The Liver And Cholesterol: What You Should Know
Introduction and overview
Balanced cholesterol levels are important to maintaining good health. The liver is an underrecognized part of that effort.
The liver is the largest gland in the body, located in the upper right part of the belly. It is the bodys master detoxer of drugs and other foreign substances. It stores glycogen, which the body uses for energy. Its also important in metabolizing fat, carbohydrates, and proteins. A healthy liver does all this unnoticed.
An important function of the liver is to produce and clear cholesterol in the body. Most of the attention focused on cholesterol describes its potential for harmful health effects. But cholesterol is necessary for the creation of hormones, vitamin D, and enzymes needed for digestion.
Bundles called lipoproteins carry cholesterol throughout the body. Two important types are high-density lipoproteins and low-density lipoproteins . High and low refer to the relative proportion of protein to fat in the bundle. The body needs both types in regulated proportions.
Its important to know the levels of HDL , LDL , and total cholesterol in your body. A rough estimate of total cholesterol is HDL, plus LDL, plus one-fifth of a third type of fat called triglyceride.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends the following levels:
|LDL cholesterol levels|
Why Is High Cholesterol So Important
There appears to be an association between elevated cholesterol and risk of premature death from cardiovascular disease.
210 mg/dl is the average cholesterol level for those in developed countries. This level predicts a 50% chance of premature death due to atherosclerosis. Bummer.
Going from 200 mg/dl to 260 mg/dl bumps up chance of death by 500%. The Framingham study showed that no one has died of cardiovascular disease while having a cholesterol level below 150 mg/dl.
Just getting blood cholesterol right under 200 mg/dl might not be enough. 35% of heart attacks that occurred in the Framingham study were in those with normal cholesterol, between 151 mg/dl and 200 mg/dl.
Some have argued that the association between cholesterol and cardiovascular disease, part of a theory of heart disease known as the lipid hypothesis, is minimal at best.
Still, other experts have stated that maintaining a low cholesterol level can protect us against cardiovascular disease.
Regularly maintaining a cholesterol level of less than 150 mg/dl makes one practically heart attack proof and insures against further progression of the disease.Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn
Gosh, it seems like lower is always better. Not so fast.
Some data indicate that low cholesterol levels are associated with depression and cerebral hemorrhage.
While cholesterol seems to play an important role in cardiovascular disease, its definitely not the only factor involved.
What Is High Cholesterol
Do you have a liver? Then you produce cholesterol.
Our liver produces anywhere from 1-2 grams of cholesterol per day. Production can decrease when we eat cholesterol-rich foods and increase when we eat foods without cholesterol.
Cholesterols name comes from the Greek words khol, or bile , and stereos, or solid, which indicates that its part of a class of molecules that are known collectively as sterols.
Cholesterol is necessary to produce vitamin D, steroid hormones, and bile acids. Its also a component of cell membranes.
Recommended Reading: Are Baked Potatoes High In Cholesterol
What Causes The Liver To Make Too Much Cholesterol
This author has been verfied for credibility and expertise
Cholesterol plays a vital role in cell membranes, movement of fat through the blood and the synthesis of certain hormones. Because cholesterol is such an important molecule, the human liver synthesizes cholesterol and distributes it throughout the body via the bloodstream. But genetics and dietary factors can disrupt the normal mechanisms that control cholesterol production and release in the liver, possibly leading to potentially damaging levels of cholesterol in the blood.
Current View On Dietary Cholesterol And Cardiovascular Disease
Critical reevaluation of older data together with new studies that were corrected for potential confounders, which were not considered in the early epidemiological studies, refuted the hypothesis that dietary cholesterol has a major impact on the development of cardiovascular disease, although this view is not un-contradicted. Rather than dietary cholesterol itself, other nutritional factors that coincide with the uptake of dietary cholesterol in a diet rich in animal protein appear to be of relevance. Therefore, current dietary recommendations include a reduction of the intake of animal products and an increase in the intake of whole grains. Notably, the replacement of saturated fatty acids by mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids in the diet is part of the current recommendations .
Recommended Reading: Best Margarine For High Cholesterol
Drink At Least 4 Cups Of Tea Each Day
Tea can help to lower blood cholesterol, reduce arterial plaque, improve blood vessel function, and decrease lipid oxidation. If you drink coffee or soda, aim for the lower caffeine varieties. Caffeine can increase cholesterol levels by nearly 10%.
Finally, if you dont drink alcohol, dont start. If you do, only use it in small amounts, see All About Alcohol for more.
A note on supplements
With all supplements, dont run out to the vitamin store and fill your pockets. Chat with your doc first and consider what you really need.
A note about dietary cholesterol
Dietary cholesterol has minimal impact on blood cholesterol for most individuals. In general, eggs dont seem to have a negative effect on blood cholesterol measures. Omega-3 eggs might even have a beneficial effect since they improve key blood proteins and decrease blood glucose.
