Cholesterol is a type of steroid – lipids made up of four carbon rings linked to variable chemical groups – that can be synthesized in the liver or obtained from food. It is present in the membrane of animal cells, in addition to being a precursor to other steroids, such as sex hormones.
Cholesterol is transported in the bloodstream linked to proteins and fatty acids (lipoproteins). There are two types of lipoproteins:
- LDL( Low Density Lipoproteins , from the English Low Density Lipoprotein ): supplies cholesterol to cells for the production of the membrane, however, it can cause the accumulation of fat in the arteries, making them rigid and narrow (atherosclerosis) and compromising the passage blood. Therefore, these lipoproteins are also known as ” bad cholesterol “;
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- HDL(High Density Lipoproteins, from English High Density Lipoprotein ): removes excess cholesterol from the blood and takes it to the liver, where it will be eliminated. It is also known as ” good cholesterol “.
The excessive consumption of fats can increase the cholesterol levels in the blood stream, which may be harmful, because the liver can not destroy the excess. Thus, it is recommended that the consumption of fats, especially saturated fats (mainly animal origin) and trans fats (manufactured industrially through a hydrogenation process and which gives a more solid consistency to some industrialized foods) be moderate, since they can mainly increase “bad cholesterol” and, consequently, increase the risk of cardiovascular problems