Oxidized Cholesterol – All you need to know!
It’s been quite some time now that scientists has been warning people about the havoc wreaked by the less talked about form of cholesterol-oxidized cholesterol-but this topic is still relatively untouched. This article is all about oxidized cholesterol. Read on!
What is oxidized cholesterol?
Also known as oxycholesterol, oxidized cholesterol forms when cholesterol reacts with oxygen. This process mostly occurs when cholesterol containing foods are fried or grilled. Oxidized cholesterol has been found to be even worse for the cardiovascular health than LDL cholesterol and triglycerides (rather notoriously known as the “bad cholesterols”).
What does science say about oxidized cholesterol?
Research about oxidized cholesterol first surfaced in 2009 when a group of Chinese scientists from the Chinese University of Hong Kong first presented their research findings at the 238th American Chemical Society’s national meeting in Washington, DC.
The study comprised animal studies, comparing the effects of a diet high in oxidized cholesterol against diet containing ordinary cholesterol in hamsters. The results were rather astounding. There was a 12% increase in blood cholesterol level in the hamsters that were fed low strength of oxidized cholesterol and an alarming 22% increase in total cholesterol in hamsters that were fed high strength of oxidized cholesterol, as compared to the hamsters that were fed ordinary cholesterol.
There was more to the results…
The above-mentioned figures were just the start of the horror story. The researchers went on to show the even-more-alarming finding that hamsters that were fed oxidized cholesterol had more and larger atherosclerotic plaques (fat deposits) in their blood vessels as compared to hamsters that were fed ordinary cholesterol. Oxycholesterol was found to have even more disastrous effects on the blood vessels health than ordinary LDL cholesterol.
How does oxidized cholesterol harm the body?
Scientists aptly described the process by which oxidized cholesterol harms the body. Ordinary cholesterol is removed from the body by macrophages-the defense cells. Oxycholesterol reacts with macrophages differently and has more potential to stick to walls of arteries as compared to the ordinary cholesterol.
When plaque formation starts as a result of injury to the blood vessel walls, platelets, inflammatory cells and macrophages are sucked into it. Oxycholesterol containing macrophages, being more sticky than usual, only aggravate the plaque formation process and the plaque resultantly grows in size. The lumen of the now rigid arteries is narrowed and the risk of vessel diseases like stroke and heart attack increases multi-fold.
Which foods contain oxidized cholesterol?
Oxidized cholesterol is found mostly in fast foods including
- Fried foods like French fries and fried chicken
- Margarines etc.
Strategies to counter the effects of oxidized cholesterol
Here is how you can combat the detrimental effects of oxidized cholesterol on your health.
- Healthy lifestyle: Exercise can help keep your metabolism active. Smoking hastens along the oxidation process, as does alcohol consumption. Avoiding alcohol and smoking, combined with regular exercise, can help prevent oxidized cholesterol formation.
- Anti-oxidants rich diet: A diet rich in anti-oxidants, which can neutralize the effects of oxidized cholesterol can help prevent the oycholesterol-induced damage. Anti-oxidants can help block the oxidative processes going on within the body which form oxycholesterol in the first place. Anti-oxidants are abundantly found in foods like
- Whole grains
- Green leafy vegetables
- Berries, especially raspberries and blackberries
- Nuts etc.
- Statins: Statins have been shown to play important roles in lowering the circulating levels of oxidized cholesterol and may help overcome the health hazards posed by oxidized cholesterol.