Cholesterol is an important constituent of the cell membrane required in small amounts to build the structure of the cell. In the human body, it plays a vital role in the maintenance of body temperature, serves as a precursor of bile acids and steroid hormones, and is required by your body to produce vitamin D.
Cholesterol also functions as an emulsifying agent in the intestine as it aids in the digestion of dietary triglycerides as well as facilitating the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins in the intestine.
There are several beneficial uses of cholesterol; however, only a small amount is needed by your body to perform these functions. A high level of cholesterol in the body could result in severe health issues, thereby forfeiting the main objective of its presence in the body.
Hence, the regulation of cholesterol in the body is greatly encouraged. As to this effect, lemons have proven to be highly beneficial in the management of cholesterol levels. Research carried out by the National Institute of Health revealed that the administration of a tablespoon of lemon juice daily to patients with high cholesterol resulted in a reasonable reduction. In this article, we'll be seeing the various impacts of lemon in the human body.
Before assessing the health risks associated with the presence of high cholesterol (hyperlipidemia), you must understand the types of cholesterol and how they can affect your health. Are all cholesterols healthy? We'll define this as we look at the types of cholesterols.
Types of cholesterol
Cholesterol is of two divisions:
- Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL–C)
- High-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL–C)
Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL–C)
LDL cholesterol is known for its fat-transporting duties. According to the American Heart Association, LDL cholesterol is considered a bad cholesterol because it contributes to fatty build-up (plaque) in arteries. The accumulation of cholesterol in the artery tends to result in arteriosclerosis. This is the hardening of the arteries due to high cholesterol buildup. Arteriosclerosis increases your risk of cardiovascular diseases (e.g. heart attack and stroke). Hence, having a high LDL–C in your body is rather an issue of concern.
High-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL–C)
HDL cholesterol is known for its ability to absorb the bad cholesterol present in the blood, arteries, and other parts of your body. These cholesterols are carried to your liver for disposal. Unlike LDL cholesterol, which exposes you to cardiovascular diseases, a healthy level of HDL cholesterol lowers your risk of cardiovascular diseases since it reduces the cholesterol buildup in the body. Thus, HDL cholesterol is called the "good cholesterol" by the American Heart Association.
Lemon: nutritional profile
Lemons contain Vitamin C, potassium, and various flavonoids which have antioxidant properties. They possess a variety of health benefits – this includes their juice and peels. According to Pubmed, studies highlight lemon as an important health-promoting fruit rich in phenolic compounds as well as vitamins, minerals, dietary fibres, essential oils, and carotenoids. Here are some of the major health importance of lemons following their nutrient content;
The Citrus flavonoids in lemon provide anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-bacterial, anti-ageing, and cardiovascular protection.
Lemon is effective in lipid metabolism
Lemon peels contain pectin, which promotes weight loss. They also contain a higher concentration of certain beneficial compounds than the juice. These include essential oils and bioflavonoids.
The high vitamin C content in lemons helps to support your immune system.
Lemon contains hesperidin, two plant compounds that reduce cholesterol.
Potential mechanism of action
It's important to see how the major ingredients contained in lemon, Vitamin C, flavonoids, and dietary fibre exercise their health effect on cholesterol. In a few lines, you'll see how this works.
Vitamin C Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant. According to research done by Pubmed on the antioxidant effect of vitamin C on low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL–C) using Myeloperoxidase, vitamin C inhibits LDL oxidation. The same research suggested that the oxidative modification of LDL–C is an early step in the resolving of arteriosclerosis. In clear terms, Vitamin C prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, and the effect of this is the reduction in the risk of heart disease.
Flavonoid. Flavonoids have been proven to lower the level of LDL cholesterol by improving the amount of your body's HDL cholesterol. The effect of this is that as your HDL increases, there is a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Scientific studies estimated that for every 1 mg/dL (0.0259 mmol/L) increase in HDL cholesterol, there is a 2–3% reduction in CVD risk. These flavonoids are found in plant-based foods such as tea, cocoa, and fruits.
Dietary Fiber. Studies show that dietary fibres are associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases. They are in the form of water-soluble and water-insoluble fibres. Lemons are found under water-soluble fibres. These fibres can't be digested by your body since your body does not contain the enzyme responsible for digesting fibres. However, water-soluble fibres can be easily fermented by the enzymes of the bacteria present in your gut. The result of this is the production of short-chain fatty acids with prebiotic functions in the large intestine. These short-chain fatty acids are absorbed from the large intestine and oxidized to provide energy. The effect of this is the reduction in the level of cholesterol in your blood.
