BTS001 – Cholesterol and lipoproteins basics

The blogpost covers the design process of an illustration used in the blogpost “Cholesterol and ‘cholesterol’“.

The design of cholesterol and lipoproteins

I have done quite a bit of research to design these images. I wanted to make a clear distinction between the cholesterol molecule and lipoprotein particles. Lipoprotein particles also needed to be distinct from one another. I looked into the biochemical differences of these molecules and particles for their design.

what is cholesterol
Overview of cholesterol and lipoproteins

Designing the cholesterol molecule

Designing the schematic depiction of a cholesterol molecule was fairly straight-forward. For biochemical molecules I like to reference their chemical structure. The structure is often interesting and distinct from other compounds. In the case of cholesterol, I used the shape of the three 6-carbon rings and the 5-carbon ring.

I pick colors based on the complexity of the story, how many elements I require for a proper explanation and how these elements are related to each other. The orange color of cholesterol is reused for other elements, but not always as dark or saturated.
I also like to link my illustrations together by reusing colors for the same biological concepts or molecules.

Designing lipoproteins

Lipoproteins are categorized based on their size, density, and composition. Composition is further subdivided into the content of the lipoprotein and their coating. I have used several of these characteristics in my depiction of lipoproteins.

  • Size should be self-explanatory. The proportions are not correct, of course, but I did try to show the relative differences in lipoprotein size.
  • The difference in density is shown by the brightness of the colors. The darker the colors, the denser the lipoprotein generally is. HDL has the highest density and darkest colors, but chylomicrons are very buoyant and therefore their colors are fainter.
  • The content of the lipoproteins is shown using a pie graph of the relative amounts of cholesterol, triglycerides (fats) and other compounds. I got this information from Boron & Boulpaep, Medical Physiology, 2nd edition (one of my study books). Using the pie graphs, the transition from VLDL > IDL > LDL becomes very clear.
  • Lipoproteins are also differentiated based on their coating. But since making that distinction did not help with the clarity of my blogposts, I decided to leave it out.

The colors of the lipoproteins are based on the pallet I have used in previous illustrations. Carbohydrates are blue-purple, proteins are blue-green, and fats are orange-yellow. It’s not always useful to stick rigidly to this format, so I change it when it is beneficial to the message.
Because fats are yellow and cholesterol is orange-red, I used a blue color for other, less-important elements of the illustrations.
The liver has a dark-red color, which is its natural color. I find that the shape of the liver by itself is not distinct enough for most people to recognize it right away.

BB009 – ‘Cholesterol’ and cardiovascular diseases

In this article I will discuss the basics of ‘cholesterol’ (lipoproteins) and cardiovascular diseases. What the relationship is between LDL cholesterol and cardiovascular disease and how diet can influence this.  This article is part 2 of a two-part series, the first part covering the role of the molecule cholesterol and lipoproteins in the body and is recommended reading before continuing with this article.

Read more

BB008 – Cholesterol and ‘cholesterol’

In this article I will discuss the basics about cholesterol and the other cholesterol. We will make the distinction between the molecule cholesterol and cholesterol in the sense that most people know it, what traits of cholesterol are most relevant for maintaining optimal health and how you affect your cholesterol. This article will be part 1 of a two-part series, the second part going into more depth about atherosclerosis and how lipoproteins play a role in cardiovascular disease.

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BB007 – Fat digestion Basics

