cholesterol function and liver health

Cholesterol – produced by the liver, Cholesterol provides the chemical base for the manufacture (elsewhere in the body) of steroid hormones, namely:

  • Mineralcortericoids – such as Aldosterone
  • Glucocorticoids – such as Cortisol
  • DHEA

Nutritional support through various pathways in the body is thus needed to ensure adequate supply of cholesterol and support of liver detoxification to support breakdown of adrenal hormones

  • Prolonged effects of adrenal hormones may be caused by insufficient liver detoxification of them
  • Pregnenolone stealing for continued adrenal hormone manufacture from Cholesterol leads to lower DHEA and Progesterone manufacture

Cholesterol synthesis and transport from liver:

  • Formed from fat and protein
  • Carried from the liver on LDL (Low Density Lipids)
  • Type of fat used in manufacture and carrying of cholesterol from liver important in determining healthy functional role of cholesterol
  • Lipid peroxides or trans fatty acids will cause impaired cellular function of molecules formed due to “smearing” effect of these fats as they form phospholipid cell membrane layer
  • Nutritional support:

i. Eliminate intake of lipid peroxides and trans fatty acids.

ii. Manganese needed for cholesterol synthesis

iii. Amino acid nutritional support from Leucine sourced from high protein foods; red meat, poultry, dairy, wheat germ, oats, grains and their germs, fish

Liver function and support:

Fat in liver will impair liver function, detoxification and production of healthy cholesterol

Nutritional and lifestyle support for fat metabolism, preventing fat accumulation and exporting fat from liver:

  • Eliminate excessive alcohol intake and dietary intake of fat and sugar
  • Take regular exercise
  • Choline needed to export fat from liver (without it, fat becomes trapped in liver, blocking metabolism): Best sources egg yolk, beef, orange and cauliflower; can be manufactured in body (from methionine and serine)
  • Betaine helps liver process fat and prevent chemical damage, as well assisting in metabolism of homocysteine to methionine: best sources are beets, fish, legumes

Toxic load in the liver will impair cholesterol production as well as breakdown of hormones. Insufficient breakdown of adrenal hormones leads to prolonged effects and stressor responses – which further increases pressure on liver detoxification pathways (e.g. Sulfation and Glutathione pathways). Support for liver detoxification includes:

Eliminate / reduce: sources of endogenous and exogenous toxins that increase toxic load and production of Oxygen Free Radicals (ROS)

  • Food additives and colorings
  • Solvents such as cleaning products
  • Pesticides, herbicides and naturally occurring toxins in foods and herbs
  • Air pollution and smoke (e.g. tobacco)
  • Drugs (illegal, over-the-counter, prescription)
  • Alcohol

Anti-oxidant support for ROS neutralization in detoxification reactions

  • Carotenes: in red and yellow fruits, green leafy vegetables, grains and seeds
  • Flavonoids: in darker fruits, vegetables
  • Lignans: in flaxseed, whole grains, nuts, seeds
  • Polyphenols: in green tea, chocolate, red wine
  • Vitamins C and E

Botanical – Silymarin / Milk Thistle seed:

  • Enhances detoxification reactions and acts as an anti-oxidant to protect the liver from toxic chemicals and free-radicals

Glutathione conjugation, immune support and anti-oxidant activity:

  • Asparagus, avocados, walnuts, Brassica family plants (e.g. cabbage, broccoli and Brussel sprouts), and fresh fruits, fish and meat
  • Made from amino acids methionine and cysteine
  • Limonene found in citrus fruits, dill and caraway seed boost the body’s production of Glutathione

Methylation: Used for estrogen and other steroid hormone breakdown using S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) primarily

  • SAMe made from amino acid methionine, and needs: Choline, vit B12, Folic acid.

Sulfation: primary path for stress hormones breakdown so the more stress experienced, the harder this system has to work

  • Increased sulfation inhibits glutathione pathway
  • Symptoms of overload to sulfation system are nervous system problems such as pins and needles in hands and feet
  • Needs: amino acids methionine and cysteine. Inhibited by excess molybdenum or Vit B6. Nutritional support: sulfur containing foods such as egg yolks, red peppers, garlic, onions, broccoli, Brussel sprouts

Nutrient support can help convert Homocysteine to: Glutathione and Methionine


  • Using vitamin B6 in transulfuration pathway

Methionine, methyl donor in liver methylation reactions

  • Using Betaine (from beets, fish and legumes) in methionine cycle
  • Using vitamin B12 (especially methyl cobalmine form) in methionine cycle with required use of folic acid (nb not folate) in the folate cycle (folate cycle requires amino acid Glycine)
  • Methylation reactions needed to break down steroid hormones

Adapted from:

Bland, J., Costarella, L., Levin, B., Liska, D., Lukaczer, D., Schlitz, B., Schmidt, M., Lerman, R., Quinn, S., Jones, D. (2004). Clinical Nutrition: A Functional Approach, Second Edition. Gig Harbor, WA: The Institute for Functional Medicine.

Murray, M. (2001). Total body tune-up. New York, N.Y.: Bantam Press

Murray, M. (2005).Encyclopedia of Healing Food. New York, N.Y.: Atria Books


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