Dietary Cholesterol Myth: Saturated Fat is Not An Enemy | Chris Kresser
The ADAPT Practitioner Training Program enrollment is now open. Learn More

The Diet-Heart Myth: Cholesterol and Saturated Fat Are Not the Enemy

by

Last updated on

istock.com/eelnosiva

To read more about heart disease and cholesterol, check out this eBook on the Diet–Heart Myth.

It’s hard to overstate the impact that cardiovascular disease (CVD) has in the U.S.. Consider the following:

  • Cardiovascular disease affects 65 million Americans.
  • Close to one million Americans have a heart attack each year.
  • In the U.S., one person dies every 39 seconds of cardiovascular disease.
  • 1 of 3 deaths that occurs in the U.S. is caused by cardiovascular disease.
  • 1 in 3 Americans have metabolic syndrome, a cluster of major cardiovascular risk factors related to overweight/obesity and insulin resistance.
  • The total cost of cardiovascular disease in 2008 was estimated at $300 billion.

To put that last statistic in perspective, the World Health Organization has estimated that ending world hunger would cost approximately $195 billion. One might argue that the $300 billion we spend on treating cardiovascular disease in the U.S. is a necessary expenditure; however, a recent study which looked at the relationship between heart disease and lifestyle suggested that 90% of CVD is caused by modifiable diet and lifestyle factors. (1)

Unfortunately, cardiovascular disease is one of the most misdiagnosed and mistreated conditions in medicine. We’ve learned a tremendous amount about what causes heart disease over the past decade, but the medical establishment is still operating on outdated science from 40-50 years ago.

In this 4-part series, I’m going to debunk 3 common myths about heart disease:

  1. Eating cholesterol and saturated fat raises cholesterol levels in the blood.
  2. High cholesterol in the blood is the cause of heart disease.
  3. Statins save lives in healthy people without heart disease.

In the fourth and final article in the series, I’ll discuss strategies for naturally protecting yourself against heart disease and improving your heart health.

Myth #1: Eating Cholesterol and Saturated Fat Raises Cholesterol Levels in the Blood.

Most of us grew up being told that foods like red meat, eggs and bacon raise our cholesterol levels. This idea is so deeply ingrained in our cultural psyche that few people even question it. But is it really true?

The diet-heart hypothesis—which holds that eating cholesterol and saturated fat raises cholesterol in our blood—originated with studies in both animals and humans more than half a century ago. However, more recent (and higher quality) evidence doesn’t support it.

Cholesterol and saturated fat: dietary enemies or innocent victims of bad science?Tweet This

On any given day, we have between 1,100 and 1,700 milligrams of cholesterol in our body. 25% of that comes from our diet, and 75% is produced inside of our bodies by the liver. Much of the cholesterol that’s found in food can’t be absorbed by our bodies, and most of the cholesterol in our gut was first synthesized in body cells and ended up in the gut via the liver and gall bladder. The body tightly regulates the amount of cholesterol in the blood by controlling internal production; when cholesterol intake in the diet goes down, the body makes more. When cholesterol intake in the diet goes up, the body makes less.

This explains why well-designed cholesterol feeding studies (where they feed volunteers 2-4 eggs a day and measure their cholesterol) show that dietary cholesterol has very little impact on blood cholesterol levels in about 75% of the population. The remaining 25% of the population are referred to as “hyper-responders”. In this group, dietary cholesterol does modestly increase both LDL (“bad cholesterol” and HDL (“good cholesterol”), but it does not affect the ratio of LDL to HDL or increase the risk of heart disease. (2)

In other words, eating cholesterol isn’t going to give you a heart attack. You can ditch the egg-white omelettes and start eating yolks again. That’s a good thing, since all of the 13 essential nutrients eggs contain are found in the yolk. Egg yolks are an especially good source of choline, a B-vitamin that plays important roles in everything from neurotransmitter production to detoxification to maintenance of healthy cells. (3) Studies show that up to 90% of Americans don’t get enough choline, which can lead to fatigue, insomnia, poor kidney function, memory problems and nerve-muscle imbalances. (4)

What about saturated fat? It’s true that some studies show that saturated fat intake raises blood cholesterol levels. But these studies are almost always short-term, lasting only a few weeks. (5) Longer-term studies have not shown an association between saturated fat intake and blood cholesterol levels. In fact, of all of the long-term studies examining this issue, only one of them showed a clear association between saturated fat intake and cholesterol levels, and even that association was weak. (6)

Moreover, studies on low-carbohydrate diets (which tend to be high in saturated fat) suggest that they not only don’t raise blood cholesterol, they have several beneficial impacts on cardiovascular disease risk markers. For example, a meta-analysis of 17 low-carb diet trials covering 1,140 obese patients published in the journal Obesity Reviews found that low-carb diets neither increased nor decreased LDL cholesterol. However, they did find that low-carb diets were associated with significant decreases is body weight as well as improvements in several CV risk factors, including decreases in triglycerides, fasting glucose, blood pressure, body mass index, abdominal circumference, plasma insulin and c-reactive protein, as well as an increase in HDL cholesterol. (7)

