"Cholesterol-free" sign can be found even on vegetable oil labels these days. Yet, vegetable oil simply cannot contain any cholesterol since the latter can be found in animal products only. We will forgive manufactures this advertisement trick and will try to find out whether cholesterol is indeed as scary as it is portrayed.
High cholesterol level is on the top of the list among the risk factors causing fatal diseases linked to atherosclerosis. It outruns any other risk factor, including high blood pressure, smoking, obesity and diabetes.
On the other hand, cholesterol is a required component contained in most of the tissue. It is vital for human existence. Cholesterol aids in building new cells, hormone production, and creation of intercellular membranes isolating internal organs from negative environment; helps to digest vitamins and accumulate energy.
Yet, cholesterol is only good for you until its level exceeds safe limits. As soon as it exceeds the mark of 200–250 mg/dL, it turns from a helper into an enemy.
Cholesterol comes from food and penetrates the blood where it transforms into serum cholesterol which can be good or bad. Good cholesterol is composed of high-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL cleans the arteries. Bad cholesterol is composed of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) that clogs the vascular walls with atherosclerosis plaques.
High-density lipoprotein comes from monounsaturated fats contained in nuts, legumes and corn, and polyunsaturated fatty acids contained in vegetable oils, fowl, and fish.
Bad cholesterol comes from butter, meat, egg yolks, and milk.
Exercise is an important part of preventing high cholesterol levels. Regular physical activity can help to reduce dangerously high levels, especially if it is accompanied by quitting smoking. Dietary supplements that are effective in preventing atherosclerosis contain nicotinic acid, vitamins C and E, and calcium.
Unfortunately, diet and exercise are only effective if cholesterol level insignificantly exceeds the norm. If cholesterol level is higher than the norm by 25% or more, only medication will help.
It is not enough to measure the level of cholesterol in the blood to find out if it is within the safe limits.
Significant atherosclerosis is possible with low cholesterol levels, while insignificant atherosclerosis is possible with high levels. It all depends on a proportion of high-density and low density lipoprotein determined through a separate test. Ideally, LDL level should be relatively high (no less than 35 mg/dL, ideally – 65–70 mg/dL), and HDL level should be low (less than 130 mg/dL), while the total amount of serum cholesterol should not exceed 200 mg/dL.
Human body produces on average 1 gram of cholesterol per day. The largest amount (800 mg) is synthesized in the liver, 200 mg is produced by the rest of the cells, and 500 mg comes with food.
According to WHO, the recommended dose of cholesterol for healthy people should be no less than 300 mg per day, while people with high cholesterol levels and those suffering from cardio vascular diseases should consume less than 200 mg per day.