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You Ask, I Answer: Cholesterol Requirements?

78e8ae3c-ed73-4b28-8afe-12bf334bed21_2I’ve been tracking my food consumption using LiveStrong.com, and for the most part, I noticed that I don’t come anywhere near their recommended cholesterol intake (182 mg/day, based on my height and weight).

My cholesterol is already genetically high. So is there any reason I need to be hitting that, or any other, recommended marker for cholesterol?

– Jennifer DiSanto
Philadelphia, PA

I can’t, for the life of me, understand why you would be given a “recommended cholesterol intake”.  There isn’t one!

There is a set limit of 300 milligrams per day, but that is not a “mark to hit”.  Besides, not everyone is cholesterol-sensitive.  When it comes to blood cholesterol levels, trans fats, saturated fats from dairy and red meat, and excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids are the main things to watch for.

Cholesterol (found exclusively in animal and animal-derived foods) is not an essential nutrient; our bodies manufacture it.

Vegan diets, for instance, don’t offer a single milligram of cholesterol.

By the way — let me be perfectly clear: the absence of cholesterol does not automatically make a food “heart-healthy”.  Skittles and French fries cooked in corn oil are “cholesterol-free”, but that one tidbit of nutrition information is not enough to make a qualified judgment on their nutritional value.

Anyone who mentions a “recommended intake of cholesterol” needs to take a nutrition 101 class.  Stat.

Is it possible you misread their recommendation and they are actually asking you to consume no more than 182 milligrams per day?  That would make a lot more sense to me.

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4 Comments

  1. Jenn said on May 18th, 2010

    I’m sorry, I definitely should have phrased that differently. I think it IS a limit, not a goal. But I wanted to know if there was any nutritional benefit to having SOME cholesterol in one’s diet, since I eat very little of it (don’t eat meat, do eat a lot of veggies, low-fat organic dairy). But if our bodies make it, then the answer is probably “no.” :)

    Thank you!

    P.S. I knew about Skittles and fries. That much I’m clear on. :)

  2. Dave Hanson said on May 18th, 2010

    My triglyceride reading was 154 in a recent fasting cholesterol test. My doctor said that the optimal level is below 150, and that my slightly elevated reading may be due to the fact that I eat a lot of carbohydrates . I don’t eat any meat, but I do eat fish once or twice a week.

    Is there any truth to what my doctor said about the link between an elevated triglyceride level and a high carbohydrate intake level? And are there any suggestions that you might have to decrease my triglyceride level?

    Thanks Andy.

  3. Jenn said on May 19th, 2010

    I’m sorry, I should have phrased the question differently. It’s definitely a limit, not a recommended intake. My question was if our bodies needed a certain amount of dietary cholesterol for any reason. It seems they don’t, if they’re making it in the first place.

    Thanks for the information!

  4. Andy Bellatti said on May 26th, 2010

    Dave,

    Triglycerides are absolutely — and exclusively — affected by intake of refined carbohydrates and sugars.

    I don’t know what your diet is, but I would ensure that every carbohydrate you eat contains fiber (ie: opt for whole grains, legumes, whole fruits rather than juices, etc.)

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