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Dietary Cholesterol

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4 min read


Is dietary cholesterol a culprit for coronary artery disease? The long cholesterol debate and the latest evidence-based data are presented in this article.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sowmiya D

Published At April 18, 2022
Reviewed AtJanuary 11, 2024


It has been proven that the accumulation of cholesterol causes narrowing and blockage of the heart's arteries. For decades, various nutritionists have been saying to avoid high cholesterol in the diet. They have stated that 300 mg of dietary cholesterol a day is the upper limit per day. But today's dietary and cardiac guidelines do not consider "dietary" cholesterol a risk to the heart in modern research because the liver makes cholesterol in the human body. If one eats a low-cholesterol diet, the liver will produce more cholesterol to compensate. One study found that taking just 100 milligrams of cholesterol a day, i.e., 50 percent of the cholesterol needed in a day, reduced blood cholesterol by only one percent. People with high cholesterol make it in their liver, which cannot be reduced by avoiding dietary cholesterol. It is evident in many obese people with a lot of body fat, but their blood cholesterol levels are normal; on the other hand, many thin, lean people have very high blood cholesterol levels. So the real culprit is dietary fat.

What Are the Types of Dietary Fat?

There are three types of dietary fats:

  1. Trans fats.

  2. Saturated fats.

  3. Unsaturated fats.

The first two of these are harmful to health. Dietary fats increase triglycerides levels but not cholesterol levels. High triglycerides increase the risk of pancreatitis, i.e., inflammation of the pancreas.

1. Trans Fats:

It is found in commercially produced ghee, and even a tiny amount of it is incredibly harmful to health. It has been banned in many countries, including the United States. It is used in market items such as fried foods, pizza, burgers, biscuits, cakes, margarine, and restaurant meals. The American Heart Association recommends that less than 1 % of calories be consumed daily from trans fats. For example, if a person's requirement is 2000 calories per day, less than 20 calories should be from trans fats. One gram of fat provides nine calories, so the upper limit is only 2 grams of trans fats. Trans fats increase bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood while lowering good cholesterol (HDL).

2. Saturated Fats:

These are obtained from animals such as red meat, butter, ghee, milk, and eggs and from tropical plants such as coconut oil and palm oil. Saturated fats raise blood cholesterol, but it is still debated whether it has harmful effects on health. Research has shown that saturated fats increase good (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL). A recent meta-analysis of 21 studies found no conclusive evidence that saturated fats increase the risk of heart disease and that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats can benefit the heart. According to the American Heart Association, the body should get less than 7 % of its daily calories from saturated fats. For example, if the daily requirement is 2000 calories, less than 150 calories should be from saturated fats. One gram of fat provides nine calories, so only 16 grams of saturated fat is the upper limit.

3. Unsaturated Fats:

These are fats derived from plants such as olive oil, canola oil, and sunflower oil. These fats are good for health. They raise good cholesterol while lowering bad cholesterol. No upper limit on these saturated fats has been suggested, but replacing as many trans fats and saturated fats as one can with unsaturated fats has been suggested. Although these do not increase cardiac disease risk like other fats, these too are full of calories. Excessive consumption may cause weight gain and obesity, an independent risk factor for cardiac diseases, primarily if central (abdominal obesity, also known as apple-shaped obesity).

Does Egg-Yolks Increase Cholesterol Levels?

Some medical experts say that one should eat only egg whites and not yolks because yolks contain cholesterol. Yes, the yolk contains about 200 mg of cholesterol, but as mentioned earlier, dietary cholesterol does not increase blood cholesterol, so there is nothing wrong with eating the yolk. This was revealed in a study conducted at Harvard Medical School.

Does Desi Ghee Increase Cholesterol Level?

As it has been said that desi ghee has a high content of saturated fats, and research is controversial, it is concluded that desi ghee is much better than commercially produced ghee. Still, if vegetable oil is used instead of desi ghee, it can benefit health. This is because desi ghee contains less than 1 % cholesterol. Desi ghee is made from butter and is widely used in the Indian subcontinent, especially in rural areas.

Do Vegetable Oils Increase Cholesterol Levels?

However, be careful because some product companies write "cholesterol free" or "hydrogenated vegetable oil" on their packaging, so beware of these two labels. There is no advantage in being cholesterol-free because the actual harm is from trans fats and saturated fats, the amount of which should be seen on the labeling. These companies label trans fats as "hydrogenated vegetable oils," which are no less than toxic and are completely banned in many countries, including the United States. Therefore, when we see "vegetable oils" written, we consider them beneficial for health. To be clear, trans fats are formed from the hydrogenation of vegetable oil, also known as hydrogenated vegetable oil. One question is why trans fats are used in restaurant meals and other products like sweets and why vegetable oil is not used? This is because vegetable oils and their products can quickly become foul-smelling and spoil, while hydrogenation can prevent them from smelling and spoilage for a long time.

Should Fats Be Included in Diet?

Fats are part of the diet and are necessary for absorbing some vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K. It is recommended to have 20 to 35 percent of daily required calories from fats. Cholesterol itself is also necessary. Vitamin D is made from cholesterol, and hormones such as estrogens and testosterone are made from cholesterol. Moreover, cholesterol is part of the cell membrane.


