Do Cholesterol-Free Foods Work? The Answer Depends on the Rest of Your Diet

If your goal is low cholesterol levels, it would seem logical to include lots of low-cholesterol foods in your diets. The fact is, however, how much you eat is probably more important than what you eat.

About 85 per cent of the cholesterol in your body does not come from your diet. Most of your body’s cholesterol is made by your liver.

The liver makes cholesterol from triglycerides, and triglycerides in turn are the way the body (1) packages fatty acids so they can dissolve in and flow through the mostly-watery bloodstream and (2) the way fat cells store excess sugar.

Your triglyceride levels usually depend a lot more on whether you eat too many carbohydrates than whether you eat too much fat. Some people who follow Atkins-style diets have lower triglyceride levels than some people who eat vegan diets (although it’s really rare for people on raw foods diets to have either high triglycerides or high cholesterol).

The way cholesterol medications, and cholesterol-reducing herbs such as red yeast rice, work is by stopping the liver from making cholesterol from triglycerides. This also stops the liver from making ubiquinone, also known as coenzyme Q10.

But just as only about 15 per cent of the body’s cholesterol comes from food, only about 20 per cent of the body’s cholesterol is made by the liver. Every single cell in the body can make cholesterol from triglycerides-and that’s a good thing, because every single cell in the body needs cholesterol to make the lining that protects it from being dissolved in the bloodstream. If all the body’s cholesterol were made in the liver and a pill stopped the liver from making more, you would quickly die.

So how can you use diet to lower your cholesterol?

If you don’t consume any cholesterol foods at all, your cholesterol will probably go down about 15 per cent. Ironically, many people start low-cholesterol diets and have their cholesterol levels go up, because the body uses excess sugars to make triglycerides and uses triglycerides to make more cholesterol!

Success on a low-cholesterol diet usually has more to do with reducing calories, than with reducing cholesterol. If you consume only as much sugar and fat as your body needs every day, then the excess won’t become cholesterol. And unless you have a hereditary condition called familial hypercholesterolemia, that is the kind of diet that will really lower your cholesterol.