When it comes to cholesterol, even many alternative-minded people see it just as something bad, a killer to be avoided as much as possible in the diet. The story seems simple enough: too much cholesterol in the diet coming from egg yolks, butter, red meat, and so on, causes cholesterol in the blood to go up. That in turn causes clogging of the arteries and, given enough time, heart disease and even early death.
While it has been shown that high blood cholesterol in young to middle aged but otherwise healthy individuals often leads to heart disease, the link between blood cholesterol levels and cholesterol in the diet has never been conclusively established. For example, when studies of the Atkins diet were finally released, they showed that blood cholesterol levels went down – not up – in people following this notoriously high cholesterol diet.
At the same time, studies of people on vegan or other very low or no cholesterol diets failed to show dramatic drops in blood cholesterol levels. In my own professional experience I have known several people over the years who switched to a vegan diet containing no cholesterol only to see their blood cholesterol levels go up rather than down.
We also hear increasingly from mainstream medical sources that high cholesterol is a problem that originates in childhood and that, conceivably, is when the foundation for heart disease later in life is laid. Read More »