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Cholesterol and diet


Definition:

Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance found in all parts of the body. Your body makes some cholesterol, and some cholesterol comes from the food you eat.

Your body needs a little bit of cholesterol to work properly. But too much cholesterol can clog your arteries and lead to heart disease. This article focuses on cholesterol and your diet.

See also:

Alternative Names:

Diet - cholesterol

Function:

Cholesterol helps the body produce hormones, bile acid, and vitamin D. Cholesterol moves through the bloodstream to be used by all parts of the body.

Food Sources:

Cholesterol is found in eggs, dairy products, meat, and poultry. Egg yolks and organ meats (liver, kidney, sweetbread, and brain) are high in cholesterol. Fish generally contains less cholesterol than other meats, but some shellfish are high in cholesterol.

Foods of plant origin (vegetables, fruits, grains, cereals, nuts, and seeds) contain no cholesterol.

Fat content is not a good measure of cholesterol content. For example, liver and other organ meats are low in fat, but very high in cholesterol.

Side Effects:

In general, your risk of developing heart disease or atherosclerosis goes up as your level of blood cholesterol increases.

Recommendations:

More than half of the adult population has blood cholesterol levels higher than the desirable range. High cholesterol levels often begin in childhood. Some children may be at higher risk due to a family history of high cholesterol.

To lower high cholesterol levels:

  • Limit total fat intake to 25 - 35% of total daily calories. Less than 7% of daily calories should be from saturated fat, no more than 10% should be from polyunsaturated fat, and no more than 20% from monounsaturated fat.
  • Eat less than 200 mg of dietary cholesterol per day.
  • Get more fiber in your diet.
  • Lose weight.
  • Increase physical activity.

The recommendations for children's diets are similar to those of adults. It is very important that children get enough calories to support their growth and activity level, and that the child achieve and maintain a desirable body weight

The following two sample menus provide examples of an average American diet and a low-fat diet.

AVERAGE AMERICAN DIET

  • Breakfast
    • 1 egg scrambled in 1 teaspoon of butter
    • 2 slices of white toast
    • 1 teaspoon of butter
    • 1/2 cup of apple juice
  • Snack
    • 1 cake donut
  • Lunch
    • 1 ham and cheese sandwich (2 ounces of meat, 1 ounce of cheese)
    • White bread
    • 1 teaspoon of mayonnaise
    • 1-ounce bag potato chips
    • 12-ounce soft drink
    • 2 chocolate chip cookies
  • Snack
    • 8 wheat thins
  • Dinner
    • 3 ounces of broiled sirloin
    • 1 medium baked potato
    • 1 tablespoon of sour cream
    • 1 teaspoon of butter
    • 1/2 cup of peas, 1/2 teaspoon of butter

Totals: 2,000 calories, 84 grams fat, 34 grams saturated fat, 425 milligrams cholesterol. The diet is 38% total fat, 15% saturated fat.

LOW-FAT DIET

For the same number of calories, a low-fat diet provides 190 mg of cholesterol, compared to 510 mg of cholesterol for an average American diet. Because fat is high in calories, the low-fat diet actually has more food than the typical American diet. An example follows:

  • Breakfast
    • 1 cup of toasted oat ring cereal
    • 1 cup of skim milk
    • 1 slice of whole-wheat bread
    • 1 banana
  • Snack
    • 1 cinnamon raisin bagel, 1/2 ounce light cream cheese
  • Lunch
    • Turkey sandwich (3 ounces of turkey) on rye bread with lettuce
    • 1 orange
    • 3 Fig Newton cookies
    • 1 cup skim milk
  • Snack
    • Nonfat yogurt with fruit
  • Dinner
    • 3 ounces of broiled chicken breast
    • 1 medium baked potato
    • 1 tablespoon of nonfat yogurt
    • 1/2 cup of broccoli
    • 1 dinner roll
    • 1 cup skim milk

Totals: 2,000 Ccalories, 38 grams fat, 9.5 grams saturated fat, 91 mg cholesterol. The diet is 17% fat, 4% saturated fat.

Note: The low-fat diet example is too low in fat for small children to promote good growth. In addition, it may be difficult for them to eat such a large volume of food. Children should have a diet that is closer to 30% of calories from fat. Lower-fat diets may be appropriate in some children. Ask your doctor what is best for your child.

References:
Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults. Executive summary of the third report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) expert panel on detection, evaluation, and treatment of high blood cholesterol in adults (Adult Treatment Panel III). JAMA. 2001;285:2486-2497.

Review Date: 1/20/2008
Reviewed By: Glenn Gandelman, MD, MPH, FACC, Asst. Clinical Prof. of Med, NY Medical College, Valhalla, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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