Sterols are a special type of lipid. Unlike other types of fats, sterols have an oxygen molecule instead of a tail of fatty acids. In the human body, sterols are represented by hormones estrogen and testosterone. In the plant world there are sterols - phytosterols, in the kingdom of mushrooms - ergosterols. Even in the world of microorganisms, there are compounds called Hopanoids that share common features with sterols. And among zoosterols (represented in animal organisms), cholesterol is most known.
What are zoosterols
All sterols that exist in nature can be divided into groups:
- plant origin (phytosterols);
- animal origin (zoosterols);
- mycosterols (found in mushrooms).
Zoosterols are bioactive substances from the group of lipids, in their pure form are in the form of crystals, are contained in the bodies of animals. They belong to the group of fat-soluble, therefore, they do not react in any way to contact with water.
Organisms of animals and humans are able to independently produce this type of sterols, and about a fifth of the required norm is obtained from food. In the body, the reserves of zoosterol are concentrated in liquid substances, tissues of the nervous system, and in the liver. For humans, the most important of this group are cholesterol and coprosterol. They participate in metabolic processes, and are also responsible for the "health" of cell membranes.
Zoosterols in the human body
If you carefully analyze the body of an adult healthy person, you can determine that many organs contain some stores of sterols. Most zoosterols were concentrated in the tissues of the brain. Depending on individual characteristics, this indicator can be from 2 to 4 percent of the total body weight. A little less - about 3 percent of the substance contains nerve tissue. The smallest amount of zoosterol in the percentage ratio - approximately 0.25% - is stored in the muscles. But it’s enough to remember how many muscles are in the body of an adult, as it becomes clear: considerable reserves of sterol are hidden in the muscles.
At the cellular level, zoosterols are responsible for the elasticity and strength of the cell. But, interestingly, sterols of animal origin practically do not directly affect the body themselves, they enter into reactions, the result of which affects the body.
Cholesterol, as the most famous and common zoosterol, is found in the highest concentration in the brain and spinal cord, and gallstones are pure solidified cholesterol.
Functions of Animal Sterols
If the human body at a certain stage of evolution has learned to independently provide itself with sterols of animal origin, this speaks only about one thing: people really really need this substance. So, what functions in the body are reserved for sterols? What exactly are they useful for a person?
And the list of useful properties of zoosterols should be started, perhaps, from the cells. For the smallest structural formations, sterols are important as a participant in the metabolic processes occurring in the membranes. Also, thanks to sterols, carbohydrates, entering the cells, do not crystallize.
At the hormonal level, zoosterols help maintain the proper functioning of the reproductive system and adrenal glands. An adequate concentration of the substance will protect against mental disorders, including those caused by age-related changes. Sterols are important for maintaining the balance of vitamins from the fat-soluble group, they are necessary for the production of bile in adequate portions.
One of the most important sterols of animal origin for maintaining health is cholesterol. But when consuming foods rich in cholesterol, it is important not to exceed accepted standards. An excess of this substance is as dangerous to the body as a deficiency. Nutritionists advise not to go beyond 200 mg of cholesterol per day.
Checking cholesterol levels and introducing products containing animal sterols into the diet is important for people with impaired gallbladder, adrenal glands, and hormonal imbalance. The fragility of blood vessels, aggressiveness and hypovitaminosis D also serve as a reason to consume as much (but without exceeding the allowed norms) zoosterols.
On the contrary, strokes, heart attacks, a high risk of cardiovascular disease, liver dysfunction and a failure in metabolic processes always serve as an alarming signal. And before the cause of violations is established, it is better to minimize foods saturated with zoosterols in the diet.
What is the level in the body?
The concentration of any substance in the body with almost 100 percent accuracy can be determined exclusively by laboratory methods. But among our fellow citizens there are not many people who faithfully follow the recommendations of doctors regarding regular medical examinations and preventive testing. So what should be alerted so that the idea to check the balance of sterols in the body comes to mind?
First, consider the signs of excess zoosterols. Most likely, the level of the substance is higher than normal, if during exercise there are pains in the legs, and the weight began to increase. Various kinds of cardiological problems often arise against the background of excess sterols. The same can be said about hormonal imbalance.
