Lipids are a group of organic molecules. These lipids are mainly present in our blood in the form of cholesterol, triglycerides and fatty acids. These lipids are transported in blood in association with proteins and these are called lipoproteins. The lipoproteins are classified into high density lipoproteins (good cholesterol) and low density lipoproteins (bad cholesterol)
Functions of lipids
- Lipids store energy in the form of adipose tissue(fat), which is utilised during fasting, exercise and starvation.
- They play a part in the bodies temperature maintenance and helps maintain a constant internal body temperature
- They also help in the production and regulation of hormones and also have anti inflammatory as well as immunoregulatory functions
- Lipids play a role in maintaining the structure of tissues, transmission of nerve impulses, storing memory, and insulating and therefore protecting important organs in our body.
- The absorption of vitamins and other micronutrients that are fat soluble is also facilitated by lipids
Lipids and related diseases
The common saying by Theodore Levitt ‘Anything in excess is a poison’ holds true in case of lipids as well. Increase in low density lipoproteins (LDL), triglycerides or both as well as a decrease in high density lipoproteins (HDL), which helps the body to transport out bad cholesterol, causes disorders affecting lipid metabolism. These disorders include hypercholesterolemia and hypertriglyceridemia which can be familial (primary) or acquired (secondary). The acquired causes include dietary, lifestyle factors and few medical conditions like diabetes, hyperthyroidism, kidney and liver diseases. High circulating lipids can also cause non alcoholic fatty liver disease which can progress to hepatitis and occasionally cirrhosis (liver failure). Atherosclerosis and embolism (vessel blocks) can result in heart attacks, strokes and heart valve problems. Obesity (excess accumulation of body fat) can lead to diabetes, heart diseases and can also cause early development of osteoarthritis.
Symptoms of lipid disorders
Generally these symptoms are observed in patients with very high lipid profiles. They include yellow colored fatty tags and creases around joints and tendons (xanthomas) and inner corners of the eyes (xanthelasma), and white circle formation, in the eyes, around the cornea (arcus senilis).
Moderate amounts of fat intake is required for normal functioning of our body. Whereas if consumed in excess it can lead to increase in mortality (death) and morbidity (suffering). Therefore moderation is key and this can be achieved through diet and lifestyle modifications. Routine screening of lipid profiles (lipid profile test) will help us identify variations in lipid profile early on and reverse it.