What Is Cholesterol?

You don’t need to be a scientist to understand what cholesterol is and how to effectively manage your cholesterol levels for better health. You do, however, need to take a moment to consider what is happening on the inside of your body to keep you alive. While most of us take for granted that we don’t need to think about the constant maintenance of the body that we inhabit, these are miraculous ongoing processes of life. Cholesterol is an essential part of this life process.

Defining Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a necessary and natural part of each cell in the human body and in the bodies of other animals. Cholesterol helps to maintain the structure of the walls of cell membranes, and it also works to keep our brains healthy. The liver uses cholesterol as raw material in the creation of important hormones such as adrenalin and the sex hormones and to create digestive enzymes (such as bile acids that break down fats, among other things). Cholesterol is integral both to thinking and to sexual activity, as well as to other essential life processes. Cholesterol, therefore, is a subject that is definitely worthy of our close attention.

Fact: Most gallstones that are formed in the gall bladder are composed primarily of cholesterol. The liver responds to the presence of dietary fat by producing cholesterol to synthesize bile to digest the fats. If too much dietary fat is consumed, the liver may over-produce cholesterol, leading to formation of gallstones.

A healthy liver manufactures cholesterol, a waxy “lipid” (fat-like substance). In addition to being manufactured in the body, cholesterol gets into the bloodstream through the food that you eat. In particular, if you eat too much saturated fat, which is fat primarily from animal sources, the result is an elevated blood cholesterol level. The big picture, however, is not as simple as that. Many other factors playa role in the composition of cholesterol levels. Even if you are a vegetarian who eats no foods that contain cholesterol, you will have cholesterol in your body.