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

Triumph of the Heart: The Story of Statins By Jie Jack Li Oxford University Press, 2008
Librarian's tip: Cholesterol discussed throughout.
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 Puzzling Relationship between Cholesterol and Psychopathology By Nasrallah, Henry A Current Psychiatry, Vol. 17, No. 1, January 2018
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"
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"
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator
Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.