CHOLESTEROL - THE CULPRIT OF AN ARRAY OF DISEASES
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat like substance consisting of a carbon structure made of four attached rings, synthesized in liver and serves number of functions in the body. It plays a crucial role in cell membrane structure, brain tissue, fetal development, synthesis of bile acids that help to digest fat, to produce steroid hormones and vitamin-D. Cholesterol is an essential body component, but not a nutrient to be provided by the diet.
Cholesterol is only found in animal foods, no plant foods have cholesterol. The richest sources of cholesterol in descending order are, brains (2000 mg / 85g), kidney (683 mg/ 85g), liver (372 mg/ 85g), egg yolk (272mg /17g or one egg), shrimp (128 mg / 85 g), chicken and turkey with no skin (87 mg / 85 g), lean beef, lamb, pork, veal meat (80mg / 85g), whole milk (33 mg / 244 ml), cheese (30 mg / 1oz), butter (11mg / 5g). Skim milk, egg white and gelatin are the poorest sources of cholesterol. Greater part of cholesterol in the diet is absorbed from intestine.
Cholesterol travels through the blood attached to a protein called Lipoprotein; these are classified into three, depending on protein in relation to fat. Low density Lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), popularly called as bad cholesterol, can cause build up of plaques on the wall of arteries. The higher the LDL-cholesterol higher is the risk of heart disease. High density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL), called as good cholesterol,
helps the body to get rid of LDL. The HDL- cholesterol levels are inversely related with heart diseases. Very low density lipoprotein cholesterol (VLDL) is similar to LDL, mostly contains fat not much proteins. Saturated fats (solid fats) and dietary cholesterol increases the serum cholesterol levels. Age, gender, heredity, medication and certain medical conditions affects cholesterol levels. Caffeine will increase the serum cholesterol levels by an average of ten percent.
Liver and bilary systems of meat eating animals have an unlimited capacity to process and excrete Cholesterol from its body. Humans like other plant-eating animals have limited capacity for cholesterol removal due to the lack of highly efficient cholesterol- eliminating bilary system, thus the resulting cholesterol build up on meat diets, causing deposition in the arteries (Atherosclerosis), in the skin under the eye (Xanthelasma) and in tendons. Bile supersaturated with cholesterol forms gall stones. Over 90% of gall stones are made up of cholesterol.
The recommended normal levels of blood lipids include, < 150 mg /dl of total cholesterol, <100 mg / dl of LDL – cholesterol level, >60 mg / dl of HDL- cholesterol level. A raise in cholesterol level from 200 mg / dl to 260 mg / dl increases the risk of death by 500 percent. People with < 180 mg / dl cholesterol during the life time rarely have heart diseases. Each one percent decrease in cholesterol is represented by two to three percent decrease in the risk of dying from heart disease.
Limiting intake of dietary cholesterol to less than 200 mg / day significantly reduce serum cholesterol levels by avoiding saturated fats (ice creams, bakery products, sausages, coconut oil, butter, cheeses, tallow, suet, chicken fat, lard, margarine and shortenings) and foods rich in cholesterol. Abstaining from smoking and taking cholesterol lowering medication with a low fat and low calorie diets with absolutely no cholesterol reduces lipid levels. Plant oils with poly unsaturated fats decreases cholesterol levels. Bulk of evidences showed losing weight and regular exercise have profound effects on the reduction of serum cholesterol levels which intern reduces the risk for all causes of diseases.