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What is cholesterol ?

Cholesterol is a lipid in our body that is produced by our liver. It circulates throughout the body via blood vessels. Cholesterol is a vital component of the body, forming the building blocks of cell membranes. It is also an essential component of many molecules, including hormones.

Blood cholesterol can be divided into two main types:

  • LDL cholesterol, which carries cholesterol from the liver to the cells. LDL is often called ‘bad’ cholesterol as it leads to fat build-up on the artery walls, which is the starting point for some heart and blood flow problems
  • HDL cholesterol, which carries excess cholesterol back to the liver. HDL is often called ‘good’ cholesterol as it helps to stop fat building up in the arteries.

A high level of (LDL) cholesterol in the blood is considered a risk factor for developing coronary heart disease.

Cholesterol is also found in animal-based foods. However, there is a growing consensus among nutrition scientists that the cholesterol found in food has little effect on the amount of cholesterol in the blood. On the contrary, an excess of saturated fat and trans-fat are well-known to increase levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol.