Lipids and Lipoproteins


Maj West
Because lipids can’t travel through your bloodstream by themselves, they must rely on substances called lipoproteins to transport them. Dr. Phillips can introduce you to some of these lipids, taking you on the journey they make through your bloodstream.

Dr. Phillips
There are several types of lipids found in our bodies, but for this discussion we’ll focus on cholesterol and triglycerides.

Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance found in your bloodstream, and in all of your cells. It plays an important role in keeping your body healthy in several ways:

First, cholesterol helps to repair your cell membranes. It’s used in the production of bile, which is needed to absorb fat from food. It’s also required for the production of vitamin D on your skin’s surface, and is involved in the production of hormones like estrogen and testosterone. Finally, cholesterol helps build connections in the brain that are important for learning and memory.

Because cholesterol doesn’t dissolve easily, it needs to be packaged just right in order to travel through your bloodstream. This is where lipoproteins come into play.

Lipoproteins are formed when special proteins wrap themselves around lipids to help move them through the bloodstream. There are several kinds of lipoproteins, but those that we hear about most often are low-density lipoproteins, or LDL, and high-density lipoproteins, or HDL.

Triglycerides are also types of lipids, or fats, which are carried through your bloodstream to your tissues. Most triglycerides come into your body from the fat in foods that you eat, especially foods that are high in saturated fat.

Although triglycerides receive less attention than LDL and HDL, research suggests that they should be taken seriously. Your triglyceride level can be an important risk factor for the development of heart disease. Even with healthy levels of LDL and HDL, a high triglyceride level may indicate that you have an increased risk for heart disease.