Thursday, July 31, 2014

Cholesterol and Lipids

Introduction


Lipids are the building blocks of the fats and fatty substances found in animals and plants. They are microscopic layered spheres of oil, which, in animals, are composed mainly of cholesterol, triglycerides, proteins (called lipoproteins), and phospholipids (molecules made up of phosphoric acid, fatty acids, and nitrogen). Lipids do not dissolve in water and are stored in the body to serve as sources of energy.

Cholesterol

Cholesterol is present in all animal cells and in animal-based foods (not in plants). In spite of its bad press, cholesterol is an essential nutrient necessary for many functions, including:

  • Repairing cell membranes
  • Manufacturing vitamin D in the skin
  • Producing hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone
  • Possibly helping cell connections in the brain that are important for learning and memory

Regardless of these benefits, when cholesterol levels rise in the blood, they can have dangerous consequences, depending on the type of cholesterol. Although the body acquires some cholesterol through diet, about two-thirds is manufactured in the liver, its production stimulated by saturated fat. Saturated fats are found in animal products (meat, egg yolks, high-fat dairy products) and tropical plant oils (palm, coconut)..

Saturated fats
Saturated fats are found predominantly in animal products, such as meat and dairy products, and are strongly associated with higher cholesterol levels. Tropical oils -- such as palm, palm kernel, coconut, and cocoa butter -- are also high in saturated fats.

Triglycerides

Triglycerides are composed of fatty acid molecules. They are the basic chemicals contained in fats in both animals and plants.

  • < Page
  • 1 2 3
  • >

Review Date: 04/06/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org)