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Cholesterol facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Chemical name 10,13-dimethyl-17-
Chemical formula C27H46O
Molecular mass 386.65 g/mol
CAS number [57-88-5]
Melting point 146-147 °C
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Cholesterol is a sterol (a combination steroid and alcohol), a lipid found in the cell membranes of all body tissues, and is transported in the blood plasma of all animals. Trace amounts of cholesterol are also found in plant membranes.

The name originates from the Greek chole- (bile) and stereos (solid), and the chemical suffix -ol for an alcohol, as researchers first identified cholesterol in solid form in gallstones in 1784.

Most of the cholesterol is synthesized by the body and some has dietary origin. Although formerly believed, the cholesterol level in blood is not raised by increasing the amount of cholesterol in the diet. Cholesterol is more abundant in tissues which either synthesize more or have more abundant densely-packed membranes.

Cholesterol is insoluble in blood, but is transported in the circulatory system bound to one of the varieties of lipoprotein, spherical particles which have an exterior composed mainly of water-soluble proteins.

In recent years, the somewhat imprecise term "bad cholesterol" has been used to refer to LDL (low-density lipoprotein) which, according to the lipid hypothesis, is thought to have harmful actions, and "good cholesterol" to refer to HDL (high-density lipoprotein), thought to have beneficial actions.

Food sources

Cholesterol is found in animal fats: all food containing animal fats contains cholesterol; food not containing animal fats contains no cholesterol or negligible amounts. Major dietary sources of cholesterol include eggs, beef and poultry.

Plants have trace amounts of cholesterol, so even a vegan diet, which includes no animal foods, has traces of cholesterol. However, the amounts are very small. For example, the amount of cholesterol in one egg is approximately equal to the amount in 9.6 litres (19.57 pounds) of pure peanut oil.

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