Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cholesterol and Saturated Fat: Part 1

The topic of saturated fat and cholesterol has been in the news a lot lately with "studies" saying meat is bad and eggs are bad. The first myth I want to dispel is that cholesterol is bad and that eating saturated fat and cholesterol raise cholesterol levels in the blood.

There is no such thing as "good" or "bad" cholesterol, all cholesterol is good! Yup, cholesterol is essential for our existence, is part of every cell membrane, and is the biochemical starting point for the formation of all our hormones. Two things must happen for cholesterol to have a negative effect on the body: (1) Cholesterol ends up in the coronary (and carotid) arteries and (2) Inflammation occurs which can cause an obstruction in the artery. This obstruction can deteriorate and small pieces can break off. That is when the trouble begins (A future article will talk about this process in more detail).

About 25% of our daily intake of cholesterol comes from what we eat and the remaining 75% is produced by our bodies. The body has a very complex monitoring system of cholesterol levels and makes sure that cellular cholesterol levels are maintained in a very narrow range. It is plasma cholesterol (blood) that is measured by your doctor. This measurement does not tell us where the cholesterol is going and has little to do with cellular or artery cholesterol (which is what we don't want).

So, eating cholesterol rich food may increase your plasma cholesterol in the short term, but not in the long term. My next article will discuss the importance of this blood cholesterol reading and what the relationship is to heart disease.

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