You may have known that there’s good cholesterol and bad cholesterol, and even that cholesterol leads to heart disease—the number-one cause of death in the United States. However, a preventive cardiologist has spoken out about what science shows is a bigger dietary threat than cholesterol. It deserves more attention, he says, because the two often get confused.
CNN has reported on a 2019 meta-analysis by American Heart Association. Fascinatingly, the analysis did not find a significant association between dietary cholesterol and cardiovascular risk—unless individuals had eaten up to three times more cholesterol than the average amount.
There’s a worse threat when it comes to heart health, according to preventive cardiologist Dr. Stephen Devries, who also serves as the executive director for the Gaples Institute, an educational nonprofit in Deerfield, Illinois. Devries told CNN: “Saturated fat is a bigger culprit for raising blood cholesterol in general than dietary cholesterol.”
Part of this is because, as Devries explains, “most of the cholesterol in blood actually comes from the body’s own production.” And when you consume cholesterol, to a certain degree, your body will compensate by backing off its own cholesterol production.
Saturated fat, however, amps up the body’s production of low-density lipoproteins, or what you often hear referred to as LDL cholesterol. This is the “bad” cholesterol, which “can build up inside the arteries, restricting blood flow to the heart and brain, heightening the chance of heart attack or stroke,” the report says.
So how do you know how much saturated fat you need? Here’s exactly how to calculate the right amount for you, according to a registered dietitian.
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