A low cholesterol diet involves the consumption foods that contain little cholesterol. Red meats, egg yolks, organ meats, whole milk and milk products are avoided, because they increase the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) that the body already makes. This cholesterol is absorbed through the intestines and added to what the liver makes.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, a low cholesterol diet is one of the three most important things a person can do to prevent heart disease. The other factors include quitting smoking and getting regular exercise.
There are two types of cholesterol in the body-low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Diets that include large amounts of "unhealthy" cholesterol result in an over accumulation of LDL in the body. Excessive LDL binds to arteries.
Most American diets include an intake of much more LDL than HDL. This means that LDL accumulates in the arteries of the body and brain, forming what is known as a plaque. With continually high levels of LDL in the body, these plaques grow larger, and blood flow through the artery is increasingly restricted. The continued presence and accumulation of plagues in the body leads to a condition known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a major cause of coronary heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases, according to the American Heart Association. Because of its negative effects on the health of the body, LDL is known as "bad" cholesterol.
HDL escorts some of the excessive LDL back to the liver, where it is excreted through the body. HDL does not form plaques in the arteries. For this reason, HDL is known as "good" cholesterol.
When doctors talk about a "low cholesterol diet," they are referring to the ratio of "good" to "bad" cholesterol in the diet. In general, these levels should be consumed equal moderation, or more "good" cholesterol should be consumed than "bad."
Patients go on a low cholesterol diet because of excessive accumulation of LDL in the body. This diet helps to even out the proportion of LDL to HDL, while also preventing or slowing the accumulation of LDL in arteries.
Although a low cholesterol diet is often recommended by experts in the field to treat heart disease, it is important to note that dietary cholesterol has not been proven as a cause of heart disease. Rather it is strongly correlated with high quantities (LDL) in at risk patients, meaning that cholesterol may not be the cause of heart disease but it happens to be present in high levels in those with heart disease.
Atherosclerosis, cholesterol, diet, HDL, high-density lipoprotein, LDL, low-density lipoprotein, plaque.