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Fluffy Protein Particles and the Role of Exercise


We all need cholesterol. It plays a large role in a lot of important body functions. It influences the way hormones are used, helps the body use vitamin D more efficiently, helps make bile acids that aid in digestion of dietary fats and even plays a role in the structure of cells.

Cholesterol circulates through the bloodstream by attaching itself to protein particles. In a recent study, researchers found that people who exercise regularly tend to have larger, fluffier protein particles, while people who don’t exercise much at all have smaller, denser protein particles. The study showed that cholesterol that’s carried in the smaller, denser particles has more of a tendency to clog arteries than cholesterol that’s carried in the larger particles.

In other words, people who exercise and people who don’t may have the same cholesterol numbers, but the active people are less likely to have their arteries clogged with cholesterol. And the exercise can be moderate. In the study, people who walked a total of just 12 miles per week (that’s less than two miles a day) had fluffier protein molecules than people who were less active.

New England Journal of Medicine, 7 November 2002
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