Ask a Doctor

March 28, 2014 12:29 pm Last Updated: March 28, 2014 12:32 pm

Question: If LDL cholesterol is so bad, why does the body produce it?

Dr. Damon Noto: You must first understand that LDL cholesterol is not even really a type of cholesterol.

Cholesterol is a type of fat that is also called a sterol because it is the building blocks for the hormones in our body, such as testosterone and estrogen. It is an essential substance that also makes up the outer layer of our cells and helps us digest our food.

LDL cholesterol, on the other hand, is actually a substance called a lipo-protein. In order for cholesterol to circulate in the body in a usable format, the body has to package the cholesterol with a protein covering. LDL cholesterol is just one type of covering.

LDL particles play a very essential role in the body, carrying many things such as triglycerides, phospholipids, and cholesterol. The problem is, when you eat too much saturated fat and cholesterol, you will naturally have too much LDL cholesterol in your bloodstream.

Since LDL particles are very small, when you have too many of them, some of them will attach and incorporate themselves into your vessels, which can eventually lead to clogging of your arteries.

So LDL cholesterol is not inherently bad. Rather, it plays a necessary role in the body, but when you have too much around, it can cause problems.

Thankfully, changing your diet and adding more exercise can decrease your LDL cholesterol to a safe level.

Dr. Noto specializes in rehabilitation, regenerative medicine, pain management, and sports medicine. SpineAndJointCenter.com

Question: Can statins lead to depression?

Dr. Dana Churchill: Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) carry cholesterol to all the cells in your body, including the arteries that supply blood to your heart. Without it, you can’t transport cholesterol to the cells, and without cholesterol, you will not make any hormones. Cholesterol is the backbone of all hormones.

Many patients are put on statin drugs [such as Lipitor, Zocor] to lower cholesterol. When it goes down to 100, they get depressed and feel tired and lethargic because they can’t make enough hormones. Then they are put on antidepressants.

Dr. Churchill specializes in naturopathic, homeopathic, and functional medicine. DrDanaChurchill.com

Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity. Email your questions to [email protected]

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