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LDL Cholesterol vs HDL Cholesterol; Complete Overview of Cholesterol

Updated on August 5, 2017
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Myself is Shrawan Kumar Upadhyay. I am a Biochemistry graduate with an aim to work in a Research Laboratory of Biochemistry.

Cholesterol

Source

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a saturated, pentacyclic hydrocarbon. It is also called as sterol or steroyl alcohol. It is highly hydrophobic in nature, because of the presence of a saturated steroid nucleus (four rings fused together to form the steroid nucleus). Chemically cholesterol is called as perhydro-cyclopentano-phenanthrene.

It belongs to the non-saponifiable lipids represent a third class of membrane lipids. Cholesterol comprises of about 25% of total membrane lipids and rest are phospholipids and glycolipids. In the membrane, cholesterol, along with other membrane lipids maintain the fluidity of the membrane.

Cholesterol is also important in the biosynthesis of steroid hormones (sex hormones), where it acts as a precursor molecule. Cholesterol is also a precursor molecule for the biosynthesis of Vitamin D and bile acids. So if you say cholesterol is a bad thing, then you understand cholesterol in a misleading way. Cholesterol is not a bad thing but is an essential component. However, Level of its concentration determines its goodness or badness.

High Cholesterol vs. Low cholesterol

Cholesterol is an equally important biomolecule as others, but it is beneficial only to a certain level of its concentration. So what determines the suitability and beneficial effects of cholesterol? It is its appropriate level in the body. If cholesterol level goes up beyond the standard level, then it is considered as a signal of high cholesterol and associated health problems.

Otherwise, it is normal, performing a necessary role in the body. The cholesterol level inside us is greatly influenced by intake of foods. If we eat foods rich in cholesterol and fats, then we are adding extra cholesterol on our bodies.

Blood Cholesterol Levels

Blood Cholesterol Level Chart
Desirable
Borderline
High Risk
Total Cholesterol
<200
200-240
>240
Triglycerides
<150
150-500
>500
Low Density Lipoprotein
<130
130-160
>160
High Density Lipoprotein
>50
50-35
<35

Cholesterol Levels

From the chart above it is clear that what is the desired level of cholesterol and which concentration of cholesterol is the signal of high risk? When the cholesterol level goes up from the desired value, you have to think seriously, to bring the cholesterol to the normal range. Cholesterol level can be checked through blood testing. Many hospitals and clinics provide blood testing and cholesterol profiling.

As cholesterol is highly hydrophobic in nature, an excess of cholesterol starts forming plaque like structure, which gets deposited in the blood vessels and exerts pressure to the blood flow. The ultimate result is high blood pressure and blockage of blood flow. If blood vessel blockage due to cholesterol deposition occurs in the blood vessels of the heart, then it may lead to the heart attack.

Composition of Lipoproteins

(click column header to sort results)
Lipoprotein  
Density g/ml  
protein %  
Phospholipid %  
Free Cholesterol %  
Cholesteryl Ester %  
TAG %  
Chylomicrons
<1.006
2
9
1
3
85
VLDL
0.95-1.006
10
18
7
12
50
LDL
1.006-1.063
23
20
8
37
10
HDL
1.063-1.21
55
24
2
15
4

Egg Yolk Rich in Cholesterol

Source

LDL Cholesterol vs. HDL Cholesterol

Actually, there is no such thing like LDL cholesterol or HDL cholesterol. LDL and HLD are the lipoproteins that are involved in cholesterol transport. There are four types of lipoproteins and these are chylomicrons, VLDL, LDL, and HDL. All these are involved in lipid transport and are made of proteins and lipids (as the name suggests).

All these contain cholesterol, cholesterol esters, Triglycerides, and free fatty acids. It is the amount that differs from one lipoprotein to another. As, for example, chylomicrons and VLDS are mainly involved in TAG (triglyceride) transport, while LDL and HDL are involved in cholesterol transport.Chylomicrons mainly transport TAGs from extrahepatic tissues to the liver, while VLDL transports TAGs synthesized in the liver to extra-hepatic tissues. LDL transports cholesterol synthesized in the liver to the extra-hepatic tissues while HDL transports cholesterol from extrahepatic tissues to the liver for metabolism. So which one is

Chylomicrons mainly transport TAGs from extrahepatic tissues to the liver, while VLDL transports TAGs synthesized in the liver to extra-hepatic tissues. LDL transports cholesterol synthesized in the liver to the extra-hepatic tissues while HDL transports cholesterol from extrahepatic tissues to the liver for metabolism. So which one is good cholesterol and which one is bad cholesterol?

It is not wise to say LDL as a bad cholesterol and HLD as a good cholesterol because they are doing their jobs for that they are assigned to. It's the level or concentration of these lipoproteins, that appears to be the reason behind goodness and badness. If LDL is in the acceptable level, then there is no problem with LDL. If its concentration rises up than the acceptable (standard) value, then it becomes bad. Therefore, it can be wise to call as LDL cholesterol or HLD cholesterol, instead of saying good cholesterol or bad cholesterol.

In a recent study, it has been shown that HDL cholesterol can also be bad sometimes. This is because there may be a problem with the HDL cholesterol transporter.

Foods that lower cholesterol

Source

Synthesis of Cholesterol

Cholesterol is synthesized in our body within the liver (hepatocytes). Acetyl CoA (coming from the β-oxidation of fatty acids) is the starting material for the cholesterol biosynthesis. If you are taking an excess of fats and fatty foods than required, you are accumulating fats in your body and it is one of the big reason behind the high cholesterol levels.

As a fat, upon digestion releases free fatty acids, which upon further oxidation in the mitochondria release acetyl-CoA. Excess of acetyl-CoA is either utilized to synthesize fatty acids and thus fats to be stored in adipocytes or utilized to synthesize cholesterol. Both of which, if formed in excess than what is required, becomes bad and increase the risk of different health problems.

So you need to take care of your own health and need to know which food is good for health and which food is bad for health.

Cholesterol Content of some foods

(click column header to sort results)
Food products  
Cholesterol (mg/100g)  
Egg yolk
1085
Fish oil
512
Egg
372
Pork liver
301
Butter
256
Crab meat
127
Cream cheese
110
Beaf
72
Pork
70
Chicken
64
Evaporated milk
29

Foods That Lower Cholesterol and High Cholesterol Diets

Foods prepared from oatmeal, barley, and wheat are rich in soluble fibers and slow down the intestinal absorption of the cholesterol. Eating fish, like salmon may lower your cholesterol levels. Because they contain ω-3 fatty acids, which are involved in the biosynthesis of eicosanoids involved in pain and inflammation management.

Some eicosanoids are also involved in cleaning blood clots and plaques deposited inside the blood vessels. Walnuts, almonds contain proteins and minerals along with plant sterols, which lower the blood cholesterol. Potato is also one of the cholesterol lowering food.similarly soy products and soy milk are rich in protein and saturated fatty acids and helps lower the cholesterol levels.

Eggs, liver, kidney, sea foods like prawn, milk products, meats, cheese are all rich in cholesterol and should be avoided to lower the cholesterol level. Above is the table of the cholesterol content of some food products.

© 2015 Shrawan Kumar Upadhyay

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