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How to Lower Your Cholesterol

By Anne Keckler | August 11, 2014

So, you just found out that your cholesterol is high, and you’re wondering if you should reduce animal products in your diet.

Lose Weight

The most important change you can make to reduce your cholesterol, as well as your risk of heart disease, is to lose weight. If you are overweight, plan to lose at least 10% of your bodyweight. You can read more about weight loss here, and I’ll write more about that in the near future, including how I went from a size 12 to a size 0.


The next thing I would advise is for you to move more. You should get 30 minutes of physical activity every day, or at least most days. There’s a lot to be said about the kind of physical activity you do, and I’ve written about that before, but for now just try to do something for 30 minutes every day.

Dietary Changes

The third thing, and the thing that seems to be the most confusing to many people, is to improve your diet. There are a lot of theories on how to do that, and that’s what I want to discuss today.

The first thing to understand is that your body produces most of the cholesterol in your blood all by itself. How this is done is not yet well understood, so we don’t yet know all the ways we might be able to affect it.

As for the usual dietary recommendations, Ramsay and Jackson reviewed 16 trials using diet as intervention. They concluded that the so-called Step-I Diet, which is similar to the dietary advice given by the health authorities in many countries (reduce meat consumption and fat, increase fiber and carbs, etc), lower the serum cholesterol by only 0-4%. This was not enough of a change to be worthwhile, concluded the researchers.

Many people take this low-cholesterol diet to an extreme, and thereby consume a significant amount of carbohydrates. These high carbohydrate diets are particularly popular among vegetarians, who sometimes tout “The China Study” as evidence of their effectiveness. It’s important to understand that this was not a true study, and that the authors showed correlation, but were never able to prove causation. A large number of studies have been done recently which prove that a high carbohydrate diet is unhealthy for many reasons. It contributes to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, rather than protecting from them. The low-fat diet craze of the 1980s also caused many people to begin consuming more and more carbohydrates, and we are certainly worse off for it. (There are ways to be vegetarian and avoid most of the pitfalls, but it’s not the most effective way to combat high cholesterol, which is the purpose of this article.)

In fact, the effects of reduced carbohydrate intake was positive, regardless of weight loss! That means that even when the subjects did not lose weight, they showed reduced serum triglyceride levels when they consumed fewer carbs!


In conclusion, the best recommendation at this time seems to be to consume a high protein, low carbohydrate diet while maintaining a regular exercise program. The great thing about this route to lower cholesterol is that it also makes you look and feel better! It’s the same advice I’ve been giving all along for weight loss, muscle gain, and overall health.

For further reading:
A low carbohydrate Mediterranean diet improves cardiovascular risk factors and diabetes control among overweight patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus

Carbohydrate restriction alters lipoprotein metabolism by modifying VLDL, LDL, and HDL subfraction distribution and size in overweight men

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