Cholesterol Benefits and Functions

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a lipid (fat) compound found throughout your body. Cholesterol is not inherently bad; in fact, the majority (around 75%) of cholesterol you have is made from your own body, not from diet. Your body needs cholesterol and its derivatives for numerous bodily functions.


Cholesterol Benefits and Functions

Steroid Hormone Synthesis: Cholesterol acts as the backbone for many steroid hormones. There are five classes of steroid hormones that cholesterol serves as a precursor for including:

  1. Glucocorticoids
  2. Mineralocorticoids
  3. Androgens
  4. Progestagens (progesterone)
  5. Estrogens

Vitamin Absorption: Cholesterol assists in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K. 

Cell Membrane Synthesis: Cholesterol acts as building blocks for cell membranes.

Vitamin D Synthesis: Cholesterol is needed in the skin to synthesize vitamin D.

Bile Production: Bile salts are synthesized from cholesterol and help break down food. [1]


What Are the Different Types of Cholesterol?

Blood cholesterol levels are broken down into 5 different subtypes based on what the lipoprotein is composed of. 

  • LDL: This is often referred to as the “bad” cholesterol and stands for low-density lipoprotein. LDL’s job is to transport cholesterol to needed tissues throughout your body; however, LDL is highly vulnerable to oxidation. Oxidized LDL can cause inflammation and cause plaque build-up in arterial walls.
  • HDL:  Often called the “good” cholesterol; HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein. HDL is often seen as the good guy because it transports cholesterol from your body to the liver to either be broken down into waste or recycled. HDL has anti-inflammatory properties and has many benefits for your immune system.
  • VLDL, IDL, and Chylomicrons: Not as commonly discussed, VLDL is the very low-density lipoprotein, IDL is the intermediate-density lipoprotein, and chylomicrons are small lipoproteins that transport fat throughout the lymphatic system.  [2]


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  1. Berg, J. M.M (2002). Important Derivatives of Cholesterol Include bile Salts and Steroid Hormones.
  2. Feingold KR, Grunfeld C. Introduction to Lipids and Lipoproteins. [Updated 2018 Feb 2]. In: Feingold KR, Anawalt B, Boyce A, et al.South Dartmouth (MA):