If you’re wondering whether saturated fat may contribute to heart disease in some way that isn’t related to cholesterol, a large meta-analysis of prospective studies involving close to 350,000 participants found no association between saturated fat and heart disease. (8) A Japanese prospective study that followed 58,000 men for an average of 14 years found no association between saturated fat intake and heart disease, and an inverse association between saturated fat and stroke (i.e. those who ate more saturated fat had a lower risk of stroke). (9)

That said, just as not everyone responds to dietary cholesterol in the same manner, there’s some variation in how individuals respond to dietary saturated fat. If we took ten people, fed them a diet high in saturated fat, and measured their cholesterol levels, we’d see a range of responses that averages out to no net increase or decrease. (If dietary saturated fat does increase your total or LDL cholesterol, the more important question is whether that’s a problem. I’ll address that in the next article in this series.)

Another strike against the diet-heart hypothesis is that many of its original proponents haven’t believed it for at least two decades. In a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine in 1991, Ancel Keys, the founder of the diet-heart hypothesis said (10):

Dietary cholesterol has an important effect on the cholesterol level in the blood of chickens and rabbits, but many controlled experiments have shown that dietary cholesterol has a limited effect in humans. Adding cholesterol to a cholesterol-free diet raises the blood level in humans, but when added to an unrestricted diet, it has a minimal effect.

In a 2004 editorial in the Journal of American College of Cardiology, Sylvan Lee Weinberg, former president of the American College of Cardiology and outspoken proponent of the diet-heart hypothesis, said (11):

The low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet… may well have played an unintended role in the current epidemics of obesity, lipid abnormalities, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndromes. This diet can no longer be defended by appeal to the authority of prestigious medical organizations.

We’ve now established that eating cholesterol and saturated fat does not increase cholesterol levels in the blood for most people. In the next article, I’ll debunk the myth that high cholesterol in the blood is the cause of heart disease.

Research Spotlight: Health Coaching and Heart Health

Behavioral Counseling Dose-Dependently Improves Blood Lipid Levels

Oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol plays a critical role in the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD). High circulating levels of LDL cholesterol increase the likelihood that LDL may become oxidized, contributing to CVD pathogenesis. Diet and lifestyle changes have been found to reduce LDL cholesterol, but many patients have trouble sustaining nutrition and lifestyle changes over the long term. Behavioral counseling may help patients at risk for CVD maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle behaviors, and thus support improved long-term health outcomes. A 2019 study sought to examine the combined effects of behavioral counseling and healthy lifestyle changes on LDL cholesterol levels in adults with prehypertension and stage 1 hypertension, who are at an elevated risk of CVD.

Study Summary

  • Seven hundred fifty-six adults with prehypertension and stage 1 hypertension were randomized to one of three groups:
    • Advice-Only Group: Participants were given information about nutrition and lifestyle approaches for improving CVD risk factors, including dietary sodium restriction, weight loss, exercise, and a “healthy diet.”
    • Established Lifestyle Intervention Group: Participants were educated about healthy diet and lifestyle changes and provided with behavioral counseling.
    • Established + Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Lifestyle Intervention Group: Participants were instructed about healthy diet and lifestyle changes, behavioral counseling, and the DASH diet.
  • Subjects in the “Established Lifestyle Intervention” and “Established + DASH Lifestyle Intervention” groups experienced significant reductions in LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and total cholesterol after six months compared to the “Advice-Only” group.
  • For every 10 sessions of behavioral counseling, LDL cholesterol decreased by 6.2 mg/dL.
  • The relationship between the number of behavioral counseling sessions attended and reductions in LDL cholesterol and triglycerides was mediated by a decrease in waist circumference, suggesting that the combination of behavioral counseling and lifestyle changes reduces visceral adiposity.

Key Findings

A combination of healthy lifestyle changes and behavioral counseling can reduce LDL cholesterol in individuals with hypertension and may thus reduce their future risk of CVD. Attending more behavioral counseling sessions appears to lead to more significant improvements in CVD risk factors. Frequent health coaching sessions, combined with the administration of nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress reduction advice, may be a valuable model for improving long-term health in people with CVD risk factors.

Reference: Dose-dependent effects of lifestyle interventions on blood lipid levels: Results from the PREMIER trial.

The ADAPT Health Coach Training Program is led by a world-class faculty of experts on topics like positive psychology, nonviolent communication, mindfulness, motivational interviewing, behavior change, and more. Our students get the opportunity to learn from leaders in their field as they practice their coaching skills. Find out more about how we’re training the next generation of health coaches at the ADAPT Health Coach Training Program

546 Comments

Join the conversation

  1. Eating saturated fat does not increase blood cholesterol level, but it does cause inflammation which is linked to heart disease.

    • Can you source any journals to verify your statement? I personally happened to stumble across the concept of a low carb high fat diet. I say from personal experience that it significantly helped what had been chronic depression, I lost 14kg and 6cm around my waist in 3 months, I regained my zest for life and energy to maintain it, and I have stopped feeling bloated. I personally feel that it is carbs combined with fats that is the problem.

