Cholesterol, in its many forms, often gets a collective bad reputation. Just hearing the word is often enough to conjure up images of poor eating habits and heart disease. Yes, like any nutritional substance, it’s important to keep a careful eye on the total amount of cholesterol in our diets. However, many people don’t realize that this fat-like compound can play a critical role in holistic wellness, and most specifically, brain health. Cholesterol is so vital, in fact, that our bodies actually create our own reserves of it to ensure it’s there when we need it to function and perform.
Cholesterol Produces Vital Hormones
Most people associate cholesterol concentrations with a cardiovascular function and are surprised to learn that it’s actually the brain that has the highest stores of cholesterol in the body. On average, our brains make up only 2-3% of our total body mass, yet this small organ stores up to 25% of total cholesterol found in our bodies. Cholesterol in the brain delivers vital raw material needed to create a multitude of crucial hormones including testosterone, cortisol, and estrogen. This rich organic compound can even promote the production of Vitamin D in our bodies.
Brain Health: Four Main Functions Of Cholesterol
Additionally, cholesterol in our bodies serves four main protective brain functions, including:
Our brains are comprised mostly of fat (60% total), which makes them highly susceptible to damage from free radical chemicals. Cholesterol’s antioxidant properties can help disable these free radicals before they can harm cognitive function.
By helping to develop cell membranes, this fatty substance can form a barrier that defines cell structure and prevents harmful elements from penetrating the cell.
The largest cholesterol concentrations of this compound in the brain are found in the myelin sheath. The myelin sheath wraps around nerve cells, creating an insulating and protective layer.
Cholesterol-rich membranes are responsible for promoting the firing of neurotransmitters between the body’s nerve cell synapses.
Lack Of Cholesterol Can Have A Negative Impact On Brain Health
Given its impressive multitasking capabilities, it’s not surprising that inadequate cholesterol concentrations can have a detrimental impact on cognitive wellness. Deficient reserves of this compound have been directly linked to a multitude of cognitive and neurological conditions including depression, autism, and Parkinson’s. There have even been several studies that indicate that the presence of good cholesterol can delay or prevent dementia, particularly in women, encouraging the medical community to continue studying the many brain-health superpowers of this organic compound.