Cholesterol is a waxy substance in your blood that is a major component of every cell wall in your body. It is required for the production of some hormones, such as the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone.
Cholesterol occurs in very high concentrations in the cells protecting the brain and nervous system. It is particularly important, therefore, that cholesterol intake is not restricted in children under the age of two years, whose brain and nervous system are still developing.
Cholesterol is also required to make bile acid and in the manufacture of vitamin D in the skin. Bile acids assist with the absorption of fat from the diet.
Most of your body’s cholesterol needs are met by the cholesterol your body manufactures for itself. The rest is obtained from food (high levels of cholesterol are found in egg yolks and offal such as liver and kidneys).
Excessive amounts of cholesterol in the blood can cause cardiovascular disease. Cholesterol forms fatty deposits in the arteries, which may lead to the narrowing of the arteries, restricted blood flow, and eventually to a heart attack or stroke.
An elevated blood cholesterol level may be hereditary or influenced by dietary factors – specifically by a diet that is high in cholesterol, total fat, and saturated fat. However, studies have found that dietary intake of saturated fat has a greater impact on cholesterol levels and associated health risks than the intake of dietary cholesterol alone.
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