Myths about Cholesterol-Lowering Diets

In this article, we'll explore some of the myths about cholesterol-lowering diets. Keep reading to learn more!
Myths about Cholesterol-Lowering Diets

Last update: 03 February, 2020

Nowadays, high cholesterol is becoming increasingly prevalent in our society. This is why it’s quite easy for myths to arise about recommendations on how to lower it. In this article, we’ll debunk the most common myths about cholesterol-lowering diets.

Common myths about cholesterol-lowering diets

To learn how these myths arise, first, it’s a good idea to know what hypercholesterolemia is and how it can affect health.

What’s high cholesterol?

Hypercholesterolemia is a disease characterized by high blood cholesterol levels. This may be a risk factor for the development of cardiovascular diseases since it facilitates the formation of atheromatous plaque.

Having elevated “bad” cholesterol (LDL) makes it easier for the molecules that carry it in the blood to enter the vascular walls of the arteries. There, they oxidize, causing an inflammatory response in the body.

However, cholesterol is only one indicator of cardiovascular risk, among others. Besides monitoring “good cholesterol” and “bad cholesterol,” medical professionals must also analyze inflammatory markers and whether these cholesterol molecules are big or small.

Cholesterol in the blood.

Do you have to follow a diet low in fats?

You’ve probably always heard the myth that you have to follow a diet low in fats. If the cholesterol is carried by lipids, it seems logical that if you reduce fat in your diet, you’ll also lower your cholesterol levels, especially saturated fats.

However, recent studies have debunked this, because it seems that saturated fats increase HDL, or “good” cholesterol, more than LDL or “bad” cholesterol. Furthermore, experts also discovered that saturated fats don’t worsen heart disease. Often, people replace saturated fats with refined grains. However, this isn’t accurate. Therefore, your diet should be healthy, with an adequate amount of fats.

The best types of fats are found in:

  • Oily fish
  • Nuts
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Avocadoes.

Myths about cholesterol-lowering diets: Does consuming cholesterol raise cholesterol?

This myth finds its roots in eggs, as a lot of people believe that, since eggs are rich in cholesterol, eating too many eggs can raise your blood cholesterol levels. However, it’s been proven that this isn’t true. In fact, frequently consuming eggs in a healthy diet can increase “good” cholesterol, as this study shows.

Most studies find no relationship between cholesterol intake and blood cholesterol. Your body has a cholesterol regulation system that adjusts cholesterol synthesis to produce what it needs. The more you include in your diet, the less it produces, and vice versa.

A blood cholesterol test.

Should you consume more vegetables and less animal fat?

This will depend on the type of fat each food contains.

Vegetable fats, such as palm oil, mainly present in pastries and ultra-processed foods, increase cardiovascular risk. Also, highly refined seed oils that contain a lot of omega-6 can be inflammatory. Trans fats, also present in ultra-processed foods, are more harmful than animal fats.

Thus, should you opt for margarine instead of butter? Not necessarily, as margarine usually contains this type of hydrogenated fat. However, butter contains saturated fats.

As for animal fats, you must know that the fats in fish (polyunsaturated) are better than the fats in meat (saturated), especially if it’s processed.

Dietary recommendations for lowering cholesterol

  • First, the type of fats you should mainly consume are from nuts and seeds, fish (especially oily fish), and extra virgin olive oil. Also, you should reduce your fat intake from processed meats and dairy products.
  • Reduce your consumption of pastries and ultra-processed foods. This is because they contain trans or hydrogenated fats, refined flour, refined oils, and a lot of sugar, as they increase cholesterol levels.
  • Finally, increase your consumption of soluble fiber. This is because it prevents the intestinal absorption of cholesterol and fat. You can find it in whole grains, vegetables, and legumes.
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