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How does eating foods high in saturated fat affect my cholesterol levels?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
If you do not lose substantial weight, trans and saturated fats have a huge effect to increase on our cholesterol levels. Only 20 percent of cholesterol is absorbed from food. The liver manufactures the rest from saturated and trans fats. Contrary to popular belief, consumption of saturated fat -- not cholesterol -- is (for the majority of individuals who do not lose substantial amounts of weight) the biggest dietary factor contributing to elevated levels of cholesterol in the blood. Excess saturated fat consumption is also linked to elevated triglyceride levels, a reflection of fat in the blood. An elevated triglyceride level makes your RealAge (physiologic age) older by increasing arterial aging.
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It increases LDL or bad cholesterol as well as Total cholesterol. What actually may be worse is some saturated fats have been shown to increase inflammation. This combination of increase cholesterol and increased inflammation is a one two punch to your arteries, increasing the risk for heart disease and stroke.

 

 


Brian Tanzer
Nutrition & Dietetics
Studies show that a diet high in saturated fat increases the bad (LDL) cholesterol and lowers the good (HDL) cholesterol. Just as important is to try and remove sources of trans-fats from your diet. Typically these fats can be found in foods that list "partially hydrogenated oil" under the ingredients section of a food label. Some companies are also listing trans fats in the nutrient facts panel under "fat". These fats have also been shown to have a similar effect on LDL and HDL levels as saturated fats do.

When getting your cholesterol levels checked by your physician, you should know your total cholesterol number, but even more important are your LDL and HDL levels. For example you can have a fairly high cholesterol level of 230, but if your good (HDL) cholesterol is over 75 than that cholesterol of 230, although above normal, is not as much of a risk factor because the high good (HDL) cholesterol is very protective against cardiovascular disease. So be sure and know your numbers; ALL OF THEM!

Cut back on foods high in saturated fat and trans fat. These unhealthy fats raise LDL (bad) cholesterol, boost inflammation, and damage blood vessels. Trans fats also reduce HDL (good) cholesterol. Cut down on saturated fat by eating less meat and full-fat dairy. Aim for no more than 7% of your daily calories from saturated fat. Avoid trans fat by skipping processed food, such as cookies, crackers, margarine, or any product containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (aka trans fats).

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.