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Your body uses cholesterol to hold cells together and make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help digest foods. Common sources are animal products, such as meat, eggs, and butter. Two main types of lipoproteins help move cholesterol through the blood: LDL and HDL. While your body needs this substance to work properly, too much can cause problems. The only way to determine your level is through a blood test.

What Is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance found in all of your body's cells. Your body needs it in order to work properly. This is because your body uses cholesterol to hold cells together. Your body also uses it to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help you digest foods.
 
However, if too much gets into your blood, it can cause problems. This is known as high cholesterol, hypercholesterolemia, or hyperlipidemia.
 

Where Does It Come From?

Cholesterol comes from two places. Your body actually makes most of what it needs in the liver. The rest comes from the foods you eat.
 
Cholesterol is only made by animals, so you can only get it by eating animal products, such as:
 
  • Meat
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Whole milk.
     
These foods can provide you with more than enough cholesterol. You will not find it in anything that comes from a plant. For example, cholesterol-free foods include fruits, vegetables, or whole grains.
 

How Does the Body Transport It?

In order to get to all of your cells, cholesterol needs to travel through the bloodstream. But because cholesterol is a fat, it separates from the blood, similar to the way that oil separates from water. To keep this from happening, proteins form a shell around it, making a "cholesterol complex." It is then released into the bloodstream and travels to where it needs to go.
 
A protein that is linked to cholesterol to form this complex is called a "lipoprotein." There are two main types of lipoproteins. One is good and the other can potentially be bad (but not always).
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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