    • It is amazing that people still say this. Chris is not making this up. What, is this site trolled by vegans or something? Cholesterol and Saturated Fat Prevent Heart Disease. Read it. It is a book that has 101 studies verifying this and it’s relatively old. There have been even more studies since then.

      • You’re being foolish. Go study the ground-breaking research of Caldwell Essestyn and the others at the Cleveland Clinic, renowned for their cutting -edge research in heart disease:

        • Go away vegan! You are the one who is foolish. Stop trolling sites that help people eat healthier so you can try to “convert” others.

    • Really? Really? Center for science in the public interest. What a joke? Would you pick someone who does not have a vegan bias?

      • This seems to be a well researched and referenced article that is in contrast to much of the recent hype on fat and meat etc.

        I’d like Chris Kresser and colleagues to address this article to help clarify the facts.

        • Chris, that is not an article. It clearly is intended as a pamphlet. It takes very little effort on your part to just Google the scientific articles arguing against your pamphlet, as well as Chris Kresser’s website has tons of citations already that back up what he is saying.

  2. It seems that there is a sort of cherry picking going on here regarding the studies that are sited. I can’t figure out if you (Chris) are putting this info out there because you are being paid by the Beef Industry or the Egg industry or what. Because, a look at the preponderance of evidence Now (current epidemiological studies) fairly convincingly shows that at least two of your assumptions are false: 1. dietary cholesterol does indeed cause, create and mitigate serum cholesterol, and 2. Serum cholesterol (high LDL) is in fact the main predictor of heart disease. I reference: Nutritionfacts.org (Dr Michael Gregor). The evidence is really against your conclusions. I realize that there are many studies that vindicate your position, but it’s like the global warming issue I believe: 95% of the climatalogists now state that humans are main contributor to global warming and only a handful of disingenous scientist still hold to the contrary position.

    R. Barrett MD

  3. There’s another thing: This “HFLC” diet stuff…I keep seeing you say, “I bought this book; I read that book…” Why do you have to buy something to obtain information, if it’s true? These people just want to sell you something. Even Chris Kesser claims his diets are optimal, and therefore should require no supplements (supplements are evil, right?) – so why is he selling expensive supplements on his website?

    Wake up, sheeples. Scientific information and REAL studies NOT designed to sell something are available for free. That should tell you something.

  4. Just for everyone that says vegan diets are linked to higher cholesterol, I don’t think you’re doing it right, then.

    Here are some very current studies that show quite the opposite:

    What can largely be extrapolated is that sufficient evidence exists to link diet, cholesterol and CVD, however, there remain unknown factors (environmental as well as biochemical) that may, in and of themselves, be causal or supplemental to this link. Robust arguments as to the benefits of a vegan diet with regard to serum cholesterol and SFAs exist; however, recommendations as to best practices for reducing CVD with regard to cholesterol and SFAs and other fatty acids are continuously evolving –

    -http://biohorizons.oxfordjournals.org/content/3/2/197.full – from 2010

    http://www.theveganrd.com/2014/03/dont-think-twice-about-going-vegan.html – debunks Kesser’s arguments

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMOjVYgYaG8 – debunks Paleo diet in general

    http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/89/5/1627S.full – another recent 2009 study finding lower levels of serum cholesterol in vegans

    So…yeah, sometimes, cholesterol can be the enemy. I agree a small amount of saturated fat is good, such as those found in the organic unrefined coconut oil & avocados. I really hate that everyone is promoting these myths about eating – I agree, to each his own, but moderation is the key; not this butter and fatty meat-laden diet nonsense.

  5. In the 1970s, bad nutritional advice was released tot he public advocating a low-fat diet. Obesity then was just 2% – now it’s a whopping 25!

    Why would I swap lovely creamy whole milk for tasteless semi-skimmed, or worse, skimmed?

    What sane person would opt for margarine, a slew of chemicals in a tub – which is grey before it’s dyed yellow and is one molecule away from plastic – over butter which is a purely natural product?

    • Water is just one atom away from hydrogen peroxide yet you drink that. I’d also eat butter over margarine but this “one molecule” argument does not mean anything.

      • Good point. If you actually study chemistry, then you realize that everything is ridiculously similar.
        This may be a reason why some chemists are nonchalant about artificial chemicals, because on a theoretical basis the chemical doesn’t seem so bad.
        For example, with my knowledge of chemistry and supposing that I knew nothing about the effects of artificial trans fats, then I’d probably shrug my shoulders at them.

    • Margarine looks after your heart better

      At 20 per cent saturated fat, margarine has less ‘bad’ saturated fat and more heart-healthy unsaturates than butter. It has no cholesterol. It’s the spread of choice for the Heart Foundation in all their recommendations. Up until the 1990s, margarines had a lot more trans fat due to the hydrogenation process that turns liquid oils in a semi-solid spread. This created synthetic trans fatty acids that raise LDL- and lower HDL-cholestero, both considered bad for heart disease risk.