So does a cholesterol-containing diet harm anyone? Hypercholesterolemia can be caused by high cholesterol in the diet in some people, most of whom are diabetics or have high blood cholesterol levels and heart disease. Such people should also be careful with cholesterol-rich foods. Setting a specific dietary cholesterol target is challenging for healthcare providers and consumers, making pattern-based guidance more practical. This approach is likely to improve overall diet quality and contribute to cardiovascular health.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Is the Main Source of Dietary Cholesterol?

Dietary cholesterol is defined as the cholesterol that comes from food and absorbed into the body. It is majorly found in animal tissues. Egg yolk, shrimp, beef, hog, chicken, and dairy products including cheese and butter are the main food sources of dietary cholesterol. Dietary cholesterol helps improve body functions.


Is Dietary Cholesterol Essential?

Dietary cholesterol may be essential and harmful to the body as it raises bad cholesterol levels. In addition, high levels of dietary cholesterol may increase the risk of heart disease because food contains high amounts of saturated fat, which is very unhealthy for the body. The American heart association recommends there is a limitation of the daily consumption of cholesterol from food.


What Is the Ideal Intake of a Dietary of Cholesterol?

It can be difficult to determine the ideal daily intake of dietary cholesterol for the body. According to the studies, it is recommended a limit of 200 mg of cholesterol per day for people at risk of coronary heart disease and a maximum of 300 mg per day for those who are not at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.


Why is Dietary Cholesterol Good?

Dietary cholesterol is very essential for the body for body functioning,these includes:
 - Production of Hormones - The endocrine system needs cholesterol to make vital hormones like testosterone, cortisol, and estrogen.
 - Vitamin D production - When the body is exposed to sunlight, cholesterol changes into vitamin D. 
 - Cell Building - Cholesterol aids in cell growth and the synthesis of membranes that shield the cells from harmful invaders.
 - Bile Production - In the liver, bile acids are created by your body using cholesterol. Bile is required to transport waste from the liver and break down fat during digestion.


Does Exercise Reduce the RIsk of Cholesterol?

Yes, exercise helps to improve cholesterol. It may help to raise the  High - density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol with 20 percent and lowers the low density lipoprotein cholesterol with 15 percent. It  can be improved by doing various physical exercises like walking, swimming, yoga etc. it is recommended to work out at least 30 minutes.


Why Is It Important to Control Dietary Cholesterol?

High amounts of dietary cholesterol may be harmful to the body. Food contains high amounts of saturated fat as it may increase the level of low density lipoprotein cholesterol which may increase the risk of heart diseases. The low density lipoprotein which accumulates the blood arteries and vessel and makes it narrower for blood passing through. This leads to heart diseases like heart attack and stroke.


Can Fasting Cause High Cholesterol?

Yes,Intermittent fasting influences cholesterol levels by changing the metabolism from glucose to ketones. As a result, the body starts utilizing lipids rather than storing them. The bloodstream carries lipids out of the cells, converting them into ketones in the liver. The direction of the lipids changes the amount and the type of cholesterol needed to facilitate the transfer. This causes the levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL) to rise and low density lipoprotein (LDL) to fall.


Do Eggs Raise Cholesterol Levels?

Daily egg consumption may result in small increases in LDL, but it also raises HDL. This indicates the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL, a key indicator of heart disease. It used to be recommended by medical specialists for consumers to consume no more than three eggs or egg yolks per week because egg yolks contain a lot of cholesterol.


How to Reduce Cholesterol?

Reducing or eliminating trans and saturated fat-rich foods might reduce the amount of extra cholesterol the body needs to eliminate. Other methods include:
 - Doing regular exercise.
 - Quit habits like smoking or alcohol consumption.
 - Using healthy methods for reducing stress, such as meditation, yoga.
 - Using appropriate sleep habits.
 - Knowing the family's medical history is important because high cholesterol may run in the family.
 - Changes in lifestyle modifications.


Can Walking Reduce Cholesterol?

According to researchers, moderate walking lowered the risk of a number of heart-related problems. Regular walks have many positive health effects. Low density lipoprotein cholesterol levels decreased in persons who walked for an hour every day for five days a week. Regularly walking is a wonderful method to maintain health and fitness, and also frequently simpler to control and carry out than jogging.


Can Garlic Reduce Cholesterol?

Numerous studies show that cholesterol can be reduced by using garlic (Allium sativum). It is believed that the bioactive substance allicin found in garlic helps to achieve this effect. Along with the other stated advantages of garlic, such as boosted immunity, lowered blood pressure, and antioxidant qualities, the cholesterol-lowering effects.


Can Stress Lead to High Cholesterol Levels?

Chronic stress raises stress hormone levels on a regular basis, which might result in a regular rise in blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, or triglycerides.


Which Exercise Is Better for Cholesterol?

Aerobic exercise is the best exercise for lowering cholesterol which is repetitive and uses a variety of muscle groups. The American Heart Association advises exercising five to seven times per week for at least 30 minutes. Other exercises includes
 - Walking.
 - Cycling.
 - Swimming.
 - Yoga.


How to Check Cholesterol at Home?

A lancet for blood collection and test strips are included in the typical cholesterol home test kit. First, prick the finger with the lancet to begin using a home cholesterol test kit. The blood droplet is then placed on the test strip. The unique compounds in the cholesterol home test strip change colors after a short period of time.
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Dr. Muhammad Zohaib Siddiq
Dr. Muhammad Zohaib Siddiq



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