[김재호의 생명이야기] The value of faded cholesterol

Cholesterol level is one of the items that are pointed out a lot these days when health checkups are common. In general, as a result of a hyperlipidemia test, a health checkup is notified of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), high-density lipoprotein (HDL), triglycerides, and total cholesterol levels plus these. Cholesterol is a major test item for every health checkup, and if the test result is high, what is the problem, so you are told to take medicine?

Cholesterol is a kind of lipid with a wider range than fat and plays an important function in our body. As a component of the cell membrane of all cells, it gives strength and flexibility to the cell membrane, and is also used as a material for making hormones such as bile, vitamin D, and estrogen, which are made in the liver and help digest fat. Cholesterol is such an important substance, but it deserves attention because too much can cause serious problems.

Cholesterol is made in the liver, some of which is obtained from food. Foods that contain a lot of cholesterol include egg yolks, meat, cheese, and shellfish, and there is no need to intentionally eat these foods to get cholesterol, and there is no reason to avoid them. Studies show that food intake makes up about 25% of the cholesterol your body needs, with the rest being made in the liver.

Cholesterol is insoluble in water, so it must be combined with protein to deliver it to the body along with blood. According to the relative densities of cholesterol and protein, high-density lipoproteins, low-density lipoproteins, and ultra-low-density lipoproteins are classified, and their roles and effects on health are different.

Low-density lipoproteins, commonly known as bad cholesterol, are mainly responsible for transporting cholesterol throughout the body, but too much can cause many health problems. High-density lipoproteins, known as good cholesterol, return used cholesterol to the liver and break it down in the liver, which is good for health at most. Ultra-low-density cholesterol is mainly responsible for transporting triglycerides.

Cholesterol plays an important role in our body, but too much of it can cause serious health problems, so we need to be on the lookout for cholesterol levels to rise too high, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is at the center of it. When you have too much LDL, that means your health alerts you.

When there is too much LDL in the blood, the lumps build up on the walls of the arteries, narrowing or clogging the arteries, called plaques. When plaque builds up, it bursts to form a blood clot (thrombus), which is atherosclerosis. When arteriosclerosis advances, it develops into serious vascular diseases such as angina pectoris, myocardial infarction, and stroke. It means that LDL is at the root of the vascular disease that threatens our lives after cancer.

What causes an increase in LDL, a low-density lipoprotein? Cholesterol is made and broken down by the liver, and I said earlier that eating foods high in cholesterol is not a problem because the liver adjusts the total amount of cholesterol to an appropriate level. If so, what is it that neutralizes the liver’s ability to regulate cholesterol? Let’s check how the liver controls cholesterol.

Hepatocytes have LDL receptors on the surface, so when LDL passes through the blood, if there is a lot of LDL in the blood, it brings the LDL to the liver and breaks it down, lowering the cholesterol level and maintaining the proper level. However, if you consume too much saturated fat, this function of the LDL receptor is weakened and it does not work normally. This is why high intake of saturated fat or trans fat increases cholesterol in the blood.

The causes of high LDL include a diet high in bad fats such as saturated fat and trans fat (see Life Stories 18 and 19), lack of physical activity, unhealthy lifestyle such as smoking, and obesity.

In order to prevent vascular disease by maintaining cholesterol at an appropriate level, the above-mentioned wrong lifestyle must be improved. If you are taking any medication to improve hyperlipidemia, you must remember that the medication is only a temporary measure in any case, and you must make an effort to correct the wrong lifestyle that raises cholesterol levels.

Reduce your intake of most animal fats, especially meats high in saturated fat, dairy products such as cheese and butter, and some vegetable fats such as coconut oil and palm oil, margarine high in trans fats, shortening, Avoid fried fast food.

Jaeho Kim, independent researcher



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