There are two main types of cholesterol in the body which are known as LDL and HDL cholesterol. LDL stands for low density lipoprotein and is commonly referred to as ‘bad cholesterol’. HDL stands for high density lipoprotein and is commonly referred to as ‘good cholesterol’. Both LDL and HDL cholesterol enable transport of different fat molecules around the body. LDL particles however, can transport cholesterol into artery walls, where it can build up to form plaques, resulting in heart disease. HDL’s role is to remove this build up from arteries. It is therefore preferable to have lower levels of LDL cholesterol and higher levels of HDL cholesterol to protect against heart disease.
In Australia, 51% of adults have high blood cholesterol levels. To lower cholesterol levels the National Heart Foundation recommends the following:
- Be smoke-free
- Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight
- Choose polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oils and margarine spreads
- Choose foods such as wholegrain bread and cereals, brown rice, wholemeal pasta, vegetables, fruits, legumes (e.g. chick peas, kidney beans and lentils), lean meats and poultry, oily fish and reduced, low or no fat dairy products
- Consume plant sterol enriched foods as part of a health eating plan
- Limit cholesterol-rich foods if advised to do so
- Limit alcohol intake to no more than 2 standard drinks per day for men and women
- Get at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week.
Cholesterol in the diet is obtained from animal foods such as meat, dairy and eggs. All plant foods are cholesterol free. Contrary to popular belief, cholesterol from foods causes only a small increase in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, substantially less than saturated fat and trans fat intake. In fact, the majority of people don’t respond to dietary cholesterol. Approximately 25% of the population have been dubbed ‘hyper-responders’ because their blood levels do increase with dietary cholesterol. It is important to note however, that dietary cholesterol has been shown to increase HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) which is important for heart health. Dietary cholesterol has also been shown to increase the size of both LDL and HDL particles making LDL cholesterol less likely to build up in arteries and cause heart disease and making HDL particles more effective at removing cholesterol from the arteries.
The Heart Foundation recommends the following when it comes to eggs and dietary cholesterol:
- Cholesterol in foods has only a small effect on your LDL cholesterol, especially when compared with the much greater increase caused by saturated and trans fat in food.
Eggs are very nutritious. They contain good quality protein, lots of vitamins and minerals, and mostly the healthier polyunsaturated fat. The dietary cholesterol in eggs has only a small insignificant effect on blood LDL cholesterol.