When you think about steroids, an over-tanned, muscle-bound behemoth likely comes to mind; and when you consider cholesterol, an image of an over-weight, out-of-shape glutton is probably not far off. As mere words, both cholesterol steroids conjure up negative notions of equal, yet opposite effects. Of course, steroids do not produce meat-heads any more than cholesterol causes gluttons, but the tendency runs deep in demonizing both. So beware of presumptions and understand that cholesterol and steroids are organic compounds, sharing a close and dependent connection, and they play a vital role in maintaining a healthy life.
Hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon are the principle elements comprising organic compounds. The foods you eat everyday comprise the most common organic compounds, namely, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. In the broad hierarchical sense, cholesterol and steroids both are organic compounds, and both are types of fat. On the molecular level, however, it is the arrangement of their common elements that relate and set them apart.
Lipids are energy-rich organic compounds; they are more commonly known simply as oils, waxes or fats. They build the framework of your body’s tissues, and the structure of its cells. The structure lipids take, along with the function they serve, define various subclasses within a given lipid group. Steroids comprise just one subclass of lipids which your body makes on its own.
Steroids are distinct among the lipids for the carbon bonds which they form. While other lipids comprise “chains” of carbon bonds, steroids comprise bonds around four distinct “rings.” Your body synthesizes many steroids, including the sex hormones, testosterone and estrogen. However, for synthesis to take place, your body requires a sterol, before production can begin.
Sterols provide a platform for your body to build steriods. Found in nearly every cell, cholesterol is the most plentiful sterol in the body. Its distinct physical feature is a hydroxyl, that is an alcohol bond, attaches to the carbon "ring." Though the biochemical taxonomy involves many other factors, the relational chain connecting cholesterol to steroids exhibits a remarkable variety of functional properties despite being merely "atoms" apart. Nonetheless, there is no casual relationship between cholesterol and steroids; indeed, apart from the former the latter does not exist.
- "Fundamentals of Anatomy & Physiology 8th Edition"; Frederic Martini, Pearson Education; 2009
- Elmhurst College: Virtual Chembook
- University of Nebraska-Licoln: Sterols
- "Journal of Nutrition"; Molecular Mechanisms of Sterol Absorption; Hubert Chen; 2001;