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What Is the Function of Cholesterol in the Body?

by
author image Kristie Jernigan
Kristie Jernigan is a health writer with over 17 years of experience as a medical social worker. She has worked mainly with the elderly population and with children. She holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology and early childhood from East Tennessee State University and a Master of Science in health care administration and gerontology from the University of Phoenix.
What Is the Function of Cholesterol in the Body?
What Is the Function of Cholesterol in the Body? Photo Credit Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images

Most people think of cholesterol in a negative way. However, cholesterol actually plays a very important role in the functioning of the body. According to The Mayo Clinic, cholesterol is found in every cell in our body and without it our bodies would not function properly. Understanding why it is there and the purpose it serves is something everyone should be aware of.

Types of Cholesterol

According to The American Heart Association cholesterol cannot be dissolved in the blood and has to be carried to and from the cells by lipoproteins. Lipoproteins come in two basic types. The first is the low density cholesterol (LDL) which is also known as the "bad" cholesterol. The second type is the high density cholesterol (HDL) which is known as the "good" cholesterol. Research indicates that high density cholesterol seems to guard against heart problems while the low density causes buildup on the artery walls which lead to heart disease. Another type of "bad" cholesterol is the LP(a) which is a genetic variation of the LDL "bad" cholesterol. The LP(a), LDL and HDL along with triglycerides which is a form of fat made in the body, make up the total cholesterol count in the human body.

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Hormone Manufacturing

One of the most important jobs of cholesterol is to aide in the production of hormones. Cholesterol is stored in the adrenal glands, ovaries and the testes and is converted to steroid hormones. These steroid hormones perform other vital duties to help the body function properly. According to 3DChem.com, without steroid hormones we will have malfunctions with weight, sex, digestion, bone health and mental status.

Digestion

Cholesterol plays an important role in our body's digestion. Cholesterol is used to help the liver create bile which aids us in digesting the food that we eat. Without the bile our bodies are unable to properly digest foods, especially fats. When the fat goes undigested it can get into the bloodstream and cause additional problems such as blockages of the arteries and cause heart attacks and heart disease.

Building Blocks

Cholesterol is a structural component of cells. Cholesterol along with polar lipids make up the structure of each and every cell in our bodies. Cholesterol is there to basically provide a protective barrier. When the amount of cholesterol increases or decreases, the cells are affected. This change can affect our ability to metabolize and produce energy. This can ultimately affect other aspects of our bodies' function such as food intake and digestion.

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References

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