There has been a great deal of publicity concerning cholesterol and its relationship to coronary artery disease. A high level of cholesterol in the blood stream is considered a risk factor in the development of coronary artery disease, yet there is an inadequate body of evidence which would suggest that reducing dietary cholesterol alone can lower blood cholesterol levels.
Recent evidence supports the fact that decreasing the amount of saturated fat (consumption of meats) along with cholesterol in the daily diet will decrease blood cholesterol levels significantly.
Cholesterol is essential for fat digestion and is a part of cellular membranes, bile salts, vitamin D, sex and adrenal gland hormones. It is present only in animal products, actally 2/3 of the total amount in the organism being produced (synthesized) by the liver. Cholesterol and fat are insoluble in water so, inside our body, they must be carried in the blood by substances known as lipoproteins.
Types of Lipoproteins
Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL) carry mostly cholesterol and high levels of these carriers have been significantly linked with the development of coronary artery disease.
High Density Lipoproteins (HDL) consist of mostly protein; they carry cholesterol away from the body cells to the liver, where is excreted in the bile.
Investigators have not determined what an “ideal” blood cholesterol level should be.
- In general, the risk of coronary artery disease due to blood cholesterol level alone rises slowly when the level is below 200 milligrams per decilitre (mg/dl).
- The risk of coronary artery disease begins to increase more rapidly above 200 mg/dl, especially as levels rise above 240 mg/dl.
- In short, many experts recommend a blood cholesterol level below 200 mg/dl.
- It is interesting to point out that very low cholesterol levels (under 110-125 mg/dl) in the elderly population have been associated with malnutrition and a depressed immune response to disease.
- Lower the amount of total fat in your diet by eating fewer high fat foods. High fat foods often contain large amounts of saturated fat (most undesirable fat source).
- Lower the amount of saturated fats while increasing the amount of polyunsaturated fat in the diet.
- Lower cholesterol intake. Eat more fruit and vegetables and less animal products.
- Eat more complex carbohydrates (starch and fiber). Foods high in complex carbohydrates are usually low in fat and contain no cholesterol.
- Lose weight, if overweight, by decreasing the number of calories taken in and increasing the number of calories used.
Eat Less Total Fat
- Within any food category, there are high fat and low fat items. Read labels to learn which foods are low in fat.
- Sausage and most processed luncheon meats are high in fat and saturated fat.
- Cream, sour cream, ice cream, butter, and many cheeses are high in fat and saturated fat.
Eat Less Saturated Fat
- Most animal fats generally contain high proportions of saturated fat, whereas the fat in chicken and fish contains higher proportions of polyunsaturated fat.
- The vegetable oils from palm kernel, coconut, and palm, and cocoa fat contain large proportions of saturated fat.
- Vegetable oils with the highest proportions of polyunsaturated fat are safflower, sunflower, corn, soybean, and cottonseed oils.
- Many margarines are lower in saturated fat and higher in unsaturated fats than butter.
To Eat Less Cholesteral
- Cholesterol is found in high amounts of red meats, organ meats (liver, kidney, sweetbread, brain), and egg yolks.
- Shrimp is also high in cholesterol.
To Eat More Complex Carbohydrates
- Vegetables, fruits, cereal grains, dried peas and beans, rice, and pasta contain complex carbohydrates, little or no saturated fat, and no cholesterol.
To Help Lose Weight (if Overweight)
- Fats are high in calories.
- Fat and oils supply 9 calories per gram as compared to protein, and carbohydrates, which supply only 4 calories per gram.
Which People Need to Adhere to the Above Advice?
- Everyone, the younger you start healthy eating habits the better.
- Patients with a history for hypertension, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, or diabetes must make an extra effort to watch what they eat to lower their risk of atherosclerosis.