What is Dietary Cholesterol and How Does it Matter?


Medically reviewed by

Bajaj Finserv Health


7 min read

Key Takeaways

  • Dietary cholesterol enters your body through foods like eggs and red meat
  • Learn about HDL and LDL and maintaining normal cholesterol levels
  • For a healthy lifestyle, consume the recommended daily cholesterol

Dietary cholesterol enters your body through foods like eggs, red meat, or high-fat dairy products. Up until recently, it was believed that it impacts cholesterol levels of your body, which may cause heart diseases. However, a recent study confirms there is no evidence that proves dietary cholesterol may increase the risk of heart ailments [1].

However, that does not mean that you should overlook these cholesterol levels altogether. It is necessary to maintain right cholesterol levels to boost your overall health. Read to know the various types of cholesterol and the normal cholesterol levels for good health.

What Is Cholesterol?

Found in the cells of your body, cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance. It comes from two sources, your body and the food you consume. Your body produces cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and other substances that help you digest food. If your meals are high in saturated and trans-fats, your liver may produce more cholesterol than it normally would.

This causes a rise in the normal cholesterol levels, which may lead to the buildup of plaque. This sticks to the walls of your arteries, which may cause coronary heart diseases. So, it is better to monitor your meals and understand the types of cholesterol present in them. This way, you can keep a check on your cholesterol levels.

Additional read: Cholesterol: Myths and facts

Cholesterol And Lipoproteins

Cholesterol and lipoproteins are two important factors to consider when it comes to heart health. LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, is the 'bad' type of cholesterol that can build up on the walls of your arteries and lead to heart disease. HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, is the 'good' type of cholesterol that helps remove LDL from your arteries and prevent heart disease.

Having too much LDL in your blood can increase your risk of heart disease, while having more HDL can help reduce your risk. That's why it's important to know your cholesterol levels and understand how to keep both types of cholesterol in check.[3]

How Does Dietary Cholesterol Affect Blood Cholesterol?

Dietary cholesterol is the cholesterol found in food. It is different from the cholesterol that your body makes. Dietary cholesterol does not affect blood cholesterol levels as much as we might think. 

The body needs some cholesterol to function properly. The liver makes most of the body's cholesterol and is found in cell membranes. It is used to make hormones like testosterone and estrogen. 

Dietary cholesterol affects blood cholesterol levels in a couple of ways. First, it increases the amount of cholesterol in the intestine. This increases the amount of cholesterol the liver has to remove from the blood. Second, it increases the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood. LDL cholesterol is the "bad" cholesterol. It is the main type of cholesterol that can build up in arteries and cause heart disease. [4]

Therefore, dietary cholesterol can raise LDL cholesterol levels. But, it does not seem to affect HDL cholesterol levels significantly. HDL cholesterol is the "good" cholesterol. It helps remove LDL cholesterol from the arteries. 

The effect of dietary cholesterol on blood cholesterol levels is different for different people. It depends on the person's genetics and how much LDL cholesterol they have in their blood. 

You should limit your dietary cholesterol consumption if you have high LDL cholesterol levels. This can help lower your LDL cholesterol levels.

Dietary Cholesterol And Heart Disease

Cholesterol is not the only dietary factor that can contribute to heart disease. In fact, many other factors are involved in developing this condition, including inflammation, oxidative stress, high blood pressure, and smoking.

While diet does play a role in heart disease, it is important to remember that dietary cholesterol, in and of itself, has little to no effect on this condition. However, the high-heat cooking of cholesterol-rich foods can lead to the formation of oxysterols, which have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.

So, if you are concerned about your heart health, be sure to focus on a healthy diet and lifestyle, and avoid foods that are high in cholesterol.

Should You Avoid High-cholesterol Foods?

For years, people have been told that a high intake of cholesterol can cause heart disease. However, recent studies have shown that this is not the case. In fact, many high-cholesterol foods are actually among the most nutritious foods on the planet.[3]

Grass-fed beef, whole eggs, full-fat dairy products, fish oil, shellfish, sardines, and liver are all great sources of nutrition and should not be avoided because they contain cholesterol. So, next time you're grocery shopping, don't be afraid to pick up some of these healthy, high-cholesterol foods. Your body will thank you for it!