Schematisch overzicht macronutrienten
This is part three of the miniseries about macronutrient uptake. This time, I will discuss the break-down and uptake of fats. This blogpost will be longer than the previous ones, because fat absorption is far more complex that absorption of carbs and proteins. I made more figures to compensate for this and tried to cover all the critical concepts as best I could. Like last time, this information can be found in the book ‘Medical Physiology’ by Boron & Boulpaep, 2nd edition. My goal in this post was to let the figures speak for themselves and add as little extra text as possible. I hope you will let me know if I succeeded :). The text in the blog will not always be needed to understand the figures, but is mainly some extra information for those interested in it.
Take note: It will be useful for your understanding to have read the previous post on protein and carbohydrate digestion and uptake, since I will be using the same method of depicting things like salt ions and enzymes.
BP%2B007%2B %2B015  1%2B %2BLegenda%2BEN - BB007 - Fat digestion Basics
BP%2B007%2B %2B015 00%2B %2BIntro%2Bto%2Bfats%2BEN 00%2B %2BIntro%2Bto%2Bfats%2BEN - BB007 - Fat digestion Basics
BP%2B007%2B %2B015 01%2B %2BMechanical%2BEmulsification%2BEN - BB007 - Fat digestion Basics
BP%2B007%2B %2B015 02%2B %2BTAG%2Bstabil.%2BEN - BB007 - Fat digestion Basics
BP%2B007%2B %2B015 03%2B %2BTAG%2Bdigestion%2BEN - BB007 - Fat digestion Basics
BP%2B007%2B %2B015 04%2B %2BTAG%2Bdroplet%2Bevol.%2BEN - BB007 - Fat digestion Basics
BP%2B007%2B %2B015 05%2B %2BFat%2Babsorption%2B1%2BEN - BB007 - Fat digestion Basics
BP%2B007%2B %2B015 06%2B %2BFat%2Babsorption%2B2%2BEN - BB007 - Fat digestion Basics

And that’s all I can reasonably explain about the basics of fat digestion and absorption while still keeping it basic. With that, I have covered the absorption of all 3 macronutrients (the basics of it, at least)! YESSS! The next blogpost will be: MORE BASICS, because I like to know that stuff. After all, you are probably dying to know what happens after the macros have been absorbed. That’s when the real fun starts (and things get complicated … mostly complicated, so extra fun! (for me, maybe not for you (to bad ;-p)))!

BB006 – Protein digestion Basics

 This is part two of the miniseries about macronutrient uptake. This time, I will discuss the break-down and uptake of proteins. Like last time, this information can be found in the book ‘Medical Physiology’ by Boron & Boulpaep, 2nd edition. My goal in this post was to let the figures speak for themselves and add as little extra text as possible. I hope you will let me know if I succeeded :). The text in the blog will not always be needed to understand the figures, but is mainly some extra information for those interested in it.
Take note: It will be useful for your understanding to have read the previous post on carbohydrate digestion and uptake, since I will be using the same method of depicting things like salt ions and enzymes.
I forgot to mention in my previous post that the purple-tinted text blocks contain the most important information for understanding the process of protein digestion, while the green-tinted text block are extra, containing some facts that are not essential. For those people who would like some more depth.
BP%2B006%2B %2B006 01%2B %2BProtein%2BDig.%2BStomach%2BEN - BB006 - Protein digestion Basics
Proteins can be found in almost any type of food, unless it has been highly processed. Both plants and animals make proteins. Actually, all living organisms make proteins (with the exception of viruses, but you could argue viruses aren’t actually ‘alive’).
BP%2B006%2B %2B006 02%2B %2BProtein%2BDig.%2BSI%2BEN - BB006 - Protein digestion Basics
 For more info on pepsin: read the post about stomach acid regulation. (Basics – Advanced)
Pro-enzymes can often be activated by their already-active forms. For example: propepsine can be turned on by pepsin. This will cause an amplifying reaction: more active enzymes will activate more enzymes, which will activate more enzymes etc. This is called a positive feedback loop: the result of the reaction will stimulate the reaction.
A fact about trypsin: this enzyme is often used in laboratories when culturing cells (I know this from personal experience). Cells are cultured in dishes or flask. Some cells float in the medium (culturing liquid), while others stick to the bottom. Cells that stick to a surface can easily be released by adding trypsin. Trypsin cuts the anchors on the outside of the cells, which causes the cells to release from the dish or flask. Cells don’t really like this, so it is best not to do it too often or for too long.
BP%2B006%2B %2B006 03%2B %2BPept.%2BTrans%2BEN - BB006 - Protein digestion Basics
Salt ions drive the transport of oligopeptides and amino acids. This transport mechanism is used a lot by the body, so it is very important to understand it well. Please let me know if this is still unclear, so I can provide a better explanation of the mechanism if needed.
Unlike carbohydrates, proteins don’t need to be digested entirely to be absorbed by gut epithelial cells. This is due to oligopeptide transporters. According to Boron & Boulpaep, it is more efficient and faster for cells to take up 2-4 amino acids at a time as oligopeptides than to take up the same amount of amino acids individually.
The next and last post in this miniseries will cover the break-down and uptake of fats (my energy source of choice 😉 ). Of course I safe the best (and most complex) for last!