High Cholesterol Facts
High Cholesterol Facts

35 Heart-Stopping Facts about Cholesterol

Karin Lehnardt
By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published November 29, 2016Updated September 1, 2017
  • Cholesterol is a type of lipid (fat) that is essential for all animal life—in the right amounts. It performs three essential functions: 1) Helps make the outer coating of cells, 2) Makes up the bile acids that work to digest food in the intestine, and 3) Allows the body to make Vitamin D and hormones, such as testosterone in men and estrogen in women.[5]
  • Because cholesterol is oil based and blood is water based, if cholesterol were just dumped into a person’s bloodstream, it would congeal into unusable globs. The body has to package it in miniscule protein particles called lipoproteins.[10]
  • Brains are unhealthy to eat because they are high in cholesterol and fat. For example, a single serving of a 140 g. can of “pork brains in milk gravy” contains 3,500 mg. of cholesterol, 1170% of the USRDA.[9]
  • Interesting Breast Milk Fact
    Breastfed babies may have lower cholesterol levels in adulthood
  • Studies show that breastfed babies have lower levels of cholesterol as adults. Additionally, breast milk is rich in healthy cholesterol and fats, which help prevent adult heart and central nervous system diseases.[10]
  • Cholesterol is important for an embryo’s healthy development. Nearly 1 in 9,000 babies is born with a birth defect linked to the fetus’ failure to make the cholesterol it needs.[5]
  • The U.S. Human Genome Project linked a pregnant woman’s cholesterol deficiency to a defect in the fetal brain called HPE (the failure of the brain to divide normally into two halves). Ninety-nine percent of embryos with HPE are spontaneously aborted. Those which do live usually die within the first year of life and experience severe mental retardation. Consequently, pregnant women are often advised not to take cholesterol-lowering drugs.[5]
  • The American Heart Association recommends a maximum intake of 300 mg. of cholesterol per day for those who have normal levels. Those who already have high cholesterol should eat no more than 200 mg. per day.g While eggs are lower in cholesterol than previously thought, one large chicken egg still contains about 185 mg of cholesterol, all of which is contained in the yolk.[4]
  • Of all Americans with unhealthy levels of cholesterol, 1 in 7 have what is considered “high” cholesterol, or levels that put them at nearly twice the risk of developing heart disease. “High” cholesterol is defined as 240 mg. per deciliter (mg/dL) and above.[5]
  • Interesting High Cholesterol Fact
    All adults should have their cholesterol levels checked once every 5 years

  • While seafood, such as fish, can be healthy, other types of seafood can have high levels of cholesterol. Just 3 oz. of lobster, for example, contains 61 mg. of cholesterol—before it is dipped in butter.[5]
  • Although chicken is typically a low-fat meal choice, keeping the skin on the chicken or frying it turns it into a high-cholesterol food.[10]
  • While liver is an iron-rich food, it is also high in cholesterol. In fact, the most concentrated levels of cholesterol in animal meats are found in organ meats like the liver. Three ounces of cooked liver contains 331 mg. of cholesterol.[5]
  • Total cholesterol levels (the combination of “good” HDL cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol) that are more than 200 mg/dL are considered to be unhealthy. Nearly half of all American adults have a cholesterol level at or more than 200 mg/dL.[5]
  • Reduced blood flow caused by high cholesterol has been linked to sexual disorders. High cholesterol causes fatty deposits that clog blood vessels in the pelvic area, causing erectile dysfunction in men and possibly impacting lubrication in women.[5]
  • Interesting Healthy Cholesterol Fact
    Protect your erection

  • The term “cholesterol” is from the Greek khole or “bile” (as in “cholera”) + sterops or “solid, stiff” (as in “sterility”).[10]
  • High cholesterol is directly linked to heart disease, which is the #1 killer of men and women in the United States. Each year, over one million Americans have heart attacks and approximately half of a million people die from heart disease.[8]
  • In most people, 60%-70% of their cholesterol is carried in LDL particles, which are considered “bad” cholesterol. LDL particles are not all “bad,” however, because they act as ferries, taking cholesterol to parts of the body that need it. LDL cholesterol becomes “bad” if there is too much in the body—in which case, it starts depositing cholesterol into the bloodstream.[5]
  • High-density lipoproteins (HDLs) are typically labeled “good” cholesterol because they have more protein than fat and, instead of ferrying cholesterol around the body as LDL does, HDL sucks up as much excess cholesterol as it can and takes it back to the liver.[5]
  • If someone held cholesterol in his hand, it would look like a waxy substance that had been scraped from a whitish-yellow candle.[10]
  • Little Known Cholesterol Fact
    Cholesterol helps keep the cell walls from turning into mush
  • Cholesterol protects the integrity of cell membranes and keeps cells healthy and strong. If a person’s cholesterol level were 0 (an impossibility), his cell membranes would be dry and cracked and all the cell content would leak out.[10]
  • Cholesterol is produced in the liver or intestines. A human liver produces about 1 g. of cholesterol per day.[5]
  • Francois Pelletier de la Salle first discovered cholesterol in solid form in gallstones in 1769. It was named “cholesterol” in 1815 by chemist Eugene Chevreul.[5]
  • Before menopause, women typically have lower total cholesterol levels than men. However, after menopause, their LDL levels tend to rise. Scientists believe that estrogen helps keep cholesterol levels down.[7]
  • High cholesterol itself typically does not have any symptoms, so many people are unaware they are at risk for heart attacks, strokes, and other heart diseases. A simple blood test can determine a person’s total cholesterol level. The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends that all adults have their levels checked every five years.[7]
  • American Indians are the least likely to have high cholesterol. However, white Americans and Mexican Americans are most likely to have high cholesterol. African Americans and Japanese Americans fall in the middle.[5]
  • Adventurer and TV star Bear Grylls suffers from high levels of cholesterol, a disease that killed his father and grandfather. Bill Clinton and David Letterman also both suffer from high cholesterol.[5]
  • High cholesterol can be genetic. In fact, an inherited genetic condition called familial hypercholesterolemia causes very high LDL cholesterol levels, even at a young age.[7]
  • Research shows that smoking lowers good cholesterol (HDL) and raises bad cholesterol (LDL). Researchers found that those who stopped smoking experienced an average increase of approximately 5%, or 2.4 mg/dL, in HDL cholesterol.[5]
  • Low cholesterol levels have been associated with higher rates of suicide, violence, Alzheimer’s, and accidents. Scientists suggest that cholesterol plays a critical role in neuron signaling and brain structure.[2][8]
  • Fat content is not always a good measure of cholesterol content. For example, the liver and other organs are low in fat but very high in cholesterol.[5]
  • Interesting Cholesterol Fact
    Red meats, such as beef, have more cholesterol and saturated (bad) fat than chicken, fish and vegetable proteins, such as beans
  • A McDonald’s Big Mac has 85 mg. of cholesterol and a Wendy’s Classic Double With Everything has 175 mg. of cholesterol. A single cup of ice cream has more cholesterol than 10 glazed donuts.[5]
  • There were 6.4 million visits to doctors’ offices that involved a cholesterol test. That is 7.1% of all visits.[5]
  • Research shows that stress increases “bