Diet and Blood Cholesterol Levels – Tufts

We cannot survive without cholesterol in our bodies. It is an essential part of cell walls, is used to make bile acids (which are critical in fat digestion), and is necessary for the production of vitamin D and a number of hormones according to Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter. But too much LDL cholesterol and not enough HDL cholesterol in the blood is associated with increased risk for heart attack and stroke. While the liver can produce all the cholesterol the human body needs, we also consume it in the form of animal-based foods like meat and dairy.

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Question #1: What is cholesterol? Cholesterol is a lipid (fat), and, like other lipids, it does not mix with water. It therefore needs to be ‘packaged’ before it can move around the body in our (largely water-based) blood. These packages, called lipoproteins, vary in density, hence the now-familiar terms low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) may be a less familiar term, but VLDL cholesterol is emerging as an important health measure.

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