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What Causes High Cholesterol In Vegetarians

Vegan Diet And Cholesterol

The Cholesterol Myth – The Real Cause Of High Cholesterol

People who consume or prefer a plant-based vegan diet can eat special cholesterol-lowering foods, which in turn lower their LDL cholesterol. These foods include oats, nuts, fruits, beans, barley, and other foods high in fiber. Some foods, such as soy protein, nuts, wheat germ, wheat bran, brussels sprouts, contain substances called phytosterols. Regular consumption of these products can reduce your LDL levels by nearly 30 percent, and that too in just four weeks time.

Inculcating food items that are rich in vitamin b12 can also lower cholesterol levels. Eating these products regularly can significantly affect the overall quality of our diets because they tend to minus saturated fat. Nondietary factors such as smoking and obesity can lower the levels of HDL in a person. Alternatively, working out regularly and doing vigorous exercises in addition to eating foods rich in vitamin C can increase HDL levels. Vegetarians and vegans have an average ratio of total cholesterol to HDL level of about 3 to 1. Therefore, a general comparative verdict predicts that carnivore diets have a higher risk of the subconscious or unnoticed high intake of saturated fats.

Do You Have High Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is a natural and essential part of all cells in your body. It helps produce hormones, make vitamin D, provide cells with structure, and plays a role in the process of digesting fats. The liver creates all of the cholesterol that your body needs, so it is not required that you get it from foods. Foods that come from animals such as meat, cheese, and eggs all provide dietary cholesterol to the body.

There are two types of cholesterol: high-density lipoproteins and low-density lipoproteins . HDL is thought of as the good type of cholesterol because it carries cholesterol from your blood to your liver to be removed. This is helpful to the heart. LDL is the bad type of cholesterol: It causes a buildup of cholesterol in the blood, which leads to furring up of the arteries. This is called atherosclerosis and is a direct cause of heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral artery disease.

Triglycerides are a type of fat in the blood. They are separate to and different from cholesterol, but they are nearly always included in the cholesterol lab panel since they have a similar effect on your heart and overall health. Triglycerides come from eating too many calories .;These extra calories are stored in the blood as triglycerides. High triglyceride levels can lead to heart disease and problems in your pancreas and liver, including fatty liver disease.

Here are the normal ranges for cholesterol and triglyceride levels in adults :


Fats Omegas And Cholesterol In More Detail


Fats are an essential part of our diet but it is important that we do not eat too much. Understanding the role fats play in the human body can help us include the right type of fat in our diet.

Fats help with the absorption of the fat soluble vitamins vitamin A and the carotenoids, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K. Fatty acids, the building blocks of many important substances in the body, are essential to cell membranes, maintaining a regular heartbeat, providing an anti-inflammatory function, regulating cholesterol and contributing to brain and eye development in a developing baby. Fats provide a concentrated source of energy therefore eating too much can lead to weight gain. The optimum amount of fat in our diet depends on our stage of life.; Extremely low fat diets will limit the amount of fat soluble vitamins and essential fats in our diet.

There are 3 main types of fats: saturated fatty acids and two types of unsaturated fatty acids monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids .

For adults fat intake should not exceed more than 33% of total food energy intake, limiting saturated fat to 11% of food energy intake. This equates to a maximum overall daily fat intake of 95g for men and 70g for women, of which saturates should be no more than 30g and 20g respectively. Mono- and poly- unsaturated fats should each provide around one third of our fat intake.


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Heres Why Diet Isnt The Only Possible Reason For High Cholesterol

Medically reviewed by Rosanna Sutherby, PharmD on Feb 6, 2019. Written by Caitlin Boyd. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

âWhy is my cholesterol high?â If you find yourself asking that, you arenât alone. High cholesterol, a well-known risk factor for heart disease and stroke, affects about 1 in every 3 American adults. Thatâs arguably a pretty large proportion of adults who have high cholesterol â and it raises the question: why is high blood cholesterol so common?

