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Q. How much does the cholesterol I get through food really affect my blood cholesterol level?

A. It depends. Most people absorb about half the cholesterol they consume through foods, but absorption rates vary (from 20 to 60 percent) from person to person. This variation may help explain why dietary cholesterol seems to increase levels of “unhealthy” LDL blood cholesterol in some people more than others, says EatingWell advisor Alice Lichtenstein.

In any case, saturated and trans fats have a bigger detrimental effect on blood cholesterol levels, and heart health in general, than dietary cholesterol does. “Trans and saturated fats not only affect how much plaque is deposited in blood vessels, but also may damage the tissue of blood vessels,” says Susan Moores, M.S., R.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. With a few exceptions—notably eggs and shellfish—foods high in cholesterol, such as fatty meats and whole-milk dairy, also tend to be high in saturated fat. Cutting back on sources of saturated fat automatically limits intake of dietary cholesterol.

Really, the best approach to controlling blood cholesterol is a big-picture one. “Most important to heart health is achieving a healthy body weight through diet and exercise,” explains Lichtenstein. Independent of specific dietary choices, research shows that shedding excess pounds lowers “unhealthy” LDL cholesterol and boosts the “healthy” HDL kind.

Bottom line: Unless your doctor has advised you to, don’t sweat counting dietary cholesterol; it’s just one factor (and not the most important one) affecting blood lipids. Limit intake of saturated fats by loading up on vegetables, fruits and whole grains, choosing low-fat dairy and lean proteins, and substituting healthy oils for butter. When shopping for crackers, snacks and margarine-type spreads, buy only those that are labeled trans-fat-free (and don’t include “partially hydrogenated fat” in the ingredients list). Maintain a healthy weight. And, if you’d like, enjoy an egg each morning and shellfish several times a week.

COMMENTS POSTEDsort icon

Thanks you so much for the healthy tips that i have got. It is really very helpfull to all of us for those who are concious about their health. Thanks a lot.

Anonymous

03/31/2010 - 2:14pm

I think it is alright to have one egg once or twice a week.

Anonymous

03/31/2010 - 4:42pm

Interesting, I've been seeing a lot of hype over the strength gains you can achieve by working out along with drinking whole milk.

Anonymous

07/19/2012 - 2:01am

Ha; to the anonymous person who said "1 egg once or twice a week." I have 5 eggs every day and have done so for 6-7 years with no effect to my cholesterol levels. Go figure.

Anonymous

04/10/2013 - 2:30pm

I saw a study where subjects were given a couple eggs a day and their blood cholesterol level decreased after a month as compared to the control subjects. I saw another study where people on atkin's diet were found to have less blood cholesterol level. According to my research, high-protein diets, such as eggs and meat, tend to contain a B-vitamin called choline (I'm not entirely sure if that name is right. Been a while since I read the paper) which helps decrease blood cholesterol levels. I'm confused, since this article seems to disagree with my research on dietary cholesterol intake.

Anonymous

06/22/2013 - 1:28am

Yeah i'd really like to see the sources on this, because there's a lot of conflicting information over blood cholesterol causes. Plus, i thought fat and cholesterol were broken down before being absorbed into the blood, or soon after? I feel like people treat the stomach as this direct gate to our blood, when it's MUCH more complex than that...

Anonymous

07/03/2013 - 1:36pm

When I went for a check up last year my cholesterol was at 140. I started eating oatmeal and have had oatmeal everyday for a year because experts keep telling us it lowers cholesterol. Yesterday I went in for a check up and my cholesterol was up at 170. There blows the oatmeal theory. The oatmeal has not done what I expected it to do. Makes me wonder if anyone out there knows what they're talking about when discussing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or just about any health problem and our diets.

Anonymous

07/09/2013 - 9:53am

I have inherited high cholesterol. I am very careful with my diet. So try lowering your cholesterol when it has nothing to do with the food you eat. I've tried Metamucil, Kyolic ( garlic extract), ground flax seed, oatmeal, All Bran Buds (psyllium fibre), almonds, prunes, lots of fruit, etc. Right now I am trying Sytrinol. I won't know for a few months if that works. If you have more ideas, I'm open to suggestions ...

Anonymous

08/01/2013 - 8:13pm

100 eggs a month and my cholesterol dropped to 130 from 150. Yet my brother has cholesterol in the high 300's without statins and in the low 200's with statins. He eats NO eggs, no red meat no butter.

Doctors are just guessing, really, and the 'nurses' study of the 60's is so flawed that it should be tossed out and redone..

Anonymous

02/04/2014 - 9:14am

I have been eating healthy 95% of the time, as recommended above, yet have LDL levels above 700. I have no body fat on my arms and legs, walk 3-5 miles a day, and easily 10 miles some Saturdays. I eat maybe 3 eggs a week, steak around once a month, salad for lunch every other day, with a small portion of lite dressing.

Anonymous

06/01/2014 - 1:54pm

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