cholesterol (kəlĕs´tərōl´), fatty lipid found in the body tissues and blood plasma of vertebrates; it is only sparingly soluble in water, but much more soluble in some organic solvents. A steroid, cholesterol can be found in large concentrations in the brain, spinal cord, and liver. The liver is the most important site of cholesterol biosynthesis, although other sites include the adrenal glands and reproductive organs. By means of several enzymatic reactions, cholesterol is synthesized from acetic acid; it then serves as the major precursor for the synthesis of vitamin D3, of the various steroid hormones, including cortisol, cortisone, and aldosterone in the adrenal glands, and of the sex hormones progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone. Cholesterol is excreted from the liver in the form of a secretion known as bile; it sometimes crystallizes in the gall bladder to form gallstones. The insolubility of cholesterol in water is also a factor in the development of atherosclerosis (see arteriosclerosis), the pathological deposition of plaques of cholesterol and other lipids on the insides of major blood vessels, a condition associated with coronary artery disease. This buildup of cholesterol in the blood vessels may constrict the passages considerably and inhibit the flow of blood to and from the heart. Recent research has shown that the relative abundance of certain protein complexes, called lipoproteins, to which cholesterol becomes attached may be the real cause of cholesterol buildup in the blood vessels. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) carries cholesterol out of the bloodstream for excretion, while low-density lipoprotein (LDL) carries it back into the system for use by various body cells. Researchers believe that HDL and LDL levels in the bloodstream may be at least as important as cholesterol levels, and now measure both to determine risk for heart disease. Reducing consumption of foods containing cholesterol and saturated fat has been found to lower blood cholesterol levels. Cholesterol levels can also be reduced with drugs, most especially with HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors (commonly called "statins" ), such as lovastatin (Mevacor) and atorvastatin (Lipitor), and by regular exercise.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Cholesterol: Selected full-text books and articles

Health in the Headlines: The Stories behind the Stories By Stephen Klaidman Oxford University Press, 1991
Librarian's tip: Chap. 7 "Cholesterol: What's in a Number?"
Behavior, Health, and Aging By Stephen B. Manuck; Richard Jennings; Bruce S. Rabin; Andrew Baum Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000
Librarian's tip: Chap. 14 "Uncertain Health Effects of Cholesterol Reduction in the Elderly"
Deadly Choices: Coping with Health Risks in Everyday Life By Jeffrey E. Harris Basic Books, 1993
Librarian's tip: Chap. 5 "The Good Minus the Bad Cholesterol"
Selling Sickness: How the Drug Companies Are Turning Us All into Patients By Ray Moynihan; Alan Cassels Allen & Unwin, 2005
Librarian's tip: Chap. 1 "Selling to Everyone: High Cholesterol"
The American Way of Life Need Not Be Hazardous to Your Health By John W. Farquhar Perseus Publishing, 1987 (Revised edition)
Librarian's tip: "Cholesterol and Saturated-Fat Intake" begins on p. 104
The Relationship of Daily Stress and Health-Related Behaviors to Adolescents' Cholesterol Levels By Coleman, Chris A.; Friedman, Alice G.; Burright, Richard G Adolescence, Vol. 33, No. 130, Summer 1998
Neuropsychology of Cardiovascular Disease By Shari R. Waldstein; Merrill E. Elias Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2001
Librarian's tip: Chap. Three "Serum Cholesterol, the Brain, and Cognitive Functioning"
Healthy Pleasures By Robert Ornstein; David Sobel Perseus Books, 1989
Librarian's tip: "The Cholesterol Hysteria: Is Your Number Up?" begins on p. 15
Lifestyle Modification for the Prevention and Treatment of Hypertension By Paul K. Whelton; Jiang He; Gail T. Louis Marcel Dekker, 2003
Librarian's tip: Chap. 11 "Macronutrients, Fiber, Cholesterol, and Dietary Patterns"
Medical Screening and the Value of Early Detection By Malm, H. M The Hastings Center Report, Vol. 29, No. 1, January 1999
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Media Advocacy: A Case Study of Philip Sokolof's Cholesterol Awareness Campaigns By Adams, Ronald J.; Jennings, Kenneth M The Journal of Consumer Affairs, Vol. 27, No. 1, Summer 1993
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
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