      These days, virtually all the margarines/spreads in Australia arefree of trans fats (less than 1per cent), thanks to the Heart Foundation Tick program as well as responsible manufacturers. This situation is different from that in the USA and UK. So take care when reading articles from overseas as they don’t apply here in Australia.

      • Except that cholesterol isn’t the enemy. LDL cholesterol is. Most people automatically regulate both types of cholesterol regardless of how much cholesterol is ingested. So the fact that is has less than butter does not recommend it.

      • I think the whole point of the article was to point out that saturated fats and cholesterol are not necessarily the enemy here. The author also points out that many of our current healthcare professionals still give advice based on antiquated and erroneous ideas that were perpetuated back when they were in school. We now know more information for a more complete picture. Many heart health professionals and even organizations have not yet changed their recommendations in light of this new information.

    • You’re spreading the usual false myths about margarine. Margarine is actually naturally white, not grey or black. The dairy industry lobbied several countries to add other colors because they were afraid of loosing butter sales (it was mandatory for margarine to be pink at one time in NJ/NY!)

      In fact, the dairy industry sometimes (often?) adds color to butter (See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annatto)

      Everything you eat is made up of chemicals, and as others point out even water is one molecule away from something dangerous.
      See: http://www.snopes.com/food/warnings/butter.asp

    • Why would you drink cows milk at all? A cow’s milk is made for a (baby cow) to consume not HUMANS!!!

      • And broccoli is a flower designed to make new broccoli plants. Only human breast milk is designed for humans but unfortunately, most mothers don’t outlive their children so they have to stop breastfeeding at some time.

  6. I pretty much followed the Joel Fuhrman diet and the Aztec non-inflamatory dies and cholesterol went down from 277 to 238; Hdl – 52 to 61: trig – 168 to 90; LDL 189 to 159. Still working on it, but ratios are all good. Also weight went from 154 to 135. This took about 5 months. I am hoping for even better results next month as I am now better able to follow the diet with less temptation and enjoy the vegetables and fruits and smoothies and don’t need all the carbs I was addicted to before. I refused statins which severely damaged my sister. I believe diet lowered in sat., eliminating sugar and lowering grain carbs has really helped me. I also exercise at a gym. I believe my Dr. is quite angry because I did it without drugs.

  7. I don’t understand. A friend of mine was told by her doctor that she had EXTREMELY high cholesterol levels and wanted to put her on X,Y, and Z medications. I don’t know what set her on a different path but something she read or a documentary she watched challenged her to try vegan for 30 days. It’s now been six years since she has eaten meat, cheese or any dairy. Her cholesterol numbers are outstanding and she is thin and healthy. Once again, I don’t get it…is this article a sort of propaganda? It doesn’t sound like it, everything that was mentioned made sense…very confused!

    • Look this is all really obvious. Here’s the kinds of foods that we should all consume to reduce risk of heart disease and many other chronic non-communicable diseases:

      1. Proper levels of ‘good healthful fats’. Good healthful fats make good (HDL) cholesterol which removes bad (LDL) cholesterol. Good cholesterol is necessary for making hormones and vitamin D etc… Good healthful fats include:

      a. Omega 3 fats found in avocado, flax, fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, grassfed meats and diary etc. Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and reduce risk of heart disease.

      b. A moderate amount of omega-6 fats found in vegetable oils like canola oil (linoleic acid) and in grassfed meats (conjugated linoleic acid). Excess omega-6 consumption leads to excess of inflammation.

      c An omega 6 to omega 3 ratio close to 1:1 and not what most people consume which is closer to 15:1.

      d. Good saturated fats. Saturated fats don’t just come from animals and not all saturated fats are bad. Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) such as lauric acid are good healthful saturated fats that can be found in high levels in coconut and extra virgin coconut oil (not the bad hydrogenated stuff) and grassfed butter.

      2. Low in refined carbs but overall low to moderate amounts of carbs unless you lead a very active lifestyle. Excess carbs are converted to triglycerides which can increase bad cholesterol levels. People who eat a plant based diet tend to also eat more whole foods and whole foods usually contain low GI carbs (in addition to lots of fiber) which means less triglycerides.

      3. High in dietary fiber (i.e plant based foods) because it binds excess cholesterol and helps eliminate it from our bodies.

      So what’s the issue with meat and dairy and bad cholesterol?

      The issue is really the QUALITY of these foods. Grassfed meats, eggs and dairy have a more healthful nutritional profile than their grain fed counterparts with:

      4X higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid;
      Higher levels of omega-3s;
      A more balanced omega 6 to omega 3 ratio;
      Higher levels of stearic acid, a saturated fat that does NOT increase bad cholesterol;
      Lower total fat content;
      Higher beta-carotene levels;
      Higher vitamin E;
      Higher in the B-vitamins – thiamin and riboflavin;
      Higher in calcium, magnesium, and potassium;

      So what increases bad cholesterol?

      1. Most trans fats (bad fats) i.e. partially hydrogenated Vegetable oil found in some french fries, commercially made cakes, pastries and cookies etc.

