Cholesterol – Part 1

Cholesterol – Part 1


A soft wax-like substance, cholesterol is a component of the walls of each cell in our body. At healthy levels, it is a key component in hormone production (chemical messengers in the body).

 Cholesterol Word

Elevated LDL levels are a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease. This is a term that includes a group of conditions including heart attack (myocardial infarction), chest pain (angina), narrowing of the blood vessels in the legs (peripheral artery disease) and stroke.


What are healthy cholesterol levels?

Total cholesterol:         less than 5.0

If your total cholesterol is higher than 5.0 you need to reduce it.


LDL cholesterol:          less than 3.0

aka ‘bad’ cholesterol, this is the type that blocks arteries.HDL and LDL cholesterol angel devil


HDL cholesterol:         males: more than 1.0, females: more than 1.2

aka ‘good’ cholesterol, this helps remove LDL from your blood


For most people LDL levels should be less than 3.0. However of you already have heart disease or other risk factors such as high blood pressure they you need to aim for even lower levels of LDL cholesterol.


Have heart disease, type 2 diabetes or organ damage from diabetes:         LDL of 1.8 or less

None of the above but have one of the other risk factors:                             LDL of 2.5 or less


Dietary habits to help lower Cholesterol

Increasing your intake of soluble fibre is a good step to take when trying to lower blood cholesterol. It is a form of dietary fibre that forms a gel when it mixes with water in the gut which ‘soaks up’ cholesterol and carries it out of the body. Foods that contain soluble fibre include:


Oats: porridge is a great way to help lower cholesterol levels.beans

Beans and lentils: include baked beans, chickpeas or kidney beans in salads, soups, and chilli-con-carne 3-4 times per week.

Barley: rich in beta-glucan which can help lower cholesterol. Add traditional ‘soup-mix’ to soups, stews and casseroles.


Aiming to include at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day will help increase intake of soluble fibre.


Plant stanols or sterols are plant extracts that occur naturally in wholegrains, fruits, vegetables and nuts. These substances block the amount of cholesterol the gut will absorb. Research has shown that the addition of 1.5 – 2.4g of plant sterols/stanols per day can reduce cholesterol levels by 7-10% within 3 weeks.

They can be found in yoghurts, spreads and yoghurt drinks. The drinks usually contain about Yoghurt and Berriesbetween 1.6 – 2g so one per day is enough. The yoghurts and spreads usually contain less so you may need 2-3 portions per day for example 2 slices of bread with sterol-enriched spread and a pot of yoghurt. However these foods are not suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women or children. Refer to product packaging for more information.


A diet with plenty of soluble fibre, vegetable protein and stanols or sterols may reduce LDL cholesterol by up to 25%! Maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active will also help. Note that cholesterol-lowering foods are not a replacement for cholesterol-lowering medicine prescribed by your doctor, do not replace your medicine with these products but aim for a healthy diet nonetheless.


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Liam Leech, BSc (Hons) Sport and Exercise Science, MSc. ANutr.

Liam Leech

BSc (Hons) Sport and Exercise Science, MSc. ANutr.

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