Cholesterol has such a low reputation in modern medicine that it is
frequently overlooked what a broad spectrum of important physiologic
functions it has to fulfil. Usually, cholesterol is discussed in the
context of hypercholesterolemia as a risk factor for vascular disease,
hypocholesterolemia rarely is an issue. However, hypocholesterolemia in
various acute and chronic disease states might be associated with
several untoward side effects and actually, under certain circumstances
cholesterol might become a conditionally essential nutrient (Druml W; Wien klin Wochenschr 2003; 115:740).
Physiologic functions of cholesterol
Cholesterol plays a crucial role in membrane composition. Cholesterol and phospholipids are the principal constituents of biological membranes. Membrane composition in turn affects many membrane functions, including transport processes, receptor binding, signal transduction, enzymatic activity and protein phosphorylation. Moreover, cholesterol essentially is involved in cell division and reparation processes. Cholesterol actually has such important functions in intracellular metabolism and many cells cover cholesterol requirements by local intracellular production.
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