And interestingly, excessive accumulation of zoosterols in the body can be triggered by external factors. For example, in people with excess weight, bad habits, malnutrition and a passive lifestyle, an excess of zoosterols is almost guaranteed.
The body will probably report a lack of substance:
- bleeding tendency;
- weakened health;
- enlarged lymph nodes;
- depressive states with bouts of aggression;
- loss of appetite;
- decreased sex drive.
In addition, metabolic disorders and diseases of the digestive system can also cause an imbalance of nutrients. Including the lack of sterols.
Cholesterol and coprosterol in the human body
As already noted, the most famous and most common zoosterols in the human body are cholesterol and coprosterol. The second substance is a derivative of hydrogenated cholesterol. It is known that the conversion of cholesterol in the body begins with the production of cholestenone, which is then transformed into coprostanone, and the final stage is coprosterol.
Modern science has not yet fully studied how cholesterol is synthesized in human bodies (and animals too) from simpler elements. But the fact that this process is ongoing is undoubted. Researchers conducted an experiment: for some time the animals were fed food that was artificially “purified” from cholesterol. But as a result, it turned out that this in no way affected the concentration of zoosterol in the blood of experimental subjects. It turned out that even a cholesterol-free diet is not able to lower the level of sterol in animals below 120 mg%.
And while cholesterol is always a part of bile, coprosterol in any diet is part of the feces. Interestingly, even meconium (primordial stool) also contains coprosterol, and in the body of babies there are some portions of cholesterol. Over the years, the rate of both zoosterols is growing.
If we recall that zoosterols are fat-like substances of animal origin, then making a list of foods rich in this type of sterol is not a difficult task.
Almost all meat products are a source of zoosterol. The most useful are red meat, rabbit meat, offal and dishes from them, lard. It is also important to pay attention to chicken eggs, hard cheeses, butter and cream. Seafood, red caviar, sea fish and canned food from it can serve as good sources of sterol. Not the most useful, but still good sources of sterol, are cakes with butter creams and sausages.
|Product (100 g)||Zoosterols (mg)|
How are absorbed in the body
The numbers in the table are calculated per 100 g of crude product. It is important to know that heat treatment of food affects the rate of zoosterols in food. After cooking meat or fish, about a fifth of the sterol is lost.
In the human body, zoosterols (in the form of cholesterol) are not foreign substances. The body is able to synthesize this type of sterols, therefore, there are practically no problems with their digestibility. Meanwhile, malnutrition, harmful fats in the diet can cause oversaturation of the body with zoosterols. By the way, this is the only way to achieve an excess of sterols, because the body produces the substance in adequate doses - necessary to maintain life processes, but not enough to accumulate excess.
As practice shows, the organism will digest zoosterols “from the outside” more readily if it does not experience a deficiency of ascorbic acid, vitamin B6 or folic acid. But the lack of zoosterols in the body leads to a mineral imbalance. The most common outcome is bone disease, such as osteoporosis and others. But animal sterols not only affect the concentration of calcium in the body. They are also closely interconnected with the process of synthesizing vitamin D. This is yet another proof of how important harmony is in everything. And the vitamin-mineral balance also applies.
Zoosterols in pharmacology
For therapeutic purposes, zoosterol is isolated from foods rich in matter. One of the options for "raw materials" is meat products.
But in addition to the direct production of “pharmacy” zoosterol, this substance has found other uses in pharmacology. For example, the creators of drugs and dietary supplements actively use animal sterols for the production of vitamin D, hormonal drugs (based on steroids) and some other drugs. In such cases, the sources for cholesterol are the spinal cord of cattle, bile, lanolin, and egg yolk.
Nowadays, when the diagnosis of coronary heart disease is terrifying. Many people completely throw cholesterol-containing food out of the diet, which, under certain circumstances, is one of the factors leading to the disease. However, the correct level of this lipid substance, like other zoosterols, performs essential functions. Moreover, not all cholesterol obtained from food is absorbed by the body. Scientists say that from a diet containing 400 mg of cholesterol, only half the substance is absorbed and transported to the liver. However, it is enough to understand what zoosterol is and why a person needs it in order to realize that it is impossible to delete these lipids from your life for no apparent reason.