Cholesterol Home > Types of Cholesterol

Contrary to popular belief, there are not two cholesterol types -- there's only one type. What people think of as the different forms of cholesterol are really cholesterol complexes that are created to transport cholesterol through the bloodstream. The three main types of these complexes are low density lipoprotein (the "bad" cholesterol), high density lipoprotein (the "good" cholesterol), and very low density lipoprotein (VLDL).

Cholesterol Types: An Overview

There is only one type of cholesterol. Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance found in all of your body's cells. Your body needs this cholesterol in order to work properly.
In order to get to your cells, cholesterol travels 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 the cholesterol, making a "cholesterol complex." It is then released into the bloodstream and travels to where it needs to go. Although there is only one type of cholesterol, there are several types of cholesterol complexes.

Types of Cholesterol Complexes

The three main types of cholesterol complexes used to transport cholesterol include:
  • Low density lipoprotein (LDL) -- which is referred to as "bad cholesterol"
  • High density lipoprotein (HDL) -- which is referred to as "good cholesterol"
  • Very low density lipoprotein (VLDL).
People may refer to these lipoprotein complexes as different cholesterol types; however, the cholesterol inside them is the same -- the complexes are just different in how much other stuff they are transporting and where they transport it to. For example, LDL is almost all cholesterol and transports cholesterol to the tissues that need it. VLDL has a lot of triglycerides along with cholesterol, and its main function is to transport triglycerides to the cells that need it. HDL also is mostly cholesterol, but this cholesterol complex is considered good because it picks up the extra cholesterol that was dropped off by the LDLs and brings it to your liver. This way, your liver can repackage it to use it later, or simply get rid of it.
To learn more about these different cholesterol complexes, click:
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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