      Research from the Harvard School of Public Health and elsewhere indicates that trans fats can harm health in even small amounts: for every 2% of calories from trans fat consumed daily, the risk of heart disease rises by 23%.

      2. Disproportionately high levels of certain saturated fats like those found in GRAIN FED meats. GRAIN-FED meats and dairy contain higher levels of palmitic acid and myristic acid, 2 saturated fats linked to high cholesterol. Did you know some farmers even feed their cows candy (aka refined carbs)?!?!?

      3. Excess consumption of carbs, particularly refined carbs.

      4. Excess consumption of omega-6 fats because of their inflammatory properties

      So what’s the takeaway from all this?!?!!

      1. Know your good fats from bad fats
      2. Avoid excess levels of refined carbs and processed foods
      3. Get in large amounts of fiber
      4. Go for grassfed meats, eggs and dairy

      If all this is too much work, follow a plant based (vegan) diet using mostly whole foods. However if you go on a vegan diet and eat mostly white rice, white flour, pasta and french fries cooked in soyabean and corn oil, you can bet you will end up with heart disease and probably end up overweight too!!!

      This article and others that Chris Kresser have written are advocating saturated fats and cholesterol from grassfed meats and dairy. But it does not say anywhere to not eat plant based foods.

      The proof is there. People need to do their own research and USE COMMON SENSE. Heart disease was not a major issue 100 years ago for meat eaters because they ate a diet higher in complex carbs, grassfed meats and dairy with lots of fiber and much fewer processed foods.

      Those of you on HFLC diets be smart about the fats you eat and the sources! Those of you who go HCLF, make sure you get the right carbs and all the good fats. Either diet can cause you health problems if you don’t select healthful foods.

      • I’ve been pescetarian for 9 years (no meat other than fish and eggs). The eggs I’ve been eating for the same length of time have been from grain fed, cage free hens. 90% of the meals I cook are vegetarian: full of grains, legumes, and veggies. Almost never use butter. NEVER buy/use milk of any type (I consume very little dairy outside of cheese). Rarely buy bread.

        Yet my overall cholesterol is 231. I’m not overweight and have a normal BMI (in fact, I’m only 10 lbs heavier than my weight in high school). Doctor says to “eat a low cholesterol diet.” However, I’m an overt hypothyroid, which I’ve read can raise cholesterol. Hoping with treatment for that my blood cholesterol will lower.

        • 231 isn’t necessarily bad. It depends on what your LDL and triglycerides are. If yours are high, you may want to cut back on carbs. Carbs are usually what drives up LDL and trigs.

      • Thank you so much Anthony great summary I think this is the first time I have seen a sensible answer to the question What can I eat to keep healthy?
        Alison

      • Commonsense is indeed important, the trouble is, some people measure commonsense too individually and often have little (commonsense). Take vegan diets, always lead to malnutrition (B12, K2, good fats, etc.), but try to tell someone on such a diet that. How many vegans are there in the U.S., the Internet claims 1,000,000. In other words, one out of 320 (approximately) are on that risky road. It’s good for a brief time, detox they say, but anyone on such a diet feels washed out eventually, hopefully not too damaged in the process. Nora Gedgaudas, who wrote Primal Body, Primal Mind said the most ill clients she treated were ex-vegans or vegans still in the loop. Oh well, everyone has to learn, but it’s such a hard lesson and one that may cause permanent harm. I hope not, a dear relative of mine has just crossed over that dicey line.

        • I’ll let you know after a year on it. When you’ve got carotid a artery stenosis you’ll go vegan too.

      • Yes, this is very well written and perfectly stated. As consumers we MUST learn to do our own research. No-longer can we stand on the merritt of another person just because he/she has a degree. “we perish for lack of knowledge”!

      • Coconut oil raised my cholesterol and LDL significantly. its not safe and is a fad that is gonna make a lot of people sick

      • Thank you, Anthony… very well said. I believe a vegan diet is dangerous in the long term and should not be advocated for health reasons… the stories I have read of vegans who end up in crisis because they are starving their bodies of essential proteins and nutrients are legion. Your cholesterol may be low now, but wait until your liver fails from choline deficiency. What’s worse are those who impose it on children who may suffer life long consequences. If you choose to abstain from animal-based foods for ethical reasons, fine… but don’t say it’s for health. I eat certified humane pastured organic dairy and meats and harvest eggs from my own organic hens. I sleep fine at night and am healthy as hell.

    • The elephant in the room is she lost weight Jason, that’s it. She has drastically cut a lot of calories from her diet by going vegan, a lot of fruit and veg is consumed which is high in volume in food terms but low in calories, also the food is higher in fibre which is very satiating. If she lost the weight by reducing calories and training but kept eating meat/dairy/eggs I garuantee you that her cholesterol numbers/weight numbers would be outstanding aswel.

    • Grossly modifying a diet from refined foods to wholefoods and then excluding animal based products does not mean that the exclusion of animal based products reduced your friends cholesterol!
      I’ve lost 27 Kilos through diet change & exercise (mostly walking). I cook more meat & 5 veg, wholemeal bread, full cream milk, full fat yogurt (seriously – why does the low fat version only have roughly 10% less calories than the full fat? it’s the sugar!) and generally more whole foods.

