Body Fat and Cholesterol

Let us begin with some well established facts.

  1. High cholesterol levels are harmful because they increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  2. High levels of body fat also increase the risk of heart disease.

Is there is a relationship between the two facts – does high body fat cause high blood cholesterol levels? We shall find out.

A Little Bit About Cholesterol

Given the negative connotations of cholesterol, you may be surprised to discover that it is an essential body component. Produced by the liver, it is an important constituent of the cell membrane and needed for Vitamin D and bile synthesis, besides many other critical body functions.

However, as with anything else, excess is bad. High cholesterol levels increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Why is Excess Cholesterol Harmful?

Cholesterol combines with proteins in the body to form complex lipoproteins called LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol and HDL (high density lipoprotein) cholesterol. LDL cholesterol forms a plaque on the cardiac arterial walls, reducing blood flow to the heart and increasing the risk of heart attack. HDL cholesterol, called good cholesterol, works to reduce LDL levels and is cardio-protective.

When cholesterol availability exceeds the body’s requirement, the excess cholesterol gets converted to LDL more effectively than HDL.

Relationship between Body Fat and Cholesterol

Body fats called triglycerides are also components of the atherosclerotic plaque (with the LDL), further intensifying the cardiovascular risk. And it has been observed that high triglyceride levels are associated with high cholesterol. Though reason ‘why’ is not very clear.

Triglyceride levels increase when there is greater percentage of stored fats in the body which is nothing but high body fat levels.

A relationship between the two has been established thus.

High body fat causes increased triglyceride levels (due to excessive stored fats), which is associated with high cholesterol. And high cholesterol in turn increases risk of cardiovascular disease by generating greater quantities of LDL cholesterol.

An Important Point

Please note that high cholesterol is related to high body fat and not high body weight. For instance an athlete with optimal body fat level may weigh more than an individual with excess body fat. High cholesterol levels will most likely be associated with the latter, even though his body weight is lower.

The Logical Basis for the Relationship between Body Fat and Cholesterol

Though scientifically, the basis for the relationship is not clear, we can arrive at some logical conclusions.

  • Body fat increases when a high fat diet is consumed. High fat foods are rich in saturated fats and cholesterol too.
  • Exercise is an important activity that burns stored fats and reduces the fat.  Exercise is also associated with lowered cholesterol levels. Naturally a person who does not exercise has high body fat as well as high cholesterol.

What are the Implications of this Relationship?

As there is a relationship between body fat and cholesterol, steps taken to reduce body fat levels (exercise and diet) will reduce the cholesterol levels too.

Remember that when you embark on a fat loss program to lose weight, it is not only making you look good, but also reducing the cholesterol.

Your heart will say thank-you.

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