How Is The Total Cholesterol Or Blood Cholesterol Test Done
A blood test is a routine test. A phlebotomist is the person whose job it is to draw blood. Blood is usually drawn from the vein in your arm. You will sit down and the phlebotomist will wrap a rubber band around your upper arm so that the vein in your elbow sticks out. Then they will use a needle to puncture the vein and remove blood. The blood is sent to the lab to be examined.
Youve probably been at health fairs where testing is offered. In that case, the person performing the test takes a drop of blood from your finger. The finger stick test uses a small blade to poke a hole in the tip of your finger to get the blood.
Also Check: Does Shrimp Give You High Cholesterol
Why Is Cholesterol Important To Our Bodies
Every cell in the body needs cholesterol, which helps the cell membranes form the layers. These layers protect the contents of the cell by acting as the gatekeeper to what things can enter or leave the cell. It is made by the liver and is also used by the liver to make bile, which helps you digest foods. Cholesterol is also needed to make certain hormones and to produce vitamin D. Your liver makes enough cholesterol to meet your bodys needs for these important functions.
The 5 Main Forms Of Lipoproteins
Extremely large in size, Chylomicrons carry triglycerides . Given the fact that they are made in the digestive system, they are heavily influenced by your diet and eating habits.
Very Low Density Lipoprotein
While these particles carry triglycerides to tissues as well, they are produced by the liver instead of the digestive system.
The cells of your body extract fatty acids from these particles, which turn them first into Intermediate Density Lipoproteins, and after further extraction, into Low Density Lipoproteins.
Intermediate Density lipoprotein
After extraction of fatty acids from VLDLs, they turn into Intermediate Density Lipoproteins. While many of these are sent over by the liver for excretion, there are some from which more fatty acids are extracted, which later turn into low-density lipoproteins.
Low Density Lipoprotein
These particles are much richer in pure cholesterol, given the fact that the number of triglycerides present in them is next to none. Infamous for being the bad type of cholesterol, this is the variety whose excess contributes to artery-clogging plaque.
Composed almost entirely of fat, LDLs constitute about 70% of the cholesterol that circulates in the bloodstream.
They have a tendency to get deposited in the arteries, which leads to atherosclerosis a condition where the arteries become harder and narrower, which makes the heart vulnerable to diseases.
High Density Lipoprotein
You May Like: Does Shrimp Have Cholesterol
What You Should Know About High Cholesterol
1 in 3 North Americans has high cholesterol and 200 million prescriptions for cholesterol lowering drugs were written in 2008.
We know that cholesterol levels can be managed by nearly everyone via nutrition and lifestyle modifications, so why do millions use cholesterol lowering drugs? Because it takes work to control cholesterol.
And perhaps because the production and sale of statin drugs is one of the most lucrative pharmaceutical markets. Statin drugs are one of the top two selling drug classes in the US. With the exception of generic lovastatin , depending on the type of statin, consumers can pay $70-150 per month for a prescription often for life.
What type of decrease in LDL can we expect from our diet?
|Type of eating style|
Myth: I Cant Do Anything To Change My Cholesterol Levels
Fact: You can do many things to improve your cholesterol levels and keep them in a healthy range!
- Get tested at least every 5 years .1,2 Learn more about cholesterol screenings.
- Make healthy food choices. Limit foods high in saturated fats. Choose foods naturally high in fiber and unsaturated fats. Learn more about healthy diets and nutrition at CDCs nutrition, physical activity, and obesity website.
- Be active every day. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. Learn more about physical activity basics and tips.
- Dont smoke or use tobacco products. Smoking damages your blood vessels, speeds up the hardening of the arteries, and greatly increases your risk for heart disease. If you dont smoke, dont start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. Learn more about tobacco use and ways to quit at CDCs smoking and tobacco use website.
- Talk with your health care provider about ways to manage your cholesterol if any medicines are given to you to manage your cholesterol, take them as they are prescribed. Learn more about medicines to lower cholesterol.
- Know your family history. If your parents or other immediate family members have high cholesterol, you probably should be tested more often. You could have a condition called familial hypercholesterolemia .
Don’t Miss: How Much Cholesterol In Canned Tuna
How To Prevent High Cholesterol
If you have any of the health conditions listed above, you’re at risk for developing high cholesterol but you can take steps to prevent it. Getting regular exercise and improving your diet by reducing your intake of foods high in saturated fat can go a long way to keep cholesterol levels down and protect your heart health.
Discuss your risk of high cholesterol with your doctor. Monitoring your cholesterol levels with a simple blood test is important for getting to a healthy goal and lowering your risk of heart attack. Your doctor may recommend that you take a cholesterol-lowering medication, if needed, to get to the cholesterol level that’s best for you to keep your risk of heart disease as low as possible.
Reasons You Might Have High Cholesterol
If youve ever had a blood test, its highly likely your doctor has checked your cholesterol level. Although I believe cholesterol is over rated, it is useful to know your blood level of this fat.
Cholesterol is a very important substance in your body. In fact, every cell of your body requires cholesterol to survive. Elevated cholesterol can be a risk factor for heart disease, but it is only one of many risk factors. Rather than rushing to take a drug or natural substance that lowers cholesterol, why not consider why your cholesterol is elevated in the first place?
