This fascinating molecule plays a rather important role in your body, maybe more so than you realised. Cholesterol tests are something we’re aware of, but what actually happens when our cholesterol is too high? Or too low, for that matter?
Every one of our cells is bound by a membrane and this membrane plays an important role of maintaining concentration gradients of chemicals among other things. It is important that this membrane be fluid so that proteins and lipids embedded within the membrane can move around to facilitate transport across the membrane and various other functions.
Cholesterol plays an important role in maintaining fluidity of the membrane. Cholesterol embeds itself in the membrane and proceeds to aid in making the membrane a little more firm. Without cholesterol the membrane would be far too fluid and your membranes would turn to mush, but with too much cholesterol your membranes would harden and you would no loner be able to maintain concentration gradients of such nutrients as Ca2+ and K+. If this could instantaneously happen to you, you would feel an anesthetic-like feeling and then quickly lose consciousness and die.
What we can learn from this is: everything in moderation.
Images courtesy of Wikimedia