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Cholesterol Benefits: Why You Need Some of This “Bad” Fat in Your Body

How cholesterol, which is a waxy, fat-like thing that your body needs to make healthy cells, may affect your health and cholesterol. A short guide:

1. Cholesterol Basics: Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like thing that your body needs to make healthy cells¹. But, too much cholesterol can make your risk of heart disease higher¹. Cholesterol moves through your blood, stuck to proteins, making lipoproteins¹. There are different kinds of cholesterol, based on what the lipoprotein carries¹:

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): Often called the “bad” cholesterol, LDL carries cholesterol particles throughout your body. LDL cholesterol builds up in the walls of your arteries, making them hard and narrow¹.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL): Called the “good” cholesterol, HDL takes extra cholesterol and brings it back to your liver¹.

2. What Cholesterol Does in Your Body: Cholesterol does several important things in your body¹:

  • Cell Membrane Formation: Cholesterol helps make and keep cell membranes and structures¹. It can go between fat molecules in the cell, making the membrane more smooth¹. Cells also need cholesterol to help them change with temperature¹.
  • Hormone Production: Cholesterol is needed for making some important hormones, like the stress hormone cortisol¹. Cholesterol also helps make the sex hormones testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen¹.
  • Digestion: The liver uses cholesterol to make bile, a liquid that helps break down and digest fats¹.
  • Nerve Cell Insulation: Cholesterol is used by nerve cells for protection¹.
  • Vitamin D Production: Your body needs cholesterol to make vitamin D. When there is sunlight, cholesterol changes into vitamin D¹.


3. How to Keep Your Cholesterol Balanced: While cholesterol is needed for these things, it’s important to have the right amount of cholesterol. High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol, make your chance of heart disease higher¹. On the other hand, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol, helps take LDL cholesterol out of your blood¹.

In summary, while cholesterol is sometimes linked to health problems, it also does several important things in your body. Having the right amount of cholesterol is important for your health¹.

(Note: This is a general guide and different people might need different things. Always talk to a doctor for advice that is right for you.)

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