CHOLESTEROL: GOOD, BAD and WORSE
Not so long ago, we only worried about our total cholesterol count. Then, we learned there are two kinds of cholesterol, HDL ‘good’ and LDL, or ‘bad’ cholesterol. Now however, we know that oxidized LDL cholesterol is far more dangerous than LDL alone.
But what is ‘oxidation’? In the simplest terms, it’s the corrosive effect that oxygen has on many atoms and molecules. An old car left in the rain that begins to rust is a prime example of oxidation. Technically speaking, oxidation is the process of removing electrons from an atom or molecule. The result of this change can be destructive.
Our bodies create energy through the process of metabolism. Metabolism requires oxygen from the air we breathe to ‘burn’ the nutrients we eat to create energy. So, although metabolism is an essential part of keeping our bodies alive, it is also a corrosive process that can cause damage by creating dangerous byproducts like free radicals. Free radicals are electronically unstable molecules which can snatch electrons from other nearby molecules in order to try to become more stable. This electron-grabbing process is – you guessed it – oxidation.
CHOLESTEROL AND OXIDATION
One type of molecule that is particularly prevalent in the standard American diet is LDL cholesterol. With such a readily available source for free radicals to snatch electrons from, it’s no wonder that emerging science has shown that oxidized LDL cholesterol is a primary contributing factor to blocked arteries, arterial damage, and heart attacks25.
And we now know that oxidized LDL cholesterol is worse than LDL cholesterol alone. If you have elevated oxidized cholesterol you are eight times more likely to have a cardiac event and if you have elevated oxidized LDL combined with low HDL cholesterol, you are nearly 14 times more likely to have a heart attack55.
Oxidized LDL cells can easily slip between endothelial cells lining the vessel walls and cause chaos by triggering cells around them to think it’s an inflammatory event, like an infection. The body sends out protective agents that unintentionally form foaming cells which block and damage the arteries.
The animated video below demonstrates how oxidized LDL cholesterol contributes to plaque buildup.