Dietary habits, as many people know, are often responsible for high levels of cholesterol: eat a lot of foods high in saturated fat â cheeseburgers, for instance â and your blood cholesterol level might swing upwards.

While a diet high in saturated and trans fat can increase your total cholesterol level and cause high LDL and triglyceride numbers, this isnât always the whole picture when it comes to cholesterol levels: high blood cholesterol can make an unwelcome appearance even if youâre very careful about eating a healthy, balanced diet.

Hereâs why: there are other potential drivers of high cholesterol, such as a lack of exercise and oneâs genetics.

So read on to take a closer look at both of these non-dietary reasons for high cholesterol if youâre wondering âWhy is my cholesterol high when I eat healthy foods?â

The Dietary Guidelines For Americans Summarized

What Causes High Cholesterol In Vegetarian Diet

Heres a summary of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans:

  • Avoid industrial trans fats.
  • Replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats, and aim to get less than 10% of your calories from saturated fats.
  • Reduce calories from solid animal fats with plant oils when possible.
  • Prioritize seafood , lean meats, poultry, eggs, legumes , nuts, seeds, and soy products over red and processed meats as sources of protein.
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    How The Fat You Eat Affects Cholesterol Levels

    The relationship between the fat we eat and our health, particularly our cardiovascular health, has been hotly debated for many years.

    Heres what you need to know:

  • Not all fats are created equally.
  • The kinds of fat you eat matter more than the amount.
  • There are different types of fats in our diet:

    • Polyunsaturated fats: essential and important nutrients
    • Monounsaturated fats: can come from plant or animal products and are generally considered healthy
    • Saturated fats: less healthy than mono- and polyunsaturated fats
    • Trans fats: unhealthy fats

    Trans Fats And Cholesterol Levels

    In Canada, industrially processed trans fats are being phased out of the food supply. Therefore they shouldnt be a huge concern as food manufacturers wont be allow to use this type of fat anymore.

    Trans fats have consistently been shown to increase LDL cholesterol levels and lower HDL cholesterol levels 4. This is a double insult to the body and is likely the reason why trans fats have consistently been shown to increase heart disease risk, and death from cardiovascular disease. They are also thought to cause systemic inflammation, which can lead to other chronic illnesses 3.

    I am very careful with my wording around nutrition recommendations especially when talking about removing a food from the diet. However, if ever I were to say that something should be avoided completely, it would be trans fats.

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    What Foods Decrease Risk Of High Cholesterol

    Randomized clinical trials have shown specific foods that lower cholesterol levels. The Portfolio diet combined four of these foods, each with a different mechanism of action, to get maximum cholesterol lowering results 7. The four cholesterol-lowering food components of the Portfolio diet are:

  • Soluble fibre
  • Nuts
  • Plant sterols
  • A fifth food, legumes, are not specifically included in the Portfolio diet but legumes have been shown to help lower cholesterol levels 14.

    The Food Plan Wesley Milks Md Adopted To Cut His Ldl Without Meds

    Vegans Starting To Get High Cholesterol?! Why?

    As a cardiologist, patients often ask me for ways to lower their cholesterol without taking statins. They wonder how effective and viable alternatives can be and what strategies they can use to lower their cholesterol in other ways.

    I often tell my patients at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center that diet is key. A focus on a plant-based diet, reducing saturated fat, and increasing fiber with vegetables and whole grains, has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels with or without the use of statins. Those levels can drop further by incorporating supplements like soluble fiber products or plant sterols and stanols.

    So several months ago, when my own LDL cholesterol climbed above the optimal range , I decided to find out for myself.

    I’m 34, and have few traditional risk factors for atherosclerotic disease, aside from a family history. But because LDL cholesterol levels are so tightly associated with heart disease risk, I wanted to take action and change the way I eat.

    Major portions of my diet, growing up in Ohio, included the standard American fare of bacon, eggs, and toast for breakfast, a sandwich and chips at lunch, and then “meat and potatoes”-based dinners. I indulged in pork barbecue, complete with Southern-style fixings, during medical training in North Carolina. So, I feel equipped to commiserate with my patients by sharing my personal journey down a new path.

