Contrary to what you may have heard nearly 80% of the cholesterol in your blood stream is made by your own body while the other 20% comes mainly from the food you eat.
Your liver is the primary organ responsible for the production of cholesterol in your body, although a small amount is made by the lining of the small intestine and the individual cells of the body.
Cholesterol is a soft, waxy, fatty compound that is a type of steroid. It is an important nutrient that is essential in the formation and maintenance of cell membranes, and in the production of the sex hormones progesterone, testosterone, estradiol, and cortisol. It is also used by the body to produce bile salts that are used in the digestive process to break down food. Its last major task is its conversion into vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight.
Because cholesterol is not soluble in water and tends to not mix well with blood the liver packages it with protein and other compounds creating a lipoprotein before it is released into the blood stream. Cholesterol is then transported through the bloodstream in this lipoprotein.
There are three types of lipoproteins created by the liver and these include high-density lipoproteins (HDL), low-density lipoproteins (LDL), and very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL). The type of lipoprotein is determined by how much protein there is in relation to fat content.
Called the "bad" cholesterol, LDL comprises about 70% of the cholesterol that circulates in the bloodstream. It is comprised mostly of fat which then tends to get deposited in the arteries creating plaques. This leads to atherosclerosis, which is a hardening and narrowing of the arteries and a large risk factor for heart disease.
HDL cholesterol is considered the "good" cholesterol because its primary role is to transport LDL's back to the liver where it is disposed of. HDL is comprised of mainly protein and makes up about 20% of the cholesterol in the body. It helps prevent atherosclerosis by preventing LDL cholesterol from depositing and forming plaques in the arteries.
The best way to control high cholesterol is through lifestyle changes centered on diet, maintaining your proper weight, exercise, and stopping smoking if you smoke.
Now that you know where is cholesterol produced in the body you can see that it is an important part of proper bodily functions. It is also important to know that to much cholesterol is not good either and it is up to you to have your levels checked regularly and keep them under control.
View our Cholesterol Level Chart