Cholesterol is VASTLY misunderstood, and remains one of those topics that is met with a lot of negativity and bad press, but this is largely to do with assumptions that are made based on hearsay and inaccurate sources of information.

So, what exactly is cholesterol? Certainly not the demon it’s been made out to be in the past, that’s for sure. Cholesterol is a comprised of a waxy type substance, found within cell membranes and blood plasma; it is involved in a multitude of biological processes, to include the synthesis of hormones (yes, that includes the sex hormones, and yes, that’s inclusive of anabolic testosterone), bile, and the metabolism of fat-soluble vitamins. It is also imperative to cell membrane structure (and the maintenance of this), and healthy neuron function. It’s quintessential to the body’s functionality.

Because of its importance, the body has a finely-tuned mechanism for ensuring that cholesterol production is regulated; this is where the popular myth that dietary sources of cholesterol are bad for you, can be expelled. The liver is said to produce somewhere between 1000mg-14000mg of cholesterol daily. If the intake of dietary cholesterol is high, the liver will produce less. Likewise, if intake is low, the liver will produce more, in order to compensate. So, whereas foods that are a source of cholesterol – such as eggs – used to be associated with ‘raised cholesterol levels’, these oval-shaped wonders are finally being given the recognition they deserve. Eggs are quite simply, nutritional powerhouses. If you need further clarification on this, consider that they were the vessel in which a chicken/hen (etc.) would be kept safe until ready to hatch, so they’re naturally designed to be nutritionally sound!

So, what is raised cholesterol, and why is it ‘dangerous’; indeed, is it ‘dangerous’? Whilst it would be unethical to give a widespread answer on this one, a more detailed explanation of what this term actually refers to, may help to clarify things.

There are two, commonly known types of cholesterol: high density lipoproteins (HDL) and low density lipoproteins (LDL), and this is where much of the confusion and controversy lies. Lipoproteins, are not actually cholesterol themselves – they are comprised of water soluble proteins that surround small, globular particles of fat. The role of the latter is to carry cholesterol from the liver to the organs in the body; the former carries out the opposite route, removing any excess cholesterol also. For various reasons, LDL cholesterol has been given the ‘thumbs down’.

This is not entirely accurate – it is actually not cholesterol itself that is considered to pose a risk to health, but the lipoprotein part of LDLs molecules. Further research has also indicated that the smaller LDL molecules seem to be linked to the formation of atherosclerosis (plaque formed in arteries). It may be even more surprising that there is strong evidence to suggest it is actually a diet high in refined carbs./sugars that contribute to this; it has nothing to do with dietary cholesterol or fats. So having ‘high cholesterol’ does not necessarily indicate that you are in poor health, or at risk of developing cardiovascular disease.