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If saturated fat/dietary cholesterol doesn't raise serum cholesterol levels, what does?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created March 21, 2013 at 5:22 PM

The idea that dietary cholesterol and/or saturated fat consumption causes spikes in blood cholesterol levels seems pretty well dismissed in the Paleo community. This is despite mounds of anecdotal evidence on forums such as this describing regular and acute rises in total--and in particular LDL--cholesterol after adopting a Paleo diet. If we are so adamant that dietary cholesterol and saturated fat deserve no blame, then what does? That there is a dietary connection to blood cholesterol is hard to debate, so if we're exonerating those cholesterol-rich and saturated fat-laden foods, which ones take the blame?

C28ae8c7a12a730363835acf21e962a2

(715)

on March 21, 2013
at 08:13 PM

true, greymouser. that's an important distinction to make and i definitely mean MUFAs. the less PUFAs the better off you'll be, imo.

3d58b5fb4f9780e2f47d4dcc53338a5a

(2771)

on March 21, 2013
at 07:36 PM

Good point, greymouser. MUFAs also are great non-saturated sources for fats. I also should have said "natural" saturated fats. The unnatural hydrogenated oils and trans-fat are cause a lot of metobolic damage.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on March 21, 2013
at 07:21 PM

In metabolically sick people high cholesterol is one undesirable marker among many. In healthy people with low TG's low systolic blood pressure, healthy weight and waistline and high HDL, not so much of a concern. If you're >300 TC but otherwise healthy ask yourself why.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on March 21, 2013
at 07:11 PM

Some people are genetically predisposed to cholesterol increases from eating eggs, others not.

Ebb10603524dd22621c1155dd7ddf106

(19150)

on March 21, 2013
at 07:06 PM

Saying "unsaturated is better", so to speak, is a red herring. SFAs and MUFAs tend to both cause little metabolic damage, whereas excess PUFAs do. So for unsaturated sources, yeh to MUFAs, but neh to excess PUFAs.

3d58b5fb4f9780e2f47d4dcc53338a5a

(2771)

on March 21, 2013
at 06:57 PM

From what I've read, saturated fat breaks down more cleanly than other fats and especially sugars, so it produces less free radicals, which can damage the body and increase the need to produce more cholesterol. The body has a great regulatory system where we produce less of something if we're getting it in our diet. I've read that only about 10% of the cholesterol we eat shows up in our blood, and that's free flowing, which may or may not reflect sticking to the arteries. I'm not saying saturated fat or any fats don't raise cholesterol, just that there are foods that do it more.

Medium avatar

(39821)

on March 21, 2013
at 05:28 PM

Both of them can and do, especially in genetically susceptible individuals.

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5 Answers

4
3d58b5fb4f9780e2f47d4dcc53338a5a

(2771)

on March 21, 2013
at 06:35 PM

I have found from this site that some of us have a very strong LDL reaction to dairy products, perhaps from the casein. Some of us have absolutely no issues. Generally speaking, if you have more fat in your diet, you'll probably have some extra floating around your blood. BUT, the question is not if it's floating around your system, but is it sticking to the arteries? The answer to this isssue also helps answer your question.

As you may or may not know, the four big things that cholesterol does in your body are:

  • Protect nerve ending (one of the reasons that we have so much in our brains)
  • Form the basis of sex hormones
  • Form Vitamin D (has to come from somewhere, right? It's cholesterol)
  • Patch up damaged veins and arteries. (I'm sure it does more than these four things, but these are really important, if you ask me)

Out of those four items, one of them is an immediate life threatening issue. A broken vein can lead to instant death. Cholesterol is trying to save our lives by getting into our veins and sticking there to prevent problems. Otherwise, cholesterol doesn't just stick to the walls if it doesn't have a reason. In fact, the cholesterol/plaque buildup is not on the inside of the artery walls, but under the surface, where it won't interfere with blood flow. At least not until it gets to be too much plaque, which ruptures through and leads to strokes, heart attacks, etc.

How do you damage your arteries so that cholesterol sticks (and for your body to produce more cholesterol to save your life)? Excessive free flowing sugar (glucose) in the blood stream. The way the sugar molecule is constructed and how it's burned in the mitochondria leads to a lot of free radicals. Our body is very good at handling a decent amount of free radicals, but constant exposure to it is very taxing to the body. Constant sugar in the blood stream leads to constant insulin level which leads to insulin resistance which leads to higher sugar levels for longer, etc.

