Monday, 27 April 2009

Lymph, cholesterol and heart disease: How they could be related

I just came across a little nugget that might be useful in the long term. It's that a form of cholesterol produced by digesting fat called 'chylomicrons' are transported to the blood stream via the lymphatic system.

This could be important for several reasons, mainly that it shows a link between cholesterol and the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system has a large role in our immune response and so it could be possible that the build up of fatty deposits that are linked to high levels of cholesterol could in some way be related to disease and illness. 

It's a tenuous link at this point as I can't see any direct reason these could be related. One possiblity is that eating high fat foods could lead to high levels of chylomicrons in the lymphatic system. Creating a blockage like a traffic jam. This in itself could then obviously lead to build up of fatty plaques in the blood stream but I've heard evidence that high fat intakes are not directly related to high cholesterol levels and plaque build up. 

I could envisage that any extra traffic through the lymph system would make it harder for the immune system to do its job. There would be more items floating around to monitor and protect and dangerous items that cause disease could use these extra items to hide behind or within. So the chylomicrons could be vessels which transport viruses and bacteria around the body. This would atleast explain why cholesterol is linked to the damage caused. It would also explain why the body hasn't simply repaired the damage that the fatty plaques are attached to. 

It could be that viruses or bacteria are attacking the area and causing the damage in the first place. They could be using the fat and cholesterol to transport them to sites where they can attack the circulatory system whilst also using them for fuel and maybe even to 'hide' behind. If so then it's only natural the two would be found at the same spot. If this is the case it would also explain why the immune system hasn't repaired the initial damage in the first place. It does seem unlikely that our bodies would allow such damage to go unrepaired on a regular basis. Otherwise it doesn't seem possible that we could survive as long as we do or put our bodies through the rigours that we do. 

Getting back to lymph. All this extra traffic could actually cause blockages in lymph organs and nodes and prevent the immune system protecting entire parts of the body. This would certainly leave us prone to infections in those parts and could explain why cancers and other illnesses gain a hold there. All because in essence we're producing too many chylomicrons or other items that block up the lymph system. 

I say 'other' items because I read about the chylomicrons and their link to the lymph system but plenty of other susbtances could be transported through it and have a similar impact. All a virus or bacteria needs is a way to hide itself, transport and feed itself. it's not just chylomicrons with their rich fat reserves that would provide this.

So I feel the increasing understanding of the lymph system could yield some interesting and important discoveries in time to come. 

It would also explain why the body hasn't simply repaired the damage that the fatty plaques are attached to.

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