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Cholesterol and Diet

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There Are 2 Basic Sources of Cholesterol in a typical Diet

  1. Cholesterol manufactured inside the human body by the liver. To do this, it combines a number of two-carbon acetates and builds a 27-carbon cholesterol molecule. The food sources used by the liver to make this molecule include: alcohol, fats, protein, sugars and starchy carbohydrates.

  2. Cholesterol consumed in foods. This is called \"dietary cholesterol\". Only animal foods contain cholesterol. Plant foods are cholesterol-free. Foods which are high in dietary cholesterol include: organ meats (500-1700 mg per 4oz), eggs (210 mg each), lean meat (70 mg per 4oz), butter (60mg per 2tbsp), cheese (30 mg per 1oz), cream (40 mg per 1 oz).

Cholesterol in the Bloodstream

Cholesterol circulates in our bloodstream as a \"lipoprotein\", which is a package of fat, cholesterol and protein. The two main types of lipoproteins are: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). In simple terms, LDL lipoproteins ferry cholesterol FROM the liver to the rest of the body, while HDL carries it BACK to the liver. LDL is the bad guy. This is the lipoprotein that deposits excess cholesterol on the walls of our arteries, which (over time) narrows the arterial passageway (a process known as atherosclerosis) and causes heart disease, heart attack and stroke. In contrast, HDL is the good guy: it sweeps up excess cholesterol and takes it out of harms way back to the safety of the liver.

Purpose of Cholesterol Lowering Diet

The function of a cholesterol-reducing diet plan is twofold: to lower total cholesterol, and also to reduce the amount of LDL in the bloodstream. Put simply, if you want to improve your cholesterol levels by dietary means, you should:

  • Restrict your intake of animal foods which contain dietary cholesterol
  • Restrict your intake of foods that raise LDL
  • Eat plenty of foods that raise HDL

Healthy Cholesterol Levels and Genetics

Neither the total amount of cholesterol in our blood (serum cholesterol), nor our HDL/LDL level is dependent entirely on the foods we eat. It also varies according to our genes and family history. Some individuals can eat high-cholesterol foods or a high-fat diet without ever experiencing elevated cholesterol levels. While others, who eat a low-fat diet, may have high cholesterol levels. Obese individuals may have lower serum cholesterol than people whose weight is normal.

A Low-Cholesterol Diet Reduces Cholesterol in Most People

Despite the fact that genes can influence cholesterol levels, this affects a relatively small proportion of the population. Most people can control their levels by following a cholesterol-lowering diet.

Cholesterol Risk Factors For Heart Disease

An elevated cholesterol level is a major independent risk factor for heart attack and stroke. However, there are several other risk factors for atherosclerosis, including:

  • Family history of heart disease/high blood fats
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Tobacco smoking
  • Obesity (especially abdominal obesity)
  • Stress

Consequently, as well as following a cholesterol-lowering diet, these other factors need to be addressed as part of a cholesterol reduction program. Dietary methods can help reduce these heart disease risk factors. A low sodium diet can reduce blood pressure, while a calorie-controlled diet may reduce obesity. Stress reduction is best achieved by making exercise a regular feature of your daily lifestyle.

Alcohol in a Cholesterol Diet

Moderate drinking - typically between 1 and 2 units of alcohol a day - seems to have a protective effect on the heart in men aged over 40 and in post-menopausal women. One unit of alcohol is roughly equivalent to 8 fl oz of regular beer or a small glass of wine or a regular measure of spirits. Heavier drinking can contribute to heart disorders, including high blood pressure and stroke. For example, for every unit over the above limits, systolic blood pressure is likely to be raised by 1mmHg.

Cholesterol Medical Check-Up

If you think you may have elevated blood cholesterol, your first step is to have your blood fats checked. This is especially important for men over the age of 40 and women after menopause. Remember, there are almost no symptoms of raised cholesterol, and many heart attacks occur with no prior medical warning. Cholesterol and diet.


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