The key difference between cholesterol and triglycerides is that cholesterol is essential to build cells and certain hormones while triglycerides store unused calories and provide us with energy.
Triglycerides and cholesterol are two types of lipids (fats) that are important for our life. However, in excess, they may cause health problems. Triglyceride is an ester formed by glycerol and three fatty acids. Cholesterol is different in structure, and it may be synthesized in the liver or taken from dietary cholesterol. Cholesterol is important to produce steroid hormones and cortisol. They are important hormones for human life and function. Cholesterol is also essential in order to maintain cell membrane fluidity.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Cholesterol
3. What are Triglycerides
4. Similarities Between Cholesterol and Triglycerides
5. Side by Side Comparison – Cholesterol vs Triglycerides in Tabular Form
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a type of lipid molecule containing four fused hydrocarbon rings. It is a steroid that produces several important steroid hormones in our body. There are two main types of cholesterols as good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. Good cholesterols are high-density lipoproteins that help to remove other forms of cholesterols from arteries. Bad cholesterols are mainly low-density lipoproteins, and they build up within the walls of blood vessels and cause cardiovascular diseases.
It is important to maintain the cholesterol level in the blood at an optimum level (less than 200mg/dl). Cholesterol deposition in blood vessels (mainly coronary arteries supplying the heart) will cause angina and heart attack. If it blocks the vessel in the brain, it may result in a stroke. The treatment for high cholesterol is both diet control and statins. However, statins may damage the liver. Therefore, diet control is the best option for controlling bad cholesterols. Avoiding oily fast foods, regular exercise and statins will help to prevent heart attacks and help to live a prolonged good quality life.
What are Triglycerides?
Triglycerides are another type of fat that provides energy. As its name suggests, triglyceride molecule constitutes of one glycerol molecule and three fatty acid molecules. There are different types of triglycerides, such as saturated and unsaturated, etc. They differ from the length of their fatty acid chains and the saturation level of those chains. Typically, triglyceride synthesis occurs in the pancreas while the storage occurs in the fat cells (adipose tissue).
Generally, sugar or glucose is the main energy source in our body, but when there is a low level of sugar in our blood, lipids molecules, and mainly triglycerides start to burn and provide energy. Compared to one glucose molecule, a fat molecule provides six times energy. Though it provides more energy, having a high level of triglycerides in our blood can increase the risk of heart diseases. Thus, high levels of triglycerides in the bloodstream can cause atherosclerosis, heart disease and stroke.
What are the Similarities Between Cholesterol and Triglycerides?
- Triglycerides and cholesterol are two types of lipids that circulate in our blood.
- High levels of either can cause heart and circulatory problems.
- Regular exercise will help to reduce the levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides.
What is the Difference Between Cholesterol and Triglycerides?
Cholesterol is a lipid and a steroid having four fused hydrocarbon rings. In contrast, triglycerides are a type of lipid having a glycerol molecule and three fatty acid chains. This is the key difference between cholesterol and triglycerides. Moreover, there are two main types of cholesterol: good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. On the other hand, there are different types of triglycerides, including saturated and unsaturated triglycerides. High level of triglycerides in the bloodstream is linked to atherosclerosis, heart disease and stroke. However, a high level of good cholesterol is associated with a healthy life while a high level of bad cholesterol is associated with cardiovascular diseases. This is another important difference between cholesterol and triglycerides.
Another difference between cholesterol and triglycerides is the function they provide. Triglycerides provide us with energy while cholesterol is important to produce steroid hormones and cortisol. They are also important to maintain membrane fluidity. Furthermore, the body produces as much cholesterol as it needs on its own. But the body relies on food consumption to create triglycerides. This is also a difference between cholesterol and triglycerides.
Summary – Cholesterol vs Triglycerides
Triglycerides and cholesterols are lipids absorbed from the diet and synthesized by the liver. Triglycerides are the building blocks of the body fats. When there is a low level of blood glucose, triglycerides work as an energy source and produce energy. On the other hand, cholesterol is important to produce hormones and maintain the cell membrane. Excess amount of cholesterol gets deposited in the arteries and reduce the blood flow, increasing the risk of heart attacks. Similarly, high levels of triglycerides can cause atherosclerosis, heart disease and stroke. Thus, regular exercise will help to reduce the levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides from your body. This is the summary of the difference between cholesterol and triglycerides.
1. “Structural Biochemistry/Lipids/Cholesterol.” Structural Biochemistry/Lipids/Cholesterol – Wikibooks, Open Books for an Open World, Available here.
2. “Triacylglycerol: Structure & Function.” Study.com, Available here.
1. “Fat triglyceride shorthand formula” By Wolfgang Schaefer – author (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Cholesterol (chemical structure)” By Wesalius – Own work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia