This is part 1 of a multi-part series of short "illuminations" on cholesterol.
Cholesterol is the most well-known, misunderstood, and demonized of all substances found in humans and animals. If the subject of health comes up in medicine or culture, you can be sure the lead topic will be cholesterol.
Let's explore cholesterol - facts and fiction.
Here, I go into #1 only and provide a list of other cholesterol topics to be covered soon.
Number 1: How many people know the cholesterol level in their blood or body?
The lipids/cholesterol test is run on almost everyone worldwide. Thus, is the answer in the billions?
The actual answer is
No one knows the level of the cholesterol molecule in their body - NO ONE!
The cholesterol molecule structure
Can you see how the cholesterol molecule and LDL can be easily confused?
Instead, we are fed this meaningless term called total cholesterol (TC). (I was going to put it in caps, but it does not deserve such positive notoriety.
Total cholesterol is equal to:
the concentration of low-density lipoprotein +
the concentration of high-density lipoprotein +
20% of your triglyceride values.
So, where is the cholesterol in this measurement?
According to the Harvard School of Public Health:
"Fat and cholesterol can’t dissolve in water or blood. Instead, the body packages fat and cholesterol into tiny, protein-covered particles called lipoproteins. Lipoproteins can transport a lot of fat; they mix easily with blood and flow with it."
LDL: "Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) carry cholesterol and fats from the liver to the rest of the body. Cells latch onto these particles and extract fat and cholesterol from them."
"High-density lipoproteins (HDL) scavenge cholesterol and excess fats from the bloodstream, from LDL, and artery walls and ferry it back to the liver for disposal or reuse/recirculation (in LDL). Think of HDL as the recycling and garbage disposal trucks."
Now, let's go back to the "total cholesterol" equation.
LDL - how much cholesterol is in that lipoprotein? Who knows? It contains all types of fats: saturated, unsaturated, triglycerides, vitamins E, K, D, A, EPA, DHA, etc. Thus, the level of the actual cholesterol molecule depends upon the level of these other fatty substances. There will be significant variation in the amount of fats carried by LDL and HDL that depends upon the macronutrient makeup of your diet.
HDL - just like LDL, knowing how much of the cholesterol molecule is present is, at best, a guess. The TC calculation considers the concentration of LDL and HDL but does NOT consider the makeup of its contents.
A stadium may have a capacity of 50,000 people, but if it is only half full, it is not reported to have 50,000 people. Yet, with the TC equation, it is assumed always to have the same amount. WRONG!
Triglycerides - This is NOT a cholesterol molecule any more than vitamin D; packaged in LDL is cholesterol. Apples and oranges here.
Total cholesterol definition exposed:
What is measurable and known through a blood test:
LDL in mg/dL;
HDL in mg/dL;
triglycerides in mg/dL
What is NOT measurable and known through a blood test: The amount of the actual cholesterol molecules. "total cholesterol" is neither accurate nor precise as a surrogate measurement for the actual cholesterol molecule.
Upcoming (short) blogs
Number 2: Is the actual cholesterol molecule important?
Number 3: What is an optimal TC value? Remember, no one knows their actual cholesterol molecule value.
Number 4: Surprising fact about cholesterol (ab) Jupiter study
Number 5: TC simple math - dumb doctors
Number 6: What is LDL really?
Number 7: Statins - do they lower the cholesterol molecule?
Number 8: What did we learn from the new "biologics" to lower "cholesterol"
Number 9: Niacin and other "cholesterol" management treatments
Number 10: What did Natasha Campbell-McBride say about cholesterol/lipids?
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