Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Good and Bad
22 February 2012

Good and Bad

Cholesterol is essential for our wellbeing. This form of lipid[fat] is needed to make hormones and build membranes that keep cell contents intact. Made by our liver as needs dictate, less is produced from scratch when we eat cholesterol-rich foods. It moves around our body in one of two kinds of molecular palanquin – high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Both are essential at the right levels. Although the passenger is the same, HDL is dubbed ‘good’ cholesterol. It protects against clogged arteries by carrying redundant cholesterol away to the liver for recycling. LDL is known as ‘bad’ cholesterol –it sometimes exists as small particles which can block vessels. If particles build up, cholesterol crystals (seen here) can grow, hardening, blocking and inflaming the vessel. This poses serious health risks of stroke and heart disease.

Written by Manisha Lalloo

  • Originally published under Creative Commons (CC-BY-NC-ND); Courtesy of Wellcome Images

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