Cholesterol is a very important part of our bodies and is needed by our bodies. According to Campbell and Reece (2002), cholesterol is a steroid that is a common component of animal cell membranes and is the starting point for the synthesis of other steroids needed by the body. As a matter of fact, many of our sex hormones are steroids produced from cholesterol (p. 71). While cholesterol is very important for bodily function, too much of it can cause problems with how out bodies function.
Sometimes, our bodies do not handle cholesterol properly. Our bodies have enzymes which help carry out chemical reactions in our bodies. According to the British American Journal (BMJ Group), one of these enzymes, known as lipoprotein lipase, is responsible for breaking down triglycerides in the bloodstream. The muscles then use these broken down triglycerides. People with high triglycerides will often have high levels of bad cholesterol (Low Density Lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol).
So how can one treat high levels of bad cholesterol? One way is to take a certain drug known as fibrates. Fibrates are mainly used to treat high triglyceride levels but are also used to lower cholesterol levels, particularly the LDL cholesterol. As the LDL levels go down, the good cholesterol (High Density Lipoprotein) will go up. The main types of fibrates include Bezalip, Modalim, Lipantil, and Lopid.
So what do the fibrates do to help the body lower the triglyceride and cholesterol levels? Essentially, the fibrates cause the lipoprotein lipase to work harder and this helps spread the triglycerides and cholesterol more evenly throughout the body and sends it to parts of the body that can use it.
While fibrates can do a lot of good for the body, they can also cause some side effects. Side effects can include muscle pain and in some cases even muscle damage (a condition known as myopathy). Chances of getting myopahty increase if a person is taking fibrates with another cholesterol lowering drug called statins. In order to prevent serious muscle damage, a doctor will check the levels of creatine kinase, a substance found in the blood when muscles break down. Fibrates may even cause kidney damage. The good news is that these side effects are not very common and affect only 5 out of 3000 people. More minor side effects include nausea, diarrhea, and weight gain.
It is important to make sure that your cholesterol levels are where they should be. If your LDL cholesterol levels are too high, you have a much higher risk of getting a serious disease, particularly atherosclerosis (development of plaques on the inner parts of arteries). This life threatening condition can lead to a severe heart attack or stroke (p. 885). Do not wait until it is too late!
BMJ Group, “Fibrates for People With Heart Disease.” Guardian.co.uk.
Campbell, N., and Reece, Jane. (2002). Biology (6th ed.). San Francisco: Benjamin Cummings.