What effect does dietary cholesterol have on heart health?

Cholesterol is a waxy fat-like compound manufactured by our body. Dietary cholesterol is found in animal foods such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy products. It serves as a structural component of cell membranes and contributes to other functions in our body. It is presented in all parts of body including the nervous system, skin, muscle, liver, intestine and heart. It is made by the body and obtained from fatty substances in the diet. It is manufactured in the liver for normal body function, including the production of hormones, bile, vitamin D and cell membranes. It is critical for health and contributes to normal cell functions.

What happens to the cholesterol when it comes into the bloodstream?

When cholesterol is transported in the bloodstream, it is packed in to low-density lipoproteins (LDL). Although LDL is necessary in limited quantities but a high LDL cholesterol level can dramatically increase the risk of heart attack. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is a carrier molecule that transports cholesterol in the blood. HDL is responsible for returning cholesterol and triglycerides from the cells and the vessels to the liver. A high HDL level is associated with a lowered risk of heart attack.

Triglycerides are the chief form of fat in the diet and the major storage form of fat in the body. Serum triglycerides level is an indicator for how much fat is moving through the body potentially clogging arteries. A level below 150mg/dl is considered healthy.

Food items and their cholesterol content:

All foods from animal sources are rich in cholesterol but all plant source foods are cholesterol free. Animal products also contain saturated fat which causes the liver to produce more cholesterol. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature, where as unsaturated fats are liquid. Some vegetable oils (e.g. palm oil, palm kernel oil, coconut oil, hydrogenated oil, etc), Beef, mutton, pork, chicken, and most other animal products are also rich in saturated fats should be avoided to maintain cholesterol level.

The relation between dietary fat, cholesterol and heart health is very important. Always prefer the foods that rich in unsaturated fats, less in saturated fat and cholesterol to maintain good heart health.