Good and Bad Cholesterol: What’s the Difference?

Let’s think of cholesterol, then primarily fatty food comes to us, Obesity and diseases come to mind. But it is not that simple, because doctors basically differentiate between two different types of cholesterol: LDL (low density lipoprotein) and HDL (high density lipoprotein).

LDL transports fats from the liver to the organs, HDL collects excess cholesterol and transports it to the liver for breakdown. HDL is therefore considered good cholesterol, which not only protects against cardiovascular diseases, but also against memory loss and Alzheimer should protect.

Cholesterol has its bad reputation wrongly

Cholesterol is essential for the human body. It’s an essential one Building block of our cells and organs (Over 90% of our total cholesterol is built into our cells). Our cells also need cholesterol in order to communicate with one another. Especially ours Brain and the entire nervous system are very high in cholesterol. It is also an important raw material for the Production of bile acids for fat digestion, for the Formation of hormones like estrogen, testosterone and cortisol and from Vitamin D.

However, if there is too much cholesterol (LDL) in the body so that it cannot break it down, it stays in the blood. Then in turn it can attach itself to the blood vessel walls and constrict them (arteriosclerosis). Too high cholesterol In the worst case, it can lead to arteriosclerosis, heart attack or stroke together with other risk factors.

HDL or LDL – the difference is shown in the blood count

Cholesterol is a fat-like, water-insoluble substance. So that it can be transported in the body, it is bound to transport proteins, so-called lipoproteins. The higher their lipid content, the lower their density and the more risky they are in terms of heart and vascular health. We basically differentiate between:

  • LDL (Low Density Lipoproteins = low density cholesterol): It transports cholesterol from the liver into the body cells. This compound is known as the “bad” cholesterol, since if the values ​​are too high it can increase the risk of arteriosclerosis and its complications. The preliminary stage of LDL, VLDL (Very Low Density Lipoprotein) can also lead to deposits on the vessel walls.
  • HDL (High Density Lipoproteins = high density cholesterol): This compound is the so-called “good” cholesterol, as it transports the excess cholesterol from the blood back to the liver, where it is then metabolized and used, for example, to produce bile acid. HDL can even remove cholesterol molecules that have already attached to the vessel walls.

In the context of a blood count, doctors always consider both good (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL). The more good cholesterol there is in the blood, the more bad cholesterol the organism can break down. If your blood count, which is taken on an empty stomach, shows a relatively high HDL value, this is a positive sign that the veins are being cleaned well.

The following guideline values ​​currently apply to healthy people: The LDL cholesterol value should not exceed 115 milligrams per deciliter (mg / dl), the HDL cholesterol value should be at least 40 mg / dl in men and 45 mg / dl in women (1) . Contrary to previous opinion, the HDL value should not be too high either, because this could be counterproductive and also increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

In order to be able to adequately assess the risk of cardiovascular disease, in addition to the cholesterol values ​​(total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol), the values ​​of all blood lipids must be checked, including triglycerides and lipoprotein (a). In addition, the homocysteine ​​level is an important risk factor for atherosclerosis.

For a real assessment of the state of health, other risk factors such as high blood pressure, Diabetes, Smoke, Alcohol, Sedentary lifestyle and overweight are taken into account.

The influence of food on bad cholesterol is less than has long been assumed

For decades, the consumption of foods containing cholesterol has been demonized. Eggs, cream, butter … all of this should be avoided as much as possible so as not to die straight away from hardening of the arteries. Today it is known that too fatty nutrition admittedly unfavorably on the Cholesterol levels affects – especially in combination with a sedentary lifestyle and alcohol consumption – but it is not the food alone that increases the cholesterol level. Because only a quarter of cholesterol is absorbed with food, the rest is produced by the body itself (2).

Nevertheless, it is important to pay attention to the quality of the fats ingested in order to support the good cholesterol in its work. Instead of animal fats, vegetable, polyunsaturated fatty acids are preferred. Especially Omega-3 fatty acids made from flax seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts and their oils are recommended here. What should definitely be avoided are trans fats. They are mainly caused by the industrial hardening of vegetable fats or when oil is heated too much. Ultimately, however, it comes down to a balanced diet. Who the so-called Mediterranean food prefers (3), eats fruit, vegetables and nuts every day and does sport regularly, he can also treat himself to breakfast eggs with bread and butter with a clear conscience.

Lower blood lipids naturally

Some natural ingredients promote the conversion of cholesterol into bile acids, which lowers the level of cholesterol in the blood. This applies to:

  • Knoblauch
  • artichokes
  • Apples
  • Plums
  • ginger
  • oats
  • barley

Chromium-containing foods such as Brazil nuts, lentils, beans, whole grain products, brewer’s yeast, molasses and pepper also help lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing HDL cholesterol at the same time. There are also some powerful ingredients in food that have particularly vascular protective properties. These include:

  • Catechins in the green Tee
  • Resveratrol in grapes and dark chocolate
  • Quercetin in onions
  • Polyphenols in pomegranate
  • Anthocyanins in blueberries, black currants
  • Lycocypine in tomatoes, especially tomato paste

In addition, certain Micronutrients have a positive influence on the lowering of lipoprotein (a), one of the blood lipids. These are niacin (vitamin B3), vitamin C, the amino acids carnitine and lysine as well Coenzyme Q10 and omega-3 fatty acids.

Fasting lowers cholesterol

Regular Fastenkuren can have an extremely positive effect on cholesterol levels. Also the so-called Intervallfasten helps lower cholesterol naturally (4). Obviously, it is enough to take as long a meal break as possible between dinner and breakfast the next day. During the long night fasting period, the body uses cholesterol from the fat cells for energy. For example, if you have finished dinner at 7 p.m. and don’t have breakfast until 10 a.m. the next day, the night fasting period is already 15 hours. You can find more about this here: Lower cholesterol levels through fasting

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  1. (German Society for Combating Lipid Metabolism Disorders and their Consequential Diseases DGFF (Lipid League) e.V. URL: (11.11.2020).
  2. Clinic for Diagnostics and Preventive Medicine Bornheim. Cholesterol – what is it? Url: (16.11.2020).
  3. Widmer RJ, et al. The Mediterranean diet, its components, and cardiovascular disease. Am J Med. 2015 Mar; 128 (3): 229-38.
  4. Patterson RE, Sears DD. Metabolic Effects of Intermittent Fasting. Annu Rev Nutr. 2017 Aug 21;37:371-393.

Image sources

  • Good and bad cholesterol: JPC-PROD |

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