High cholesterol levels are common in our society and many people are confused about how to eat to control blood levels. Cholesterol is produced by the body in the liver and is also absorbed through the consumption of animal protein such as meat, eggs and cheese.
Our body needs cholesterol for its metabolic processes. Cholesterol is part of cell membranes and plays a role in the production of vitamin D, hormones and bile acids. Bile acids are used to break down fats during the digestive process. However, too much cholesterol in the blood can lead to plaque formation, with plaque clinging to the walls of the arteries and causing atherosclerosis. This can lead to coronary artery disease, in which the arteries are narrowed and blocked.
When we take our cholesterol from food, we usually look at total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol (high density lipoproteins), LDL cholesterol (low density lipoproteins), VLDL cholesterol (very low density lipoproteins) and Triglycerides. LDL cholesterol, also known as “bad cholesterol”, carries most of the cholesterol to your body’s cells. When the level is high, plaque buildup and clogging of the arteries can occur. HDL cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol, is responsible for moving the cholesterol from the body back to the liver, which then removes it from the body. VLDL cholesterol mainly contains triglycerides, which can also lead to plaque build-up in the arteries. Triglycerides are a type of fat in the blood that is stored in fat cells for energy in the body, but they can also contribute to atherosclerosis.
High cholesterol levels are usually caused by an unhealthy lifestyle, including bad eating habits, lack of physical activity, and smoking. In addition, cholesterol levels tend to increase with weight and age. High levels have also been linked to family history and race. In the past, the American Heart Association (AHA) has recommended restrictions on your intake of cholesterol, trans fat, and saturated fat (especially from eggs), all of which can potentially increase blood cholesterol.
However, a study published in Circulation found that after reviewing 17 studies, there appeared to be no significant association between dietary cholesterol and heart disease or egg consumption and heart disease. In fact, The AHA’s new guidelines no longer limit daily cholesterol levels. The old standard was to consume less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol for the general population and less than 200 milligrams for those with a history of high cholesterol. Instead, the focus is now on the diet as a whole and choosing whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and nuts instead of counting the amount consumed each day. Regarding eggs, two studies published in 2018 show that eggs do not increase your risk of heart disease and may even be protective.
AHA guidelines still limit eggs to one per day for people with heart disease and two per day for people with normal cholesterol. In addition to studying eggs, some recent research has shown that saturated fat may not affect CVD risk as originally thought.
The takeaway message is moderation. Eat healthy fats, lots of fruits and vegetables, and some lean protein. Exercise and maintain a healthy weight, and don’t get fixated on any part of your diet or lifestyle – think of it as a whole. Your diet and lifestyle can negatively affect your sexual function and sperm quality. If you have a disorder that you believe is being influenced by your lifestyle, contact us for a free telephone consultation. We’re here to help!