Cholesterol and Fat

Cholesterol is important for cell function. Cholesterol makes up every cell in our body, so ridding ourselves of it completely is not an option. "Essentially, our body makes and gives us all we need," adds Fred Pescatore, MD, an integrative physician in New York City. And while our body produces its own cholesterol, it also turns foods like fats into cholesterol.

When blood cholesterol levels are assessed, triglyceride levels are also measured. Triglycerides are the most common type of fat that exists in food and in the body, and are also a member of the lipid family. When calories ingested in a meal are not used immediately by the body, they are converted to triglycerides and are transported to the fat cells to be stored. It is thought that elevated triglyceride levels may increase the risk of developing heart disease, particularly when associated with high LDL cholesterol levels. Acceptable blood cholesterol levels as recommended by the National Heart Foundation of New Zealand are:

Total cholesterol (TC) - less than 4.0 mmol/L
LDL cholesterol - less than 2.0 mmol/L
HDL cholesterol - greater than 1.0 mmol/L
TC/HDL ratio - less than 4.0
Triglycerides - less than 1.7 mmol/L


LDLs or VLDLs (very low density lipoproteins) transport cholesterol to various parts of the body. After the VLDLs drop off their cholesterol load they turn into LDLs which then carry any leftover cholesterol around the body. When there is too much LDL cholesterol circulating in the blood it can deposit onto the lining of artery walls. For this reason LDL is often referred to as "bad" cholesterol.

HDL cholesterol removes deposits of LDL cholesterol from the artery walls and returns it to the liver where they are broken down and eliminated from the body. For this reason HDL cholesterol is considered to be protective against heart disease and is often referred to as "good" cholesterol.

LP(a) levels tend to be higher in South Asians than in Caucasians. High amounts of homocysteine. Homocysteine is an amino acid that your body produces, and it is strongly associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Unlike LP(a), your homocysteine level is largely related to what you eat. South Asians tend to have high levels of homocysteine compared to other ethnicities. High levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP). High hs-CRP levels are associated with both heart disease and diabetes. Studies have found higher hs-CRP levels among South Asians than other populations. Like homocysteine, high hs-CRP levels are likely related to lifestyle factors, like abdominal obesity and being physically inactive.

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