improper diet, however, can lead to excess amounts of cholesterol forming in the bloodstream and increase the risk of several cardiovascular-related health problems.



Long answer

While cholesterol is linked to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular disease, the fact is it is necessary to our survival. Without cholesterol we wouldn't just feel sick or be laid up in the hospital - we'd be dead. Cholesterol, which is produced naturally in our liver (accounting for 75% of our daily need -the rest obtained from dietary cholesterol) is necessary to thousands of functions, including building the cell membrane, metabolism of fat-soluble vitamins, creation of various hormones (among them estrogen and testosterone), creation of bile that aids in digestion, etc. 

Cholesterol must be carried to the various cells via the blood stream from the liver. It does this by binding to lipoproteins. LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is small, hard, and dense. It is responsible for bringing cholesterol from the liver to the cells where it can perform its function. LDL is also known for creating clots and plaque, narrowing the arteries, which can lead to various problems. This happens, however, primarily as a result of the body trying to heal itself. When blood sugar spikes occur, insulin causes inflammation and cholesterol is sent by the liver (via LDL) to quell the inflammation. When the inflammation does not die down, more cholesterol (and hence more LDL) is sent. HDL (high-density lipoprotein), by contrast, is large, light, and soft and carries excess cholesterol from the bloodstream back to the liver. 

The types of foods we eat affect the role (positive or negative) cholesterol plays in our health. For instance, saturated fats - long thought to have been complicit in heart disease - actually help reduce levels of LDL. Furthermore, carbohydrates have been found to lower both HDL and LDL levels. Meanwhile, trans fats lower HDL levels while raising LDL levels (meaning that there is less HDL to get rid of the cholesterol that LDL takes from the liver). 

Overall, it isn't cholesterol itself that causes health problems. Rather, it is a diet of the wrong fats, and especially the consumption of sugar, that leads to a reaction involving cholesterol that can have unintended consequences. By itself, cholesterol is a necessary part of life.

Possible long-term side effects

  • high cholesterol
  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • heart attack

Big is cholesterol bad for you 2


  • building block of several hormones
  • building block of biles that aid in digestion
  • building block of cell membranes
  • necessary to thousands of bodily functions
  • keeps us alive, literally

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Written by Jeff Volling | 01-09-2016

Written by Jeff Volling
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