What are the Different Types of Cholesterol?

Karyn Maier
Karyn Maier
Karyn Maier
Karyn Maier
The buildup of cholesterol on blood vessel linings can constrict blood flow and lead to heart attacks or strokes.
The buildup of cholesterol on blood vessel linings can constrict blood flow and lead to heart attacks or strokes.

The majority of literature available that addresses the link between elevated cholesterol and heart disease focuses on making a distinction between “good” and “bad” cholesterol. This has led to the general belief that there are two main types of cholesterol: high-density (HDL) and low-density (LDL). These categories are sometimes broken down further to include very low-density cholesterol (VDL) and other fats collectively called triglycerides. However, the idea that there are different types of cholesterol is actually incorrect. In fact, there is only one kind of cholesterol and it is neither good nor bad.

Cholesterol is a fat used in the body's manufacture of vital Vitamin D, which is naturally produced when the skin is exposed to sunlight.
Cholesterol is a fat used in the body's manufacture of vital Vitamin D, which is naturally produced when the skin is exposed to sunlight.

Cholesterol is a fat made in the body by the liver to serve a variety of biological functions. Since this wax-like material can be found in virtually every part of the body, it can be thought of as the “glue” that binds cells together. It is also used to manufacture certain hormones and vitamin D, as well as bile acid to digest food. Since cholesterol is a fat, however, it naturally tends to separate from blood, making it necessary to hitch a ride on a stable substance to navigate through the bloodstream. To accomplish this mission, the body sends specialized proteins called lipoproteins to taxi cholesterol to where it’s needed.

Angioplasty may be used to treat blocked coronary arteries caused by high levels of cholesterol in the blood.
Angioplasty may be used to treat blocked coronary arteries caused by high levels of cholesterol in the blood.

However, cholesterol doesn’t simply latch onto passing proteins. In fact, quite the opposite occurs. As proteins enter the scene, they surround the cholesterol molecules to form a shield with which to keep the fat safely intact. Once bundled in this manner, the proteins then circulate in the bloodstream, carrying cholesterol along with them. The “shuttles” created to facilitate this process are known as cholesterol complexes.

Consuming peanuts on a regular basis may help lower cholesterol levels.
Consuming peanuts on a regular basis may help lower cholesterol levels.

This means that when referring to different types of cholesterol, what is really meant is the mode in which cholesterol is transported in the blood and its destination. For that matter, classifying cholesterol as either HDL or LDL simply identifies the type of lipoprotein transporting the substance and not the cholesterol itself since all cholesterol is the same. In fact, to be most accurate, these terms relate to the type of cholesterol complex formed when protein meets cholesterol. In this regard, there are three different types of cholesterol complexes: HDL, LDL, and VDL.

The body produces low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
The body produces low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.

For example, high-density cholesterol has come to be known as such because it forms a complex involving high-density lipoproteins. However, low-density lipoproteins carry cholesterol in greater concentration, while very low-density lipoprotein complexes contain even more. This is how cholesterol appears as good or bad. Since LDL complexes contain more cholesterol than protein, they contribute to excess cholesterol deposits and the development of plaque in the arteries. In contrast, the formation of more HDL is considered favorable since it tends to pick up stranded LDL and carry it back to the liver for recycling or elimination.

Karyn Maier
Karyn Maier

Contributing articles to is just one of Karyn’s many professional endeavors. She is also a magazine writer and columnist, mainly for health-related publications, as well as the author of four books. Karyn lives in New York’s Catskill Mountain region and specializes in topics about green living and botanical medicine.

Karyn Maier
Karyn Maier

Contributing articles to is just one of Karyn’s many professional endeavors. She is also a magazine writer and columnist, mainly for health-related publications, as well as the author of four books. Karyn lives in New York’s Catskill Mountain region and specializes in topics about green living and botanical medicine.

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    • The buildup of cholesterol on blood vessel linings can constrict blood flow and lead to heart attacks or strokes.
      By: Alexandr Mitiuc
      The buildup of cholesterol on blood vessel linings can constrict blood flow and lead to heart attacks or strokes.
    • Cholesterol is a fat used in the body's manufacture of vital Vitamin D, which is naturally produced when the skin is exposed to sunlight.
      By: yanlev
      Cholesterol is a fat used in the body's manufacture of vital Vitamin D, which is naturally produced when the skin is exposed to sunlight.
    • Angioplasty may be used to treat blocked coronary arteries caused by high levels of cholesterol in the blood.
      By: designua
      Angioplasty may be used to treat blocked coronary arteries caused by high levels of cholesterol in the blood.
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      By: lirtlon
      Consuming peanuts on a regular basis may help lower cholesterol levels.
    • The body produces low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
      By: rob3000
      The body produces low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.