Cholesterol Is it Good or Bad for you?

Did you know that cholesterol is used in every cell in your body as an integral part of the cell wall? Well it is! It is also used in the manufacture of Vitamin D and certain hormones. The majority of the cholesterol we require is produced by the liver but extra amounts can be obtained by the diet. Oddly dietary cholesterol appears to have a minimal effect on serum cholesterol and blood cholesterol in comparison to saturated fats. So you should be aiming to reduce the amounts of saturated fats in your diet more than cholesterol rich foods.

There are five forms of blood borne fats (Chylomincrons, very low density lipoproteins, intermediate density lipoproteins, low density lipoproteins, and high density lipoproteins) and it is the high and low density lipoproteins that affect the risk of heart disease. It is this ratio of high to low density lipoproteins are the important factor to consider when high cholesterol is measured in your bloodstream.

Low density lipoproteins (LDL) transport cholesterol from the liver to the arterial tissues. HDL is also produced in the liver and small intestine. They act as scavengers that remove cholesterol from arterial walls and transporting it to the liver where it can be incorporated into bile and excreted. A high level of LDL in relation to high density lipoproteins (HDL) is undesirable due to its implication in atherosclerosis (narrowing process of coronary arteries).

This ratio of high to low density lipoproteins may be a more meaningful indicator of an increased risk of coronary heart disease. The ratio of LDL/HDL ratio will be improved by a diet low in saturated fats. Also regular exercise will increase the HDL level and ultimately favourably affect the LDL/HDL ratio.

Risk of heart disease can be related to the ratio of HDL and LDL

Raised risk of heart disease Raised LDLs

Low HDLs

Low risk of heart disease

Ideal test scores for cholesterol health


Foods that are high in monounsaturated fats should be consumed to increase levels of high density lipoproteins this will have a positive effect on HDL and lower the risk of coronary heart disease.

These foods are:

  • Oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, sardines,
  • Olive oil
  • Almonds
  • Avocados
  • Corn oil
  • Evening primrose oil (supplement)
  • Sunflower oil
  • Wheat-germ

Source: Energise Handbook, Penny Hunking, 1996, ISBN 0 95264663 1 5

Source: The Optimum Nutrition Bible, Patrick Holford, 2001 ISBN 0 7499 1855 1

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