      Due to all this, my cholesterol went from being in the very high risk (in their software it the bar going from green to red it was 3/4 in the red) to normal (middle green). I’ve INCREASED my dietary saturated fat and cholesterol intake but in combination with a healthy diet.

      I also eat healthy oils, cook with peanut oil if the pan needs to be hot, and olive oil if it doesn’t, plenty of fish, etc.

    • Vegan diets are flawed. Why? They demand supplements, for instance, B12, K2, and several other vitamins. Nora Gedgaudas said, in her neurofeedback practice, (She wrote, Primal Body, Primal Mind and it’s a book that blows the vegan/vegetarian thing out of the ball park), she said, quote: “Vegans are by far the most ill people she has treated.” High protein is not the answer though, for instance, deduct your BF number from your weight, divide it by 0.8 and then half the result, for instance, a weight of 150 minus 24BF equals 126 X 0,8 equals 101 divided by 2= 50 the protein one needs each day. The American way is twice that and the excess protein turns into sugar, gets into our blood, organs, etc., and will, if continued lead to type 2 diabetes. Vegan simply become anemic, but pernicious anemia and that’s dangerous as in life threatening. Vegan diets are great for detoxing short term, but fall flat soon after. The fact that someone does well for a while, look at T. Colin Campbell, at 66 he looked 92 then look at Loren Cordain when he Campbell appeared on the Larry King show, 2013, However, to be fair, Cordain was only 63, Campbell was 79 but looked over 100. I’m not being unkind, a picture is worth a thousand (or more) words and it doesn’t take a genius to realize Campbell has it wrong but is too stubborn to admit it, or not that bright or flexible (yes, stubborn). We, a couple million years ago, or more, were fruit eaters, at least when it was, fruit, available, Fruit is a terrific way to put on fat, and they, our ancestors long ago, did that because famine/winter was coming but somehow we were so hungry and smelled decaying flesh, tasted it, liked it and from that time on our entire physiological countenance/structure changed, our brains, bones, and bodies grew strong. If veganism were to flourish, those who survived would be in danger of being blown away in a high wind, impotence, miscarriages, anemia, blindness, and their hypothalamus would go wacko, which mean they’d be a bit crazy, truly ill and short lived. In fact, they’d be something like the Shakers, they would cease to exist. But something would happen, some vegans would say, “Nuts to this insanity, give me meat!”

      Do I care what you or anyone else does, however? No, I’ve long since distanced myself from caring, it’s too frustrating, too demanding, and too tragic to care. All sure to be stressful, and accomplish nothing.

    • Define healthy. Maybe she’d be healthier by adding meat and eggs into her vegetarian diet. Ever thought about that? You can’t distinguish meat being the culprit. You don’t specify if she ate/eats grains, wheat, flour, sugar. Is she true vegetarian? Did you know cholesterol isn’t linked to heart disease?

  8. Are we really suffering from high cholesterol?

    I’ve read “Fat and Cholesterol are Good for You” by Ulfe Ravnskov and “Cholesterol Clarity” by Jimmy Moore, and have completely changed my views on cholesterol.

    I do admit that this is a very sensitive topic, because health is interestingly enough, a very ‘subjective’ matter. We do try to be objective through studies and researches, but it’s no secret that the human body is still largely unknown, and of course, studies being flawed and controlled by big pharmaceutical companies do not help.

    I think taking statins for the rest of our lives in order to control our cholesterol levels is just an act of negligence. There’s a clear line between preventing potential cardiovascular diseases and being just paranoid.

    Would it be really wise to artificially lower our cholesterol levels with drugs which has been proven to cause a myriad of other health complications? Or should we be focusing our efforts to naturally lower the “inflammation” within our bodies, not cholesterol itself?

    Some doctors are saying that the condition of “high cholesterol” is a disease invented by man.

    Many questions, many doubts, but one thing I do believe and know is that there is no bad cholesterol, our efforts should be more focused on how to lower inflammation levels which is the real culprit behind diseases associated with high cholesterol.

  9. Thank you Chris and the rest of the team for providing so much interesting information on nutrition and health.

    One question: what are the errors comitted by researchers who claim that their experiments prove that fat is unhealthy. Take for example this article here, by Michael Crawford and others fron 2012:
    http://nah.sagepub.com/content/21/3/173
    For a lay person, it is almost impossible to judge the quality of the research. An explaination would be much appreciated. Thank you again!

  10. My GP (a conventional MD) recommended high fat, low carb a little over year ago…. high fat as in “be sure to eat more butter, lard, olive oil etc every day) and my cholesterol numbers are MUCH better than before. Would not have believed it before but have done much research since and it makes sense and works for me.

