Contrary to the widely held view among laypeople that cholesterol is utterly toxic to the wellbeing of the body, it is actually produced in the body by virtue of the secretions of the liver and the intestines. A waxy like solution, cholesterol is a type of soluble fat and it plays an integral role in the body, as it serves as a vital component in the production, creation and repair of the membranes of all cells situated within the body. In addition the maintenance of membrane fluidity, cholesterol also plays a role in the conduction of nerve impulses around the body.
Furthermore, many of the various hormones utilised by the body, such as insulin, glycogen, as well as cholecystokinin are all utterly dependent upon the production of cholesterol and indeed; without it; these hormones which play such an integral role in the base metabolic rate would not be able to function at all.
In addition, cholesterol is utilised in order to synthesise sufficient levels of vitamin D within the body itself; and it is worth noting that dietary calcium is molecularly inert and therefore requires the assistance and intervention of Vitamin D in order for it to be readily absorbed and digested.
Speaking of digestion, cholesterol also happens to be one of the essential ingredients used in the production of bile acids; the acidic solutions contained in the stomach reservoir which seek to breakdown the food and ultimately aid in the digestion of the food.
Abnormal levels of cholesterol are known as hypercholesterolemiaand it is worth noting that hypercholesterolemiais not a disease in and of itself but rather, merely the symptom and therefore indicative of, other cardiovascular disease that is yet to be treated.
Low cholesterol diets and the lipid hypothesis
The lipid hypothesis is medical theorem devised in the mid-19th century in an attempt to provide a credible and objective benchmark upon which the measurement and charting of the progress of the cardiovascular pathology of atherosclerosis.
The lipid hypothesis has been subject to controversy and numerous attempts to both expand and improve it; with varying degrees of success. 1913 was a particularly significant day for the lipid hypothesis and the reason for this was due to the fact that a study involving the forcible feeding of cholesterol sources to rabbits resulted in a myriad of different symptoms; all of which bore a striking resemblance to atherosclerosis, arose.
In essence then, the lipid hypothesis maintains that the higher the concentration of saturated (also sometimes referred to as trans) fats and cholesterol then the higher the likelihood that cardiovascular dysfunction including but not limited to, atherosclerosis, will occur.
It is perhaps worthwhile explaining the precise sub-categories of cholesterol that have been identified under the terms and provisions of the lipid hypothesis as being the materially contributory culprits responsible for the onset of cardiac dysfunction and so these are as follows.
High Density lipoproteins (HDLs)/ Low Density lipoproteins (LDLs): the purpose of both HDLs and LDLs is to enable the extracellular transportation of soluble lipid based compound payloads throughout the body.
The lipid hypothesis contests that the risk of cardiovascular complications will arise when the level of the LDLs in the body exceeds that of the HDLs.
The reason for this hypothesis is due to the fact LDLs have been identified as being primarily responsible for contributing to the process of atheroma, whereby the arterial walls have been engorged. Arterial plaque will increase and with the passage of time begin to stick to the arterial walls thereby constricting the artery and with it; reducing the efficient flow of blood.
Food items to be consumed within low cholesterol diets
Dieters who are currently bound by the terms and requirements of a low cholesterol diet will need to be especially aware of the nature of the oils that they are consuming and specifically; vegetable oils that are cited as being partially hydrogenated must be reduced significantly.
The reason for this is that partially hydrogenated vegetable oil has a very high concentration of trans/saturated fat molecules which when ingested and broken down within the gastrointestinal canal, will result in the increased production of LDLs. Entirely synthetic, trans fats are only used for commercial purposes to increase both the longevity and the texture of the food item in question. Therefore, reducing the intake of trans fats in the daily diet must be the cornerstone upon which all low cholesterol diets are based upon.
Food items such as sunflower seeds and avocadoes should be consumed on a more routine and regular basis and the reason for this is that due to the high concentration of unsaturated fats that are present within them, this means that they actually have an inhibiting effect upon the production of the LDLs. In essence then, the consumption of unsaturated fat can have the ultimate effect of reducing the amount of cholesterol in the body.
Exercise, obesity and low cholesterol diets
Although there can be no denying of the fact that diet plays an integral and pivotal role in the management and successful controlling of the level of LDLs in the body, the percentage of adipose tissue present in the body of the person will also have a major effect as well. In addition, clinical studies have identified a clear and causal relationship between levels of physical exertion and the resultant decrease in the LDLs and by extension, the increase in HDLs.
In particular, aerobic exercise has been recommended as the most efficient form of exercise to help bolster the production of HDL.
A study commissioned by physicians in Japan was concerned with the relationship between HDL production and physical activity. Patients involved in the study exercised on average for a period of forty minutes 3-4 times a week.
At the end of the 27th week which marked the completion of the study, the HDL cholesterol rating of the participants had increased by 2.5mg/dL.
Low cholesterol diets are essential for the maintenance of good cardiovascular health.