Cholesterol is a lipid molecule produced naturally in cell membranes of all living organisms. It maintains the structural integrity and fluidity of the cell membrane and serves as a precursor for biosynthesis of steroid hormones, vitamins, and acids such as bile acid in the body. These benefits have increased the adoption of cholesterol in different industries. Commercially produced cholesterol is a white odorless powder extracted from different sources such as lanolin or animal brain. Wool-bearing animals such as sheep secrete lanolin in their sebaceous glands. These glands secrete wool wax to lubricate the skin. The volume of lanolin varies from one breed of sheep to another. Brains of animals such as pigs, squirrels, horses, cattle, monkeys, chicken, fish, lamb, and goats are rich in cholesterol.
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Cholesterol is used in different applications such as animal feed, pharmaceutical, and cosmetics. It is an essential ingredient in the diet of shrimp as it improves their immune system and growth. Cholesterol increases the weight of shrimp by improving food conversion ratio, thereby helping them to build tissue for their molting process. It helps to produce molting hormones, steroid hormones, bile acids, and vitamin D in shrimp. It is added to the shrimp feed before extrusion along with other fatty compounds. Its inclusion volume differs in the larval feed and fully-grown shrimp feed.
Cholesterol is used for its fluidity properties in the pharmaceutical industry. There are some drugs which have exhibit side effects on the body other than the target area. These drugs need to be encapsulated in lipids to prevent side effects. The drugs in this case are encapsulated in lipids so that the drug is transported to the target area where it is released from the lipids. Cholesterol stabilizes lipids which contain phospholipids. Most of the approved nanoparticle chemotherapy formulations for treating cancers contain phospholipid and cholesterol for stabilization. Therefore, cholesterol is used, as a component of liposome, as a carrier in medicines and diagnostic substances in the pharmaceutical sector.
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Excellent moisturizing, emulsification, and emollient properties of cholesterol make it an ideal ingredient in skincare products. Cholesterol in skincare products protects the skin against dehydration and regulates transport of transdermal molecules. It forms a natural barrier helping to keep the skin plump and hydrated. Cholesterol forms liquid crystals during formulation, which gives the skin a shiny texture when the product containing cholesterol is applied. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel has approved the use of cholesterol in cosmetics. The EU Cosmetics Directive also permits the use of cholesterol in cosmetic formulations coupled with the fact that it should also adhere to animal by-products regulations.
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