You May Like: Pork Cholesterol Amount
Can High Cholesterol Be Prevented Or Avoided
Making healthy food choices and exercising are two ways to reduce your risk of developing high cholesterol.
Eat fewer foods with saturated fats . Choose healthier fats. This includes lean meats, avocados, nuts, and low-fat dairy items. Avoid foods that contain trans fat . Look for foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These foods include salmon, herring, walnuts, and almonds. Some egg brands contain omega-3.
Exercise can be simple. Go for a walk. Take a yoga class. Ride your bike to work. You could even participate in a team sport. Aim to get 30 minutes of activity every day.
If Cholesterol Is Necessary Why Do We Have To Worry About How Much We Have
Having enough cholesterol to meet your needs is important. Having too much cholesterol can cause problems. If your cholesterol levels are high, the condition is called hypercholesterolemia. If your cholesterol levels are low, the condition is called hypocholesterolemia. It is not common to have cholesterol levels that are too low, but it can happen.
Also Check: How Much Cholesterol In Pork Chops
When To See Your Doctor
Check in with your doctor whenever you have concerns about your general health. If you have any of the risk factors for high cholesterol, a quick blood test can reveal a lot and allow your doctor to take action. Sometimes lifestyles changes are enough to whip your numbers back into shape. Your doctor can also prescribe statin drugs to lower your cholesterol if necessary.
Trouble sleeping is another issue you may want to bring to your healthcare providers attention. Even an additional hour of sleep each night can shift your numbers, so try to head to bed a bit earlier tonight. Relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation are great for unwinding before bedtime. If these home methods dont help, your doctor can point you in the right direction or possibly prescribe medication.
The Problem With Vegetable Oil
The vegetable oil you buy in the supermarket to cook with has usually been through a number of processes that have damaged the beneficial fats once present in the oils, and produced some toxic substances. Most oils come from seeds, nuts or fruit.
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated vegetable oils are quite delicate and unstable. This means that they are easily damaged and go rancid quickly. This can make them quite harmful to our health. Currently most vegetable oils are extracted in factories through the use of heat and chemical solvents. They are exposed to light and oxygen during processing, which negatively affect the oil.
If you cook with these kinds of processed vegetable oils and heat them to high temperatures, you are further destroying them and adding to the quantity of trans fatty acids they already contain. If you eat a lot of damaged, oxidized oils, they will cause your LDL cholesterol molecules to be oxidized. This kind of cholesterol is more likely to accumulate in artery walls and block them. The inflammation generated in your body also raises cholesterol production.
Recommended Reading: Does Egg Beaters Have Yolk
Evidence For The Impact Of Dietary Cholesterol On Nash Development
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is the hepatic manifestation of the metabolic syndrome. Its prevalence is increasing as a result of the increasing proportion of overweight and obese patients in the population. While simple steatosis, albeit of clinical significance, appears to be fully reversible, more severe forms of the disease, the non-alcoholic steatohepatitis , is a chronically progressive disease leading to fibrosis, cirrhosis, and eventually hepatocellular carcinoma. Currently, NASH is the most common reason for terminal hepatic failure in western societies. Despite intense research, it is not clear whether NAFLD and NASH are different temporal stages of the same disease and if so what are the molecular mechanisms that trigger the progression. Recent evidence suggests that dietary cholesterol might play a critical role in this process.
Plant Sterols Can Lower Cholesterol Levels
Plant sterols are found naturally in plant foods including sunflower and canola seeds, vegetable oils and in nuts, legumes, cereals, fruit and vegetables. Some margarine and milks have concentrated plant sterols added to them. Margarines enriched with plant sterolslower LDL cholesterol in most people if the correct amount is eaten .
Also Check: Does Baked Potato Have Cholesterol
Liver Eggs And Muffins Can Be Part Of A Heart Healthy Diet If You Know What To Watch Out For
You don’t have to be a nutritionist to know that you shouldn’t eat fries and fried chicken on a regular basis. They’re loaded with sodium and saturated fat and a diet high in saturated fat and trans fat can raise blood cholesterol levels, putting you at risk for heart disease, according to the American Heart Association .
Many foods that come from animals like meat and fat-containing dairy products contain saturated fat, while baked goods and fast food pack in trans fat, too. Because LDL cholesterol levels in particular can be too high on a high-saturated-fat diet, the AHA recommends that saturated fat make up no more than 5 to 6 percent of your total calories. On a diet of 2,000 calories a day, no more than 120 should come from saturated fat. Thats 11 to 13 grams of saturated fat per day at most.
Its worth noting that the thinking has changed about what increases cholesterol in the body. For example, previous dietary guidelines recommended consuming no more than 300 milligrams of dietary cholesterol per day. But in 2015, those guidelines changed, and there is now no specific recommendation limiting the amount of cholesterol that should be consumed through food. Thats because research has shown dietary cholesterol itself isnt harmful and actually doesnt contribute to increased levels of cholesterol in the body. Rather, the real culprits are saturated fat, trans fat, and added sugars.