  11. I’m interested as to how a vegan would truly live off the land in the northern states that see 5-6 months of freezing temps, high snow accumulation and generally difficult natural living environment of one were to truly live off the land and not shop the grocery story during the frozen tundra months for all of the vegan choices suggested on this site? I myself love to eat a wide variety of foods from plants, nuts, animals, etc. and I enjoy hunting and gathering. But I just can’t see how to actually live 12 months of the year on a complete plant based diet in a state such as MN. Thanks for all of the content and education here.

  12. I only come to this site for amusement. The articles and comments generally provide more humor than the comics.

    For nutritional science I read books like the Okinawan Program, the Blue Zones and books by people that know what they are talking about like Drs Esselstyn, Ornish and Furhman, all of whom have reversed heart disease in real people.

    • I’m totally with you, Harold. It upsets me the number of commenters who confess their cholesterol went way up when they went HFLC, as encouraged on sites like this one. (Completely normal, as proven in clinical trials over decades). Yet, like sheep, they continue on – when all the time there are thousands of people who have had heart disease reversed – documented in credible medical journals – who do the opposite of the recommendations here (ie. as per Ornish, Esselstyn etc.). Even insurance companies now encourage a lower fat, plant based diet to reverse chronic conditions. But the ‘flat-earthers’ continue to be HFLC believers.

    • I think the conflict lies in the fact that everyone’s bodies are different. Even the studies which question the conventional wisdom on cholesterol show that in approximately 1/3 of people, increased dietary cholesterol does indeed raise blood/serum cholesterol.

      Put another way, a diet which ignores fat and cholesterol, but restricts carbohydrates will lower blood cholesterol in most people. But a diet that is low fat, low cholesterol and low carb will lower blood cholesterol for everyone.

      • Low fat & low carb means (by definition) high protein – animal high protein will mean high cholesterol, except for low- or no-fat dairy. Vegetable high protein will mean high fat, except for soy or beans/corn. Is this what you are recommending, or am I missing something?

  13. I accessed (5), I read what has to be convoluted nonsense, but if I read the last four words, “CAD risk remain uncertain,” I then ponder, why write the thing in the first place? If I’m living in an igloo as a resident of the North Pole, God knows why, saturated fat, blubber, animal fat, etc., are necessary to make it through the day lest one have gofers to fetch and carry various and sundry foods while I bask in the warm of said igloo. The fat thing is interesting, without fat food holds little appeal, I mean how can anyone drink non-fat pasteurized milk and feel as if they’re in their right mind let alone satisfied? Every Vegan I’ve ever had the displeasure of talking to makes me want to devour quarter pound cubes of salted butter like one might a banana and Vegetarians are only slightly less annoying, could it be something to do with B12 and folic acid deficiency? What a drag, but then is it natural to separate cream from milk and slather our foods with what is delicious, that is, butter? I don’t think so, but I could be wrong. The Pilgrim’s sold most of their butter just so they could pay the cost of being transported to America. When they arrived and were viewed by the Indians, they looked more dead than alive. They needed the fat but then they were weird to start with and weirdness has become a way of life, called, “The Western Diet.” Wherever it went doctors and dentist would soon arrive. Last night I looked at the number of ingredients in BK’s chicken fries, 80 ingredients, not one of them except possibly turmeric had any health benefits, all others were sure to make one fat, stupid and dead. However, there is a growing number of enlightened people who actually are changing their diets and improving their health, meanwhile most people are not. Only when the earth crumples beneath their feet will they get scared enough to change their habits, but by that time it’ will be too late. Nobody can change their stupid brain into a smart brain, and so 75% of Americans are either obese or overweight and continue to serve plutocrats and government’s psychopathic enclave till death do them part. Most believe they’ll go to a better place when they die, imagine believing they’ll live for eternity? But maybe a billion years will pass quickly but a billion years is a long time and as has been often said, ‘Be careful what you wish for.” Meanwhile, To eat according to parameters set by so called diet experts or simply buy whole, organic, and satisfying food and eat whatever appeals to you. If butter on yams sounds good, go for it, if a glass of whole raw milk, drink it, if a glass of organic wine with pickled herring sounds………., you get the picture, why eat right and develop a neurosis in the process, it kind of self-defeating. Have fun, make love, eat good food when hungry, dump the junk and be happy. It’s amazing how quickly one adjusts to new habits and new choices when they agree with out bodies. One month after radical change becomes normalcy and the body responds will all sorts of indicators. There’s a great Ted Talk at:
    http://www.ted.com/talks/william_li#t-316263
    It’s about cancer and the causes thereof and the foods that cancer thrives on and the foods cancer dies on, and the latter is the much preferred choice.

    • What we eat that we want to eat matters to the world. Just liking it or wanting it doesn’t mean we should. You said vegans make you sick, but the fact is eating a vegan diet does great for people and the planet. Nothing has shown otherwise. Drink your milk, but know after being a baby you shouldn’t have kept drinking it, and certainly not milk from a cow. Eating vegan can be great, and at least for me it has been. Its not tasteless or bland. after being one for over 5 years I have no wish in going back to eating food that we don’t need to eat.

