We commonly come across the terms ‘good cholesterol’ and ‘bad cholesterol’ when talking about the types of fat in the human body. But what makes these cholesterols good or bad? How much of these cholesterols are good for your health? This article answers all these questions quite aptly. Let’s talk about cholesterols in detail.
Types of Fats/Lipids
Warning: science ahead. There are basically three types of fats/lipids found in the human body.
- Sterols also known as cholesterols, are water-insoluble and need carriers to be transported through the bloodstream.
- Phospholipids form many crucial structures within the human body like cell membranes.
- Triglycerides naturally occur in nuts, avocados, etc. and form more than 95% of the lipids.
Types of Lipid carriers
Owing to their water-insoluble nature, lipids like cholesterols or triglycerides need carriers for them to be transported through the body. Lipoproteins are the molecules that carry lipids through the body from one point to another.
Estimation of the amount of these carrier proteins within the body gives an idea about the amount of lipids/fats bound to them. There are basically three important types of lipoproteins within the body.
- High-density lipoproteins (HDL): Also known as the “good cholesterol”, high-density lipoproteins are a type of fat carriers that carry cholesterol from different parts of the body to the liver to be broken down and eliminated from the body. Due to their ability to lower cholesterol levels in the body, they are labeled as “good”.
- Low-density lipoproteins (LDL): Low-density lipoproteins are the types of fat carriers that cause build-up and deposition of fats in the body structures, such as the fat cells (adipocytes) or walls of blood vessels. Since they increase the amount of cholesterol in the body, they are deemed the “bad cholesterol”.
- Very Low-density Lipoproteins (VLDL): Produced by the liver, VLDLs are similar in function to the LDLs in the sense that they carry fat into the tissues and result in a buildup of fat within the body. Hence, they are another type of “bad cholesterol”. However, they differ from LDLs in that while LDLs carry cholesterol, the VLDLs carry the triglycerides-another type of fat.
How much of these Lipids and Lipoproteins are good?
Gear up; you are about to be hit by some hard-core math. While talking about lipids, we usually talk about HDLs, LDLs, and triglycerides. These are the molecules that give us an estimate of lipid health. The following table gives us an idea about how much of these lipids should be present within the body.
High-Density Lipoproteins (HDLs)
Greater than 40 mg/dL
Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDLs)
Less than 150 mg/dl