How Does Cholesterol Affect Your Body?

Lipoprotein is a structure that carries cholesterol in the bloodstream. Made up of fat on the inside and protein on the outside, there are different kinds of lipoproteins. But the most relevant ones are high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL).

cholesterol level

What Is Good Cholesterol?

HDL is often known as good cholesterol. This is because it prevents plaque buildup and lowers your risk of heart diseases. HDL removes excess cholesterol from your blood and takes it back to the liver where it can be used or excreted.

What Is Bad Cholesterol?

LDL is often referred to as bad cholesterol. It comprises 60-70% of the total lipoproteins and is responsible for carrying cholesterol throughout your body. A high number of LDL will contribute to the buildup of plaque and increase your risk of heart ailments.

LDL classification depends on the basis of its size: small, dense, and large. But, the concern is not about their size. It is the number of LDL in your body that elevates your risk. The higher the number, the greater is the danger for your health!

Ways To Lower High Blood Cholesterol

One of the best ways to lower your high blood cholesterol is to eat a healthy diet. Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans can help lower your cholesterol. You should also avoid eating saturated and trans fats, which can raise your cholesterol levels.[3]

Exercise is another great way to lower your cholesterol. Getting at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week can help reduce your cholesterol levels. If you're not used to exercising, you can start by taking a brisk walk for 30 minutes every day.

If you have high blood cholesterol, your doctor may also recommend taking medication to help lower your cholesterol levels. There are a variety of cholesterol-lowering medications available, so be sure to talk to your doctor about which one is right for you.

What Is The Normal Level Of Cholesterol?

A lipoprotein panel blood test measures the levels of cholesterol. The number is measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). The healthy levels depend on your age and gender. With this test, you can determine whether your cholesterol levels are a matter of concern or not. The test will contain the following information:

  • Total cholesterol levels– This measures the total amount present in your body and includes both HDL and LDL.
  • HDL – It removes the cholesterol from your arteries.
  • Non-HDL – This number includes LDL and other types such as Very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL). It is the number that comes after deducting your HDL from the total cholesterol.
  • Triglycerides – This is another form of fat that increases the risk of heart diseases, especially in women.
Additional read: How to reduce cholesterol

Generally, children should have their first test between 9-11 years and every 5 years after that. Women between ages 55-65 and men between ages 45-65 should have tests every 1-2 years.

The recommended daily cholesterol intake depends on the risk factors of heart disease. If you have risk factors, you should limit your intake to 200mg a day. If you do not have any risk factors, you should consume no more than 300mg a day [2].

While there is almost no connection between dietary cholesterol and heart diseases, a high level is still dangerous. The food you consume may also contain fats that can increase the chances of heart disease. So, when choosing your food, be mindful of the saturated and trans-fat it contains.

High cholesterol can go unnoticed because there are no obvious symptoms of it. When that happens, it can lead to coronary heart disease. Regular health checkups can help you reduce the risk of high cholesterol. To deal with this issue, you can book an in-person or video consultation within minutes on Bajaj Finserv Health. Talk to a reputed doctor and address cholesterol problems without any delay.

Published on 6 Dec 2021Last updated on 18 Nov 2022
  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6024687/
  2. https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/cholesterol-content-of-foods
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/dietary-cholesterol-does-not-matter
  4. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/dietary-cholesterol-does-not-matter#types

Please note that this article is solely meant for informational purposes and Bajaj Finserv Health Limited (“BFHL”) does not shoulder any responsibility of the views/advice/information expressed/given by the writer/reviewer/originator. This article should not be considered as a substitute for any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with your trusted physician/qualified healthcare professional to evaluate your medical condition. The above article has been reviewed by a qualified doctor and BFHL is not responsible for any damages for any information or services provided by any third party.


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