  14. hey guys!!!! if you eat grade A ultra pasteurized milk, cheep yellow cheddar cheese, and bacon full of sugar YES, your cholesterol is going to go up!!!!!
    first: cheese isn’t suppose to be yellow in the first place that’s just food coloring.
    second: you should drink RAW milk with all the nutrition still in it.
    third: read the ingredients on the back of the bacon!!! i bet you just grabbed a bunch of bacon off the shelf and threw it in the cart with out even looking at whats in it!!! watch Cereal Killers ( the kind you eat) its a great movie about all this stuff!!!!

    • My rheumatologist isn’t so keen on me eating raw cheeses,milk,etc due to concerns over Lysteria. Immune Compromised, taking Enbrel……

      • My family started getting raw milk from a small farm 2 years ago…and although I was initially concerned for the same reason you stated… I then thought of all the recalls in just the couple years prior from either produce or pasteurized food. Lettuce, cantaloupe, peanut butter, beef… more recently, chobani yogurt and sabra hummus. Not to mention I eat sushi.lol I still think everyone needs to choose what’s comfortable for them; I trust that the farm I go to takes care of their cows, sterilizes their equipment, and batch-tests their milk, but I know that doesn’t mean a mistake can’t happen… To me it’s no different then trusting what I buy from the food store or eat at a restaurant.

  15. I went on the high fat low carb diet and my cholesterol went above 300 from 200 in 6 months. I have familial hypercholesterol. What to do?

    • Hi Liz,

      How many grams of carb are you consuming on average on a daily basis? Also if you don’t mind could you list recall of what you ate around the time of your checkup? Lastly , how long have you been on the HFLC diet?

    • I’ve been on LCHF for 6 months, too, and my total cholesterol went from 218 to 475 during that time! HDL went up to 120 from 81, but unfortunately LDL as well, from 118 to 326. I don’t get it, and I’m scared.

        • Well, HDL is the good fat, and LDL the bad. Or are you asking what kind of fats I’m eating?

      • Check out this article by Dr. Thomas Dayspring entitled “Lipidaholics Anonymous Case 291: Can losing weight worsen lipids?”, in which he discusses in depth the “Paleo-Lipid” condition, (dramatic increases in TC, LDL-C, LDL-P, but everything else improves).
        http://www.lecturepad.org/index.php/lipidaholicsanaonymous/1140-lipidaholics-anonymous-case-291-can-losing-weight-worsen-lipids
        A quote from that article:
        “In many (including the patient being discussed) but certainly not all (the true incidence remains to be determined but experienced colleagues who have a lot of patients on low carb diets advise it is about 1/3 of patients) despite all of the above biomarker and waist size and BMI improvementsthere is a drastic worsening of TC, LDL-C and most worrisome of all apoB and LDL-P”
        His conclusion is that saturated fat is responsible in those patients.

        • Thanks for that link. I’m on this diet because of my too high blood sugar; now the blood sugar is fine, and my cholesterol is a mess–if it’s truly the saturated fats and not just that my body needs time to still adjust to the diet, that would limit what I can eat quite a bit more, which would be a real bummer.

          • Christine,

            Two of my family members are practising LCHF diet with some decent results and no downside effect on Cholesterol. I am the one who is doing all the research and applying it on them. There is not just one thing and source to follow. This link to Dr. Dayspring’s article is one more addition to my arsenal. I am primarily following Dr. Peter Attia and Dr. Jay Wortman’s protocols.

            But additional things are substituting modern wheat with Einkorn, if at all and always sourdough, A2 milk, if at all (in yoghurt form), Coconut Oil (cooking) + Olive Oil (raw) + Grass Fed Butter and Iodine supplementation plus much more like elimination of GMOs. You can review most of it on my blog at: https://yrusick.wordpress.com/ and read my Jan 2, 2015 post and comments under that on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Shailendra.K.Chaudhary.

            Bottom line: There are many variables and none of the scientific knowledge that we acquire is the last word.

    • Hi Liz
      This is no advice but it works for me.Halved my total cholesterol level by eating and working less,sleeping and exercising more,much more than a couple of years ago.Got into trail running,hiking and all the activities I had neglected as part of raising a family.

  16. cut out carbs (which i ate a lot of) and hit the cheese and bacon hard, and with much trepidation went for my annual check up (aged 47)
    shocked when the doc told me my cholesterol levels which were previously OK, had dropped much lower
    bring on the cheese and bacon

    • Berryman,

      Please careful and do your research about cancer and animal fats. You may have lowered your cholesterol but you could end up with bowl cancer.

      The China Study by Colin Campbell is an interesting book. Research yourself the links between cancer and animal fats and see what turns up. We know along with heart disease this is a number one killer.

      As someone earlier said in this post… No study is conclusive but we know that by eating mainly plants and live foods people go to the bathroom several times a day with ease. We don’t have the acidic saliver that dogs and other canines have. Heavy meat eaters without enough plant fibre in their diets get dreadfully clogged digestive systems and constipation which can also lead to diverticulosis.

      I realise we all do what we think is best based in the information we find. I just wanted to prompt you to question it from a different angle.

[if lte IE 8]
[if lte IE 8]