The reduction of high gylcemic carb foods that spike insulin in the paleo diet is a large contributing factor to the reported lowering of cholesterol levels. If your arteries aren't damaged, your body doesn't need to produce as much cholesterol.

What you need to concern yourself with is your triglyceride levels. The main reason is that you can calculate your VLDL (which is probably as bad for you as they say). If you divide your triglyceride levels by 5, you get a fairly accurate count of your VLDL. Everyone I know that's gone paleo has seen a drastic reduction in triglyceride levels. I went from over 400 to under 100. My cholesterol is still higher than conventional doctors like (220), my heart scans showed no blockage and my blood flow was perfect.

If you think about it, why worry about your cholesterol levels if your arteries are perfectly clear?

Medium avatar

(10611)

on March 21, 2013
at 07:21 PM

In metabolically sick people high cholesterol is one undesirable marker among many. In healthy people with low TG's low systolic blood pressure, healthy weight and waistline and high HDL, not so much of a concern. If you're >300 TC but otherwise healthy ask yourself why.

4
Ee6932fe54ad68039a8d5f7a8caa0468

(2668)

on March 21, 2013
at 05:34 PM

saturated fat most certainly raises serum cholesterol levels. dietary cholesterol may, in certain people, although that's the exception and not the rule.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on March 21, 2013
at 07:11 PM

Some people are genetically predisposed to cholesterol increases from eating eggs, others not.

1
C28ae8c7a12a730363835acf21e962a2

(715)

on March 21, 2013
at 06:43 PM

i still don't buy that dietary cholesterol doesn't play a factor for most people. yes there are people who are an exception to the rule, but in my opinion they're an anomaly. i think there's definitely a place for saturated fat in a healthy diet, but i fully believe that the larger percentage of fat intake should come from unsaturated sources.

3d58b5fb4f9780e2f47d4dcc53338a5a

(2771)

on March 21, 2013
at 07:36 PM

Good point, greymouser. MUFAs also are great non-saturated sources for fats. I also should have said "natural" saturated fats. The unnatural hydrogenated oils and trans-fat are cause a lot of metobolic damage.

C28ae8c7a12a730363835acf21e962a2

(715)

on March 21, 2013
at 08:13 PM

true, greymouser. that's an important distinction to make and i definitely mean MUFAs. the less PUFAs the better off you'll be, imo.

3d58b5fb4f9780e2f47d4dcc53338a5a

(2771)

on March 21, 2013
at 06:57 PM

From what I've read, saturated fat breaks down more cleanly than other fats and especially sugars, so it produces less free radicals, which can damage the body and increase the need to produce more cholesterol. The body has a great regulatory system where we produce less of something if we're getting it in our diet. I've read that only about 10% of the cholesterol we eat shows up in our blood, and that's free flowing, which may or may not reflect sticking to the arteries. I'm not saying saturated fat or any fats don't raise cholesterol, just that there are foods that do it more.

Ebb10603524dd22621c1155dd7ddf106

(19150)

on March 21, 2013
at 07:06 PM

Saying "unsaturated is better", so to speak, is a red herring. SFAs and MUFAs tend to both cause little metabolic damage, whereas excess PUFAs do. So for unsaturated sources, yeh to MUFAs, but neh to excess PUFAs.

0
26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867

on March 21, 2013
at 08:07 PM

As others have said, yes, increasing animal (and coconut) fat intake usually does raise both HDL and LDL.. but it often depends on the type of fat (even among different saturated fats) and is highly individual. And probably mostly down to genetics.

Personally, eating tons of butter, cream, lard, tallow and coconut oil has left my LDL scores completely unchanged (they have been in the mid-70s since I was vegan) but has taken my HDL from the mid-70s, to the mid-80s to low 90s. Which, considering my personal and family history of low cholesterol and mental illness, I'm thrilled about.

0
800e726cb5dff569fd8edf604c3e2793

on March 21, 2013
at 05:31 PM

Basically, it's complicated :-D

Assuming you're taking about LDL cholesterol, sure, saturated fat (specifically, three fatty acids) will raise it -- on the average. There are enough studies which show that if you're willing to do sufficient violence to your body in the shape of Dean Ornish's diet or something like that, you can (again, on the average) drop your LDL numbers.

The two big questions are, (1) Are you average? and (2) Is it useful to chase a number?

If you want to figure out the relationship of diet to blood cholesterol levels (and their significance), order a dozen books from Amazon and make a bookmark at PubMed. Good luck :-/

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