It is true that high cholesterol levels always lead us toward life-threatening conditions. But do you know cholesterol performs some important tasks in our body? If you want to know why the maintenance of cholesterol levels in our body is important, you must look at the functions performed by this waxy substance in our body.
What is cholesterol?
It belongs to the fat (lipid) family. It is a white and waxy substance that our body can produce itself. We also uptake some amount of cholesterol in our food.
Some of the cholesterol food that we love to have in our meals are:
- Dairy products such as butter, cheese, yogurt, milk, etc.
- Fried foods such as burgers, pizza, etc.
- Meat such as beef, mutton, chicken, etc.
- Baked stuff such as cakes, pastries, sweets, etc.
How much fat (cholesterol) portion in daily meals is sufficient?
Our daily healthy diet includes portions from all the food groups. As our body can biosynthesize the cholesterol itself, we do not consider it a compulsory portion of the diet. The lipid profile for a healthy individual depends on his age. For an adult, DRI (Dietary reference intake) suggests calories less than 35% on the ground of fats (dietary cholesterol). It means that 25 grams to 50 grams of dietary cholesterol are normal if you uptake 1000 calories per day.
At which point of cholesterol level medication is necessary?
High cholesterol brings many risk factors for the individual suffering from it. There is no symptom of high cholesterol. Mostly it shares a genetic basis. We perform a test to check the lipid profile of the individual. If it is less than 200mg/DL, it is considered ideal for an adult.
Importance of cholesterol
We cannot neglect the necessity of cholesterol in biological systems. The use of cholesterol in the body reflects its importance.
Building block for cell membrane
Our cell membranes are made of 30% of cholesterol (lipid). The presence of cholesterol in the membranes makes it semi-permeable. It only allows the transfer of selective molecules across the cell.
Cholesterol is also responsible for membrane fluidity. It assures the safety of cell membranes in temperature fluctuations. The invaders can attack a cell easily when the cell membrane is ruptured due to any reason. By maintaining the cholesterol level, our cell membranes deal with these risk factors.
Role in nerve impulse transmission (node of Ranvier)
Our nerve impulses are like an electric current that is a threshold in biological systems. These nerve impulses move on their path by jumping. They jump from one point to another creating a node of Ranvier.
Our never cells have small patches of myelin sheath on axons and dendrites. This myelin sheath is again made of 27% of cholesterol (lipid). Cholesterol (lipid) is a bad conductor of electricity. So, when a nerve impulse comes near myelin sheath it jumps over it, making a loop of Ranvier.
Normally our body stores energy in the form of glycogen. This form of energy is easily available. But the body has a fat metabolism too. By this mechanism, the lipid portion in the food is stored in the liver for use, in a stressed condition. A stressed condition is when the body needs excessive energy such as, during exercise, weight lifting, etc.
Production of steroid-based hormones
Cholesterol plays a very significant role in the formation of some steroid-based hormones. Our sex hormones i.e. progesterone (role in pregnancy) and testosterone (role in sperm production) are the steroid-based product of our body.
Also, adrenal hormones such as cortisol and aldosterone are derived products of cholesterol. It means cholesterol acts as a precursor in their production.
Cholesterol aids in inducing bile secretions. Bile secretion comprises amphipathic molecules produced from liver cholesterol. These secretions help in the digestion of food.
We need cholesterol for the production of vitamin D. It is probably the first molecule present in our skin that when comes in contact with sunlight, makes vitamin D. Vitamin D is necessary for storing calcium in bones.
Different functions performed by cholesterol in the biological system create a clear picture of its importance. But high cholesterol levels is a point of concern here. It deteriorates an individual’s health, leading to death.