Practical ways to incorporate lemons
There are different interesting ways to incorporate lemons into your meal plan. Depending on which you find the most suitable. These include:
Using lemon water as a daily drink: Rather than consuming high-carb drinks, which can affect your cholesterol negatively, adopting lemon drinks is a healthy replacement. You can take the saying, "When life gives you lemons, make a lemonade" literally here. Get some lemons and make a lemonade out of it.
Using lemon zest in cooking: If you've never used lemon zest in cooking, then you should try it out. The zest of lemon is simply its peel. You can peel the back of your lemon (avoid the white inner layer as it has a bitter taste) and use it in baking and preparing salads and sauces. The peels possess numerous benefits ranging from their antibacterial functions in protecting your gums and also their ability to boost your health.
Cautions and considerations
Lemon offers a lot of health benefits. However, inappropriate consumption or usage might alter the weight of its positive effect on your health. For example, consuming excessive lemon juice could result in you suffering an upset stomach. Thus, you need to be cautious in the quantity of usage. In order to reduce your chances of experiencing the negative side effects of lemon, here are a few things you should consider:
Potential interactions with medications
Certain medications may likely interact negatively with lemon. This can cause a reduction in the effectiveness of these drugs. It's advised you ask your doctor about the irritations of the drugs you're being administered.
The importance of relying solely on lemons
Most of the health benefits of lemons have been discussed in this article. Lemons have a lot to offer to your body. However, this doesn't take the place of eating a balanced meal. The health benefits of lemons don't replace other food nutrients in the body.
The misconception that lemons can "cure" high cholesterol
From all of the studies we've seen, lemons can reduce the amount of your body's cholesterol to a great extent. But then, no one source has been considered as a complete cure for high cholesterol levels. Lemons aren't a total cure for high cholesterol. However, if you combine this with a healthy lifestyle pattern and dieting, it's expected you'd achieve a healthy cholesterol balance. It's advisable to consult with your doctor or dietician to get a proper meal plan.
Frequently asked questions about lemons and their cholesterol effect (FAQS)
Are there any risks associated with consuming excessive lemons?
Lemons are healthy and can be taken daily. However, lemons are highly acidic and excessive consumption of them can cause heartburn, nausea, vomiting, stomach upset, indigestion, and erode your tooth enamel.
Can Lemon water result in weight loss?
Lemon water can help with hydration and may slightly boost metabolism due to its vitamin C content. However, drinking lemon water alone will not lead to significant weight loss. Weight loss involves a combination of diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes.
Can I rely solely on lemons to manage my cholesterol?
No, managing cholesterol typically requires a combination of dietary changes, exercise, lifestyle adjustments, and sometimes medication. While including lemons in your diet is beneficial for overall health, it's essential to follow a comprehensive approach and consult with healthcare professionals.
As a rich source of vitamin C and antioxidants, the benefits of lemons are innumerable. Besides lowering cholesterol levels, vitamin C helps repair damaged cells, provides collagen for your skin, and supports your immune system. Although a few symptoms like heartburn, indigestion, nausea, and stomach upset may occur from excessive consumption due to its high acidity. To maintain a normal level of cholesterol, lemons have been proven to be of great help. However, it isn't ideal to rely solely on them. It's advisable you adopt a holistic approach, a good diet plan, a healthy lifestyle pattern, and exercises to help manage and maintain your cholesterol level.
N.B: Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any significant changes to your diet or health regimen.
- Zampelas, Antonis, and Emmanuella Magriplis. “New Insights into Cholesterol Functions: A Friend or an Enemy?” Nutrients, vol. 11, no. 7, July 2019, p. 1645. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11071645.
- Aslani, Negar, et al. “Effect of Garlic and Lemon Juice Mixture on Lipid Profile and Some Cardiovascular Risk Factors in People 30-60 Years Old with Moderate Hyperlipidaemia: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” International Journal of Preventive Medicine, vol. 7, July 2016, p. 95. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.4103/2008-7802.187248.
- “HDL (Good), LDL (Bad) Cholesterol and Triglycerides.” Www.Heart.Org, https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cholesterol/hdl-good-ldl-bad-cholesterol-and-triglycerides. Accessed 26 Oct. 2023
- Samsam Shariat, Seyed Ziyae Aldin, et al. “Antioxidant Effects of Vitamins C and E on the Low-Density Lipoprotein Oxidation Mediated by Myeloperoxidase.” Iranian Biomedical Journal, vol. 17, no. 1, Jan. 2013, pp. 22–28. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.6091/ibj.1092.2012.
- Millar, Courtney L., et al. “Effects of Dietary Flavonoids on Reverse Cholesterol Transport, HDL Metabolism, and HDL Function12.” Advances in Nutrition, vol. 8, no. 2, Mar. 2017, pp. 226–39. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.3945/an.116.014050.