Cholesterol, Pain Tolerance, and Transient Paresthesia

Hello there,

I’ve been getting conflicting answers on this question for awhile. Please correct anything I may be misunderstanding.

So as I understand it, cholesterol coats our nerve endings, preventing unnecessary pain from the electrical pulses being sent throughout our body at all times.

Is this cholesterol HDL, LDL, or both?

It seems that the higher one’s cholesterol, the higher one’s pain tolerance would be. Is this accurate? Also, depending on the answer to the first question, is it then possible to specifically increase the ‘insulating’ cholesterol to increase pain tolerance?

I realize this is potentially harmful, I’m just curious.

And in the case of transient paresthesia, is cholesterol at all a factor? As I understand it, the body sends more powerful and numerous electrical impulses in order to catch back up to speed, and that is why the ‘pins and needles’ effect is felt.

In this case, it seems cholesterol could have either an inverse or direct relationship with pain tolerance. For (a direct) example, as cholesterol increases, the nerve is better insulated, therefore fires ‘harder’ and the ‘pins and needles’ are felt more. Or it could be more of an inverse relationship, more cholesterol (padding) = less pain.
Sorry if this is confusing, but this is coming from someone who’s very confused, so…
Thank you,


Cholesterol is a fairly minor, albeit essential, component of the substance that “insulates” nerves - myelin. By and large, the fat content of myelin is comprised of a substance called sphingomyelin, not cholesterol.

So, there’s no protection from pain by virtue of having high cholesterol levels. On the contrary, people with high cholesterol may be more likely to develop pain (in the legs, at least) due to circulatory problems.

I’m not sure of the precise origin of the cholesterol in myelin. By and large, though, the cells of the body derive their cholesterol from LDL (with the liver also being able to directly synthesize cholesterol).

Cholesterol in the blood is carried in micelles - little “bubbles” of cholesterol surround by a phospholipid bilayer with a lipoprotein embedded in the bilayer. The terms HDL (high density lipoprotein) and LDL (low density lipoprotein) refer to the density of the micelle. HDL is most easily removed from the bloodstream by the liver, hence why it’s a good thing if a high proportion of cholesterol is HDL.

Cholesterol that’s part of a myelin sheath is neither HDL nor LDL since it’s not in a micelle, though I don’t know whether it’s more likely to have been taken up from LDL or HDL. However, since there will be many other factors influencing the synthesis of myelin, I doubt that you could increase myelin synthesis simply by increasing cholesterol in the blood unless the person had previously been deficient in cholesterol and thus unable to make myelin (which I imagine is extremely rare.

That was quick, and I thank you both.



Sorry about the double post, I didn’t see an Edit button. But -

Is there any way, theorhetical or otherwise, to decrease the ‘pins and needles’ effect felt by transient paresthesia?

Also - is TP known to be harmful to one’s body in any way?

Thanks again,


I’ve never heard of one, but then I’m not a doctor. Are you getting a lot of pins and needles without an obvious cause (i.e constriction of blood flow from sitting on your leg)? If so I would think it needs to be checked out properly as it could indicate an underlying problem with your circulation or nerves, both of which could be quite serious and need treatment.

If there is an obvious cause I suggest you try not to do whatever it is that causes it.

Sorry if my last comment sounded sarcastic, it wasn’t intended to be. Often the simplest solutions are the best :slight_smile:

By the way, we have no edit function on the posts here, it’s a deliberate means of stopping people altering their posts during arguments. Admins and mods have edit powers and will edit posts for you if you’ve made a big mess of the coding, titled your thread wrongly or something along those lines.

It’s all good. :slight_smile:

There is an obvious cause, however it is not from anything that might be expected in any normal situation. It’s more of a side effect, and I’m not 100% sure that transient paresthesia is the cause of the pins and needles; perhaps it is just the percieved effect. I have recently read about the effects of Salvinorin A on humans, and am trying to understand the nature of its effects.

Thanks again and again,


If I may speculate a bit, I’ll note that in both abetalipoproteinemia and hypobetalipoproteinemia, there’s nerve dysfunction. Since those disorders are characterized by LDL-cholesterol deficiency but not HDL-deficiency, it suggests that it is the LDL-cholesterol that’s needed for normal myelin synthesis and nerve function (but, to be complete, I’ll also note that those disorders are associated with vitamin E deficiency which, itself, can cause neuropathy.

Thanks Karl, that’s very interesting. I hadn’t known about nerve dysfunction in a/hypobetalipoproteinaemia, but it does seem possible there’s a link.