Good and Bad cholesterol- what you need to know

LDL, HDL, what do they mean?

More importantly what effect do each of these them have on the body and how can we control them.

Over half of all adults in England have raised cholesterol (>5mmol/L) (source: HeartUK). The implications of this problem are well known, Coronary heart Disease and stroke etc. But the causes of these issues are a cause of discussion in the Nutrition and Fitness Industry. The two camps are divided into those that think saturated fat is responsible for CHD and those that think saturated fat (SF) positively contributes to heart and brain health. Obviously all types of fat will lead to issues when consumed in great amounts, but some are more problematic than others.

It is very complex subject to get to terms with, and the text here is the basis of my years in the industry and what I know myself. Naturally I am not a Nutritionist nor a Scientist so bare that in mind if you disagree with me- I would welcome the debate.

LDL Stands for “Low density Lipoprotein” which is commonly known as Bad cholesterol and has been found to be a big cause of Coronary heart disease and Atherosclerosis( hardening of the arteries). HDL stands for “High density Lipoprotein” which is known as good cholesterol because it bonds to the LDL molecules that have been left by the body and recycles them.. The most important thing to recognise is that the body produces cholesterol itself, so there is no way to ‘completely’ remove it from the diet, only limit the intake. The best way to ensure that your LDL and HDL balance stays positive is to keep on top of your diet- ensuring that you eat regular fruit and veg, and also get out and be active- even walking has been shown to reduce the effects of Negative LDL deposition.

I tend to sit in the camp that sees saturated fat as a nutritional component of the diet, I will explain a couple of reasons why below:

  • Many vitamins are fat soluble and in some cases, protein needs to be digested in a fat rich environment- that is the right kind of fat.  A, D, E and K are all Fat soluble which means the bodies ability to digest them will be significantly reduced without the presence of Dietary fat (Dietary fat is a natural source of fat found in Nuts, Chicken skin etc)
  • In terms of cooking oils, Fats that contain low melting points (sunflower, rapeseed etc) all contain high levels of aldehydes, which have recently been linked to illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. Coconut oil contains little to none of these substances as is predominantly made up of Saturated fat in content.
  • When it comes to the debate on Margarine or Butter, there is no competition for me, Margarine is an incomplete chain fat- meaning that it’s been blasted with hydrogen molecules, otherwise known as “Hydrogenation”. This means that it should be a liquid at room temperature. Butter is a complete chain fat- what you see is what you get with minimal tampering.

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