Steroids are a type of lipid, characterized by a carbon skeleton with four fused rings.

Medically, when the term "steroid" is commonly used it refers to the use of corticosteroids to modulate the body's immune response.

Different steroids vary in the functional groups attached to these rings. Cholesterol is an important steroid, being a common component of animal cell membranes. However, a high level of it can cause various conditions and diseases, including atherosclerosis. Most other steroids are synthesized from cholestrol. Also, various hormones, including vertebrate sex hormones, are steroids created from cholesterol.

There are also various specific categories of steroids, including:

  • Anabolic steroids - used by athletes to increase performance.
  • Corticosteroids - affects metabolism and electrolyte excretion.
  • Sex hormones - androgens, estrogens, and progestagens
  • Prohormones - precursors to actual steroid hormones, manufactured by bodybuilding supplement companies

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