All you need to know about cholesterol
Cholesterol is the one nutrient looked at with great suspicion by common man. Without realising the role of cholesterol in our well being, we often consider it a useless toxic product present in our food. This may be due to excessive highlighting of the ill-effects of cholesterol without mention of its usefulness. Cholesterol is present in small amounts in almost all body tissues and constitutes an important fraction of the blood lipoproteins. It is also required for the production of hormones.
What is cholesterol
The word sterol literally means “solid alcohol.” Since cholesterol was first isolated from gall stones it got this name meaning “solid alcohol from bile.” Cholesterol is a lipid of animal origin. The liver meets body needs of cholesterol regardless of its dietary intake. Low density lipoprotein intake facilitates the synthesis of cholesterol.
Cholesterol concentration is high in the liver, the adrenal, and the white and grey matter of the brain and the peripheral nerves. Cholesterol is a component of cell membranes and furnishes the molecules for the synthesis of provitamin D, adrenocortical hormones like different type steroids, sex hormones, and bile salts. Our body cannot function normally without this lipid compound.
Heredity, diet and obesity are other important factors for high cholesterol. Nothing much can be done about the heredity factor, but a substantial reduction in your blood cholesterol level can be achieved safely through dietary modifications. There are food items that lower cholesterol level and others, which increase serum cholesterol level. A high level of blood cholesterol is a major risk factor of coronary heart disease and artherosclerosis. It also increases in patients with obesity, cirrhosis, gall bladder stones, hypothyroidism, nephrotic syndrome, diabetes and some types of metabolic diseases.
Sources of cholesterol
The sources of cholesterol are:
- Endogenous synthesis from acetate by the liver and the intestines particularly the ileum.
- Exogenous from food.
How does the diet help?
Saturated fatty acids are found to increase blood cholesterol, whereas unsaturated fatty acids are found to decrease it. Cholesterol is found in the body even when the diet contains no cholesterol. Foods that contain cholesterol such as egg yolk, mutton, organ meat, prawns, lobsters etc, and saturated fatty acids are found to increase serum cholesterol levels.
Foods rich in cellulose and pectin, mainly fruits and vegetables, are found to reduce serum cholesterol levels by preventing its absorption from the intestine. Turmeric contains a factor responsible for decreasing serum cholesterol levels. Onions, garlic, and bengal gram are believed to lower serum cholesterol levels but this is controversial. Foods containing soluble fibre such as oat meal, wheat bran, citrus fruits and beans dissolve in water and can flush out cholesterol.
In adults, 150 – 200mg/dl of cholesterol is considered as normal range. The level between 200 – 250 mg/dl of cholesterol is considered suspected or borderline range. Whereas, above 250 mg/dl is considered as high and requires dietary or medical management.
Points to note
- Eat a variety of foods.
- Avoid too much saturated fat and cholesterol like butter, cheese, cream, egg yolk, kidney, liver, organ meats, red meat, brain, biscuits, cakes, chocolates and pastries.
- Eat foods with adequate fibre like all vegetables, all fruits, whole meal bread, oats, and cereals.
- Avoid too much sugar.
- Avoid too much salt.
- If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
Cholesterol content of foods
|Food contents||Cholesterol mg/100gm||Food contents||Cholesterol mg/100gm|
|Cream processed||140||Whole milk fresh||11|
|Skimmed milk fresh||0.4||Egg hen whole||498|
|Egg yolk||1330||Egg white||0|
|Lard and animal fats||95|
Image: Flickr/creativecommons ariztravel