How Does Cholesterol Maintain Membrane Fluidity?
To understand the body’s ability to process nutrients we can start with the basic unit of life is a cell. The animal cell has a flexible fluid-like cell membrane and no rigid cell wall like plant cells. Plants also have cell membranes but the membranes have an outer harder cell wall cover not found in animals.
Effects Of Cholesterol On Membrane Fluidity
The fluid-like lipid cell membrane allows osmosis to and fro the membrane. Osmosis is a selective transmission process whereby water flows from the level of higher concentration to the level of lower concentration through a membrane.
Through the process of osmosis nutrients and molecules are shared evenly between cells.
Membrane fluidity refers to the ability of cell membranes to allow the transfer of nutrient molecules between cells. Membranes with higher fluidity can achieve better nutrition within the cells.
Cell Membrane Dynamics
Lipid bilayers consisting of a greater proportion of short-tailed unsaturated hydrocarbons allow more passage compared to lipid bilayers with a lesser proportion of unsaturated hydrocarbon tails.
Sterol cholesterol modulates membrane fluidity in animals. The plasma membrane is richly supplied by sterol cholesterol. The kinks in hydrocarbon tails leave spaces between neighboring molecules. These spaces are occupied by sterol cholesterol.
Since cholesterol forms the basic bi-layered structure of tissues they are important for health. Cholesterol in recommended amounts is used by the body to
- Form lipid plasma membrane of cells
- To provide bi-way selective transit passage
- Provide nutrition to cells
- Balance distribution of molecules amongst cells
- Give long life and health to cells
- Repair damaged cells
- Form new cells for replacing dead cells
- Enable new cells to draw nutrition from parent cells
Saturated And Unsaturated Hydrocarbons
When we talk of foods, fats are the substances that provide us with hydrocarbons. We have often been advised to consume unsaturated fats and avoid saturated fats.
Unsaturated fats have a combining capacity and have short tails. Saturated fats have no combining capacity with other molecules and atoms. These long-tailed hydrocarbons reduce fluidity in the lipid bilayer.
The body makes molecules that are useful for it through various processes of molecule transfers, combinations, and breakdowns. More content of saturated fats in the diet reduces the transfer capacity at the cellular level.
A few examples of food sources rich in unsaturated fats are fatty fish, nuts and seeds, and some vegetable oils like soybean and sunflower oil. Food sources rich in saturated fats include red meat, coconut oil and palm oil, and whole dairy products like butter and ice cream.
Though saturated fats serve their purpose in the body, consumption above recommended limits of 10% of daily needed calories has adverse effects. Saturated fats increase low-density lipid cholesterol in the body which gave rise to several heart diseases.
Sterols And Cholesterols
Sterols are substances resembling cholesterol found in plant cell membranes. Sterols can stop cholesterol absorption and the manufacturing of more cholesterol by the body. Recommended amounts of sterols in our diet hence can be actually beneficial in reducing weight.
Overconsumption of sterols has adverse effects. The extra sterols can accumulate in the heart and valves leading to illnesses and diseases.
Oils derived from plants can have an ample quantity of sterols in them. Sesame oil and olive oil have high sterol content. Nuts and seeds are also rich in sterols.
Should Good Cholesterol Be Consumed During The Weight Loss Program?
During a weight loss program, the body is led through diet and exercises to ketogenesis mode in a normal routine.
In ketogenesis mode, the body gets energy from stored fats and carbs apart from food consumed. In non-ketogenesis mode, the body does not burn stored fats as its energy requirements are fulfilled by the food consumed.
Even if the body is on a weight loss program a certain amount of cholesterol would be required to maintain healthy lipid membranes. A scientific weight loss program includes the right amount of cholesterol substances in the diet for steady daily weight loss.
Best Use Of Saturated Fats
Mixed hydrogenated cooking oils used for frying are made from saturated vegetable fats. These are manufactured especially to sustain high heat and not combine chemically with other food matter.
When reheated they can maintain stability. In opposition to this, oils rich in unsaturated cholesterol cannot sustain high heat and are not recommended for frying.
Fried foods can be soaked off oil after frying using soaking paper to avoid a minimum intake of saturated hydrocarbons.