    Predominantly Pescatarian: My Modified Mediterranean Diet

    Less Red Meat

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    How Low Will Your Cholesterol Go On A Vegetarian Diet

    In my clinical cardiology practice, approximately 30 percent of people I see have coronary artery disease, a condition where diet and exercise could make a big difference for prevention.

    Coronary artery disease symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, activity intolerance, nausea, dizziness, and loss of energy. But over time, you may have a heart attack due to blockage of blood flow in a coronary artery. Your heart tissue can become damaged, weaken, and stiffen. This process can result in heart failure. It also leads to an increased risk for developing abnormally fast electrical rhythms from the upper and lower heart chambers. In some cases, coronary artery disease treatment includes cardiac stents, or, when the disease is very severe, coronary artery bypass surgery.

    What if this could be prevented?

    Are Vegans Affected By Cholesterol Issues

    The short answer is yes! Some people think that vegans dont need to worry about their cholesterol levels because they dont consume dietary cholesterol, which is found in animal products. In reality, there are many dietary and non-dietary factors that affect our risk of high cholesterol, including some that we cant influence like our age, family background and genes. ;

    Its becoming increasingly easy for vegans to consume diets high in saturated fat, which can lead to high cholesterol. This is partly due to the popularity of coconut products and heavy use of saturated fats like coconut, palm and shea oils in the manufacturer of some vegan alternatives, such as plant-based butter and cheese and some convenience foods. Eating these products regularly can have a significant effect on the overall quality of our diets because they tend to add saturated fat, sugar and salt and push out healthier choices. ;

    Regarding the wider aspects of heart health, vitamin B12 is a nutrient to consider. This is because low B12 status can result in a high homocysteine level, which has been linked to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. Make sure that your vegan diet follows our guidelines about B12-fortified foods or supplementation.;

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    How To Lower Cholesterol On A Vegan Diet

    So whether youre genetically predisposed to high cholesterol levels or want to make a heart-healthy lifestyle change, you can benefit from switching to a vegan diet.;

    However, there are extra considerations to keep in mind if youre looking to lower your cholesterol levels:;;

    • Youll want to stick to fresh, whole foods whenever possible. That means filling up on fresh fruits, vegetables, and other whole ingredients that havent been heavily processed so you can reap all the nutritious benefits.;
    • Youll also want to make sure youre getting an adequate amount of fiber. Many plant-based items will naturally have a good amount of fiber, but you should also vary your diet to get both soluble and insoluble fiber from a variety of sources.;

    In short, if youre eating a variety of fresh plant-based foods rather than meat products, youll be doing your part to reduce your cholesterol levels! You can also supplement your intake of certain nutrients with vegan-friendly supplement options like vegetarian krill oil alternatives.;

    Summary: Cholesterol And A Vegan Diet


    High cholesterol is both preventable and manageable through lifestyle changes . Medication may still be required for some people . Lowering intake of trans fats and saturated fats while increasing intake of soluble fiber, soy protein, nuts, plant sterols and legumes is demonstrated in research studies to be effective in lowering cholesterol levels. Vegan diets are commonly high in these health-promoting foods and a transition to focusing on eating these plant-based foods could be helpful for cholesterol management.

    Dietary changes are challenging so working with a Registered Dietitian can be extremely helpful in making and sustaining lifestyle changes for long-term health.

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    Where Does Bad Cholesterol Come From

    According to Dr. Michael Greger, founder of, LDL cholesterol is found in trans fats, which is found in processed foods and naturally in meat and dairy. The Mayo Clinic notes that this trans fats are double trouble for heart health due to the fact that it raises LDL levels while lowering good HDL levels.

    Trans fat is added to processed foods through an industrial process where hydrogen is added to vegetable oil, which allows the oil to be solid at room temperature. On ingredients labels, its called partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, and it is used to give many packaged foods a longer shelf life. It is also used for deep-frying by some restaurants because partially hydrogenated oil does not need to be changed as often.

    Foods that typically contain trans fats include commercial baked goods, snacks like chips and crackers, refrigerated dough such as cinnamon rolls and pizza crusts, fried foods, and margarine. Cheese, butter, and processed meat like bacon, breakfast sausages, ham, and hot dogs are also high in bad cholesterol.

    Cholesterol Benefits Of Vegetarian Diets

    An October 2015 analysis in the Journal of the American Heart Association examined how a strict vegetarian diet affects cholesterol levels in people with heart disease or risk factors of heart disease. This report summarized 11 prior studies in what is called a meta-analysis. The studies included were from the United States, Finland, Sweden, Czech Republic, and Australia. In all the studies, people were randomized to receive a vegetarian diet versus a diet that included meat. The average age of the people in these studies ranged from 28 to 54. In three studies, people had already tried a medication to lower their cholesterol.

    The most commonly studied vegetarian diet was a vegan diet;in;which both meat and diary products are avoided. The second most common diet studied was a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet that primarily avoids meats . In all studies these diets were compared to an omnivorous diet of plant and animal products. The cholesterol levels in these patients were studied up to 74 months.

    Here is a summary of what the researchers found about people’s cholesterol on a vegetarian diet:

    • Total cholesterol was reduced by 13.9 mg/dL
    • LDL was reduced by 13.1 mg/dL
    • HDL was reduced by 3.9 mg/dL
    • Triglycerides levels were similar in nearly all studies regardless of diet

    In addition, people on a vegetarian diet were more likely to lose weight by an average of 2.9 kg .;

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    Can I Replace The Animal Protein In My Diet With More Carbs

    It is better to replace animal protein with non-animal sources of protein. These include:

    • Quorn
    • nuts
    • pulses and beans

    There is generally more carbohydrate in plant-based protein sources, so it is possible that your carbohydrate intake may increase when you switch to a vegetarian diet. However, you can still watch your portions, and always look for low;glycaemic index ;options and pick foods that are high in fibre. Doing this could help in managing diabetes and with weight control. The GI is a measure of how quickly carbohydrate is absorbed and the quicker the carbohydrate is absorbed, the higher the GI.

    The Problem With Too Much Cholesterol

    High Cholesterol – Causes Of High Cholesterol On A Plant Based Diet

    Dietary cholesterol comes primarily from sources of saturated fats, like meat and other animal-based products.;

    The double-whammy with cholesterol is that by eating a diet high in saturated fat intake, you consume more cholesterol, and these foods make your liver produce more cholesterol, too! This increased production and consumption turns into high cholesterol levels in the body pretty quickly.;

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    Effects Of Vegetarian Diets On Blood Lipid Concentrations

    A total of 10 studies reported data on TC concentrations. Vegetarian diets significantly affect TC concentrations, and the pooled estimated change in TC concentrations was 0.36;mmol/L . Moderate to high heterogeneity was detected . Seven studies reported data on LDLC concentrations. Vegetarian diets caused significant reduction in LDLC concentrations, and the pooled estimated effect was 0.34;mmol/L . High heterogeneity was found . Nine studies reported results on HDLC concentrations. Vegetarian diets also lowered HDLC concentrations, and the pooled estimated mean difference was 0.10;mmol/L . No heterogeneity was shown for HDLC . The mean change in TG concentrations was calculated in 11 trials. Vegetarian diets did not cause a significant change in TG concentration, and the pooled estimated effect was 0.04;mmol/L . Low heterogeneity was observed . Because nonHDLC was also an important target for cardiovascular disease risk set by the Canadian Cardiovascular Society in 2012, it was calculated from 8 studies, and a metaanalysis of the effect of vegetarian diets was performed. Vegetarian diets significantly decreased nonHDLC concentrations by 0.30;mmol/L . Moderate to high heterogeneity was found .

    Effects of vegetarian diets on nonhighdensity lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations. The metaanalysis used the WMD in the randomeffects model. Horizontal lines denote 95% CI. A diamond represents the overall estimated effect. WMD, weighted mean difference.


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