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Amino acids and cholesterol – are they linked to each other?

Are you also worried about your cholesterol levels? You are not alone in this. Many people, especially the elderly, have high cholesterol levels certified by their doctor and are prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Synthetic cholesterol-lowering substances – so-called statins – have recently made the headlines. Many people are therefore looking for natural alternatives to these drugs, which are rich in side effects.

Support may come from the field of proteins. Various studies have focused on the amino acid Arginine in particular.

We have compiled everything you need to know about Arginine and cholesterol levels.

Everything you should know about cholesterol

The fat-like natural substance cholesterol fulfils many important tasks in our organism. Among other things, it is involved in building cell membranes and fires many metabolic processes in the brain.

Cholesterol is also a starting material for the production of bile acids which are used for fat digestion.

Cholesterol is involved in the production of vitamin D and various hormones such as

  • estrogen,
  • testosterone
  • and cortisol.

Just by looking at this list, you probably understand that cholesterol is essential for us. That is why the human organism is able to produce about 90% of the substance itself.

Of all the cholesterol contained in the body, we produce the largest part, about two thirds, ourselves. Most of the cholesterol is produced in the liver. Only about 45% of the total cholesterol is taken up with food.

A cholesterol-conscious diet can therefore only have a limited influence on the cholesterol level.

How do elevated cholesterol levels actually occur and what do we mean by that?

Good and bad representatives of the fat-like substance

The water-insoluble cholesterol cannot easily be transported in the blood. It must form compounds with water-soluble proteins. This results in so-called lipoproteins – compounds of fat and protein.

The compounds have different names depending on which part of this combination predominates – the lipid (fat) part or the protein part.

The following are well known:

  • LDL cholesterol (LDL stands for “low density”)
  • HDL Cholesterol (HDL means “high-density”)

Cholesterinwerte untersuchen

Besides, there is a VLDL, which is a precursor of the LDL.

While LDL has a higher lipid content, HDL has a higher protein content. Roughly speaking, LDL is called “bad” cholesterol because of its high-fat content, while HDL is called “good“.

The starting point of this evaluation is the assessment that the lipid content is decisive for the density of the substance and thus determines the possible harmfulness of the compound.

LDL has an average fat content of about 75%, whereas HDL has only 50% fat.

The higher the fat content in the compound, the easier it is for hardened crystals and deposits to form on the vessel walls. You can think of them as plugs that stick to walls and eventually clog your vessels. The result is the so-called arteriosclerosis.

Often elevated cholesterol levels are equated with elevated blood fat levels.

This equation of cholesterol with blood fat in general is only partially correct. Blood fat values are not only determined by cholesterol but also by the so-called Triglycerides. These are fat-like substances that can contribute to arteriosclerosis.

Partially congenital metabolic disorders can cause a predisposition for fat deposits on the vessel walls via Triglycerides.

Natural alternatives to statins and other drugs for lowering blood lipids ideally have a positive effect on total blood lipids.

Normal and elevated values – what risks can arise?

Elevated cholesterol levels generally indicate high total cholesterol and elevated levels of LDL. So when we talk about cholesterol levels, we are also talking about the relationship between the different levels of the different types of cholesterol.

Higher cholesterol levels are not automatically an indication of the poor condition in the blood vessels and thus an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.

Risiko bei erhöhen Cholesterinwerten

Today, it is assumed that there is a so-called individual cardiovascular risk in every person.

The risk is made up of various factors such as

  • overweight
  • congenital lipometabolic disorders
  • metabolic diseases like diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • status quo of vascular health (deposits already present or not)

These individual correlations have led many doctors to look at the topic of cholesterol with slightly different eyes.

The more individual risk factors come together in a person, the more important it can be to effectively lower cholesterol levels. Anyone who has some of the factors mentioned above may be prone to increased arteriosclerosis even with moderately increased cholesterol levels.

On the other hand, other people even with higher cholesterol levels and no other risk factors may not be at greater risk than people with normal levels.

An increased cholesterol level and arteriosclerosis

It is no longer just a matter of reducing cholesterol to a standard value for every person without further evidence.

The fact that statins (which are often prescribed as standard) can have severe side effects has also contributed to this new approach. Consequences such as heart attacks and strokes could even be associated with them.

However, research in this area is not yet complete.

In the end, the actual risk of stroke and myocardial infarction is arteriosclerosis itself. This depends not only on cholesterol levels but also on other individual conditions in each person and other substances circulating in the blood.

However, if you have an increased tendency to arteriosclerosis, a reduction in your cholesterol levels could be necessary and sensible.

For those who have an increased individual cardiovascular risk, lowering LDL values to below 70 mg/dl has proven to be the standard.

In the ratio of LDL to HDL, it should also be noted that HDL particles are able to dissolve already existing deposits in the vessel walls and transport them back to the liver. There, these particles are processed into other substances in various conversion processes.

As a result, HDL reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases and can have a positive effect on increased LDL levels. LDL levels should therefore not fall below 40 mg/dl.

Amino acids: small building blocks with great effect and many functions

Whether or not you are taking medicinal statins, you may want a complementary natural way to lower your elevated cholesterol levels in the future.

Struktur Aminosäure

Scientists regularly deal with the possible effects of amino acids in this context. Amino acids or aminos are the small building blocks from which the human body’s own proteins are formed.

This applies at least to about 20 of these substances which are called proteinogenic.

Eight of them are essential amino acids. This means that they must be supplied to the body through food because they cannot be produced by us.

Remember these essential representatives of amino acids:

  • Leucine
  • Valine
  • Isoleucine
  • Lysine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Methionine
  • Tryptophan

Aminos are not only the basis for proteins but also fulfil other functions in the human body.

Besides the essential and non-essential amino acids, there is an intermediate group, the semi-essential amino acids. They are essential in certain phases of life, but not in others.

In the group of semi-essential amino acids, there is also the amino acid Arginine.

What Arginine can do for you at elevated LDL levels

The amino acid Arginine is probably known to many hypertension patients because it can naturally reduce elevated blood pressure levels to a certain extent by lowering vascular tension.

This amino acid has also proven itself in the fight against elevated LDL values.

For example, a study showed that the LDL value could be reduced by about 10 % with a targeted supply of Arginine. The HDL value remained stable.

Another study, in which Arginine-rich almonds were consumed, could show that LDL could be reduced by 7 %.

Studien zu Aminosäuren & Cholesterin

Arginine – what else can it do?

Since Arginine can also have a lowering effect on high blood pressure, as described above, this amino acid is associated with positive effects in the so-called “metabolic syndrome“.

With the metabolic syndrome

  • obesity,
  • elevated blood pressure, blood lipid levels
  • and a high sugar level

come together.

Although scientific research into the amino acid in this broad field is not yet complete. However, isolated studies already show that Arginine could have a positive effect on at least two areas of the metabolic syndrome, namely elevated blood fat and blood pressure values.

Arginine and its dosage

There are no sufficiently substantiated scientific recommendations for the dosage of Arginine as a dietary supplement. Many products contain between 500-700 mg Arginine, and the values should be based on Arginine hydrochloride.

It is important to note for the use of Arginine that it competes with the amino acid Lysine when it comes to binding to certain receptor sites in the human organism.

While Lysine can help prevent the outbreak of various forms of herpes infections, Arginine can promote the outbreak of cold sores on the lips or shingles.

Taurine and Carnitine as cholesterol-lowering agents on a natural basis

Other natural helpers for lowering elevated LDL levels are

  • the amino acid Taurine and
  • the vitamin-like substance Carnitine.

The amino acid Taurine is found in particularly high concentration in the heart muscle. There it has a much higher content than other proteins. Potassium and calcium, among other things, are responsible for the heart rhythm and take on a control function.

They cause the tension and relaxation of the heart muscle.

Taurine regulates the supply of both minerals to the heart muscle. It is assumed that Taurine can, therefore, help to prevent cardiac arrhythmia and reduce high cholesterol levels.

This effect is due to the fact that Taurine is said to stimulate the flow of bile and thus be able to control fat metabolism as well.

Carnitine can interact with the amino acids Taurine and arginine.

It has another interesting effect that supports the effects of the other two amino acids.

The intensive solidification and crystallization of cholesterol – which is deposited on the walls of the blood vessels as described above and forms gallstones – should be partially prevented by Carnitine.

Blood fats are normally greasy and liquid when they circulate in the blood. Under certain circumstances, cholesterol crystallizes hard, with the individual cholesterol particles increasing their volume by up to 45%.

This increases the possibility that the crystals combine with other substances and that “plaque” forms on the walls of the blood vessels.

If Carnitine could influence the hardening, the danger of vascular calcification would decrease.

Cholesterinspiegel senken

Can you use amino acids to lower the elevated level of blood lipids?

Our liver plays a key role in the entire fat metabolism. The liver is also the main detoxification organ for the human organism. The formation of bile acids takes place in its environment.

The bile acids are indispensable for fat digestion and other metabolic functions.

This especially applies to carbohydrate metabolism. If the carbohydrate metabolism is not working effectively enough, more sugar is stored in the liver. This is especially true in the case of excessive intake of  “bad” carbohydrates.

Bad carbohydrates are those that lead to an intensive increase in insulin secretion and thus to a sharp rise in blood sugar levels. Sugar is converted into fat. Overweight develops.

According to recent findings, the entire development can lead to the development of a “fatty liver“, such as excessive alcohol consumption.

In fatty liver, the liver tissue hardens and changes. The liver becomes larger. The fatty liver goes through various stages. In the end, the organ can be irreversibly damaged.

The health of the liver is particularly important in connection with amino acids for other reasons.

Various conversion processes between amino acids take place in the liver. The substance Homocysteine deserves special attention. If it is present in excess, it should also be able to cause deposits in the blood vessels and increased vascular calcification.

A healthy liver, together with other Micronutrients such as vitamins B12 and B6, ensures that Homocysteine is converted into amino acids that are beneficial to our organism.

Cholesterol crystallises out more if we do not produce enough bile acid. It also has a function itself in the production of bile acid.

The phenomenon of non-alcohol-induced fatty liver has not yet been conclusively researched scientifically and the connection between fatty liver and cholesterol levels has not yet been clearly proven by studies.

Further research work is needed here.

Cholesterol and amino acids – our conclusion

Especially when ageing, we can benefit from amino acids in cholesterol levels and fat metabolism.

Nowadays, we usually have to deal with an increased cholesterol level in advanced age. Frequently, elevated cholesterol levels do not occur in isolation, but for example as part of the metabolic syndrome.

This leads to an increase of

  • blood pressure,
  • blood sugar and blood fat values,
  • to overweight.

The metabolism of the liver plays a central role in cholesterol metabolism and also in the entire fat metabolism. Here, various conversion processes take place which render harmful LDL harmless and can also switch off the dangerous Homocysteine.

In order for the liver to be able to fulfil its numerous tasks, it must be strengthened and, in particular, the development of fatty liver must be prevented.

Here, the supply of various amino acids could play a major role in the future. Especially to interrupt the oversupply of bad carbohydrates and to strengthen the entire metabolism of the body in a natural way.

The cholesterol level is only one factor that deserves attention here.

Studies have already confirmed that an amino acid such as Arginine could successfully lower cholesterol levels. Taurine could also prove its potential in scientific studies.

That is why we recommend that you pay attention to the intake of high-quality amino acids.

High-quality food supplements with valuable amino acids can possibly also have a positive effect on already existing fat metabolism disorders and calcifications.

Maik Thies (Fitnessfachwirt IHK)

Unser Ernährungsexperte Maik Thies arbeitet seit 2011 erfolgreich als Personalcoach und Manager für Fitness- & Freizeitanlagen im Gesundheitsmarkt.

Als Fitnessfachwirt und Weltmeister im Bodybuilding gibt er sein Wissen an Menschen weiter, die körperliche und mentale Grenzen neu definieren möchten und Wert auf gesunde und ausgewogene Ernährung legen. Zu seinen Kunden zählen u.a. Skeleton Atlethen Janine Becker und Alexander Gassner, Bobpilotin Stephanie Schneider, Rallye Motorsportler Sepp Wiegand etc.

Er unterstützt amino4u dabei, die Prozesse des Körpers für Sie einfach und verständlich zu erklären und Ihnen dadurch die Möglichkeit zu geben, wieder mehr Gesundheit und Lebensfreude zu erlangen.

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