We know that cholesterol is essential for life. Cholesterol plays an important role in the immune system and is critically important for the structural integrity of all the 50 trillion plus cells the body is made up of.
Cholesterol is also the raw material needed for all of the sex hormones, bile acids for digestion, and vitamin D. And certain parts of the body such as the brain, the nervous system and the eyes need a lot more cholesterol than other parts of the body. For example, 25% of the body’s cholesterol is found in the brain.
Knowing this, it should not be a great surprise to find that eggs, the symbol of life itself, are high in cholesterol. The egg is the symbol often used to represent the primordial source, and was apparently frequently used by a wide range of early cultures when depicting the origins of the universe. Since cholesterol is an important life giving nutrient, we would expect it to be present in abundance during the early stages of life.
Now, the presence of cholesterol has been used to identify the oldest animal on record. Researchers from Australian national university examined an unusual oval shaped fossil that was preserved in sandstone cliffs in the White Sea region of Russia. The fossil is from an animal that roamed the earth 558 million years ago.
Scientists had previously debated the nature of the fossil. They debated if it was an animal or something else. But the presence of a significant amount of cholesterol enabled it to be unequivocally identified as an animal. The cholesterol molecules they found are in abundance in almost all of today’s animals but have low abundance is other life forms such as bacteria.
Professor Jochen Brocks said “these creatures in fact produce cholesterol, which is the hallmark of animals and tells us in fact that this creature is our earliest ancestor”
Ironic isn’t it that the last few decades have seen a global war on cholesterol..
As a reminder, here are the cholesterol poster and LDL poster I created some time ago. Feel free to print and share.