You are on page 1of 2

Cholesterol and fat advice has bounced back and forth over the past 50 years.

Today, people are


very confused - is cholesterol good or bad? To answer that, we need to understand if we're
talking about blood cholesterol or dietary cholesterol.
Generally speaking, cholesterol is a fatty waxy substance that occurs in all animal tissues,
including humans. In humans, it is manufactured by the liver and called blood cholesterol,
serving three main functions (1):
1. it is used by some glands to make steroid-like-hormones, including sex hormones
2. it helps the liver produce bile acids, important for the digestion of fat
3.

it is a main component of cell membranes and structures.

Dietary cholesterol enters the human body via food instead of being manufactured in the liver.
Only food from animal sources has cholesterol. This includes meat, poultry, dairy and eggs.
Labeling dietary cholesterol and foods containing it as evil is a mistake. Harvards school of
public health states that dietary cholesterol has not been proven to directly affect the risk of
cardiovascular disease. The evidence for the majority of the population is simply not solid
enough (2). In fact, blood cholesterol levels are barely influenced by dietary cholesterol, but
rather by saturated fats and trans-fats in food.
When people decrease the amount of fat and cholesterol in the diet, they tend to replace fatty
foods with refined carbohydrates, sugar, and other starches. This dietary change that has been
linked to weight gain, heart disease, and changes in blood sugar and insulin levels (3-5).
It is important to keep blood cholesterol levels low, as high blood cholesterol is linked to
cardiovascular disease and stroke (1). However, this linkage cannot be made to dietary intake of
cholesterol (2). High blood cholesterol can be the result of a combination of weight gain, lack of
physical activity, or genetics (6).
Therefore, you should not be banishing food with dietary cholesterol entirely from your diet. If
you need to reduce your blood cholesterol levels, here are some suggestions (7):

Eat foods lower in saturated fat

Avoid fried foods and switch to baked, broiled, roasted, or steamed

Eat foods made with whole grains, not refined

Eat plenty of vegetable and fruits, high in fiber

Exercise

Quit smoking.

1. Isaacsohn The Role of Cholesterol Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 2002
2. The Nutrition Source, Cholesterol - Harvard School of Public Health, 2016
3. Siri-Tarino, P.W., et al. - Saturated fatty acids and risk of coronary heart disease:
modulation by replacement nutrients - National Institute of Health, 2010
4. Hu, F.B. - Are refined carbohydrates worse than saturated fat? American Journal of
Clinical Nutrition, 2010
5. Jakobsen, M.U., et al. - Intake of carbohydrates compared with intake of saturated fatty
acids and risk of myocardial infarction: importance of the glycemic index. - American
Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010
6. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute What causes high blood cholesterol?
National Institute of Health, 2010
7. Kathy Mcmanus How to Lower Your Cholesterol without Drugs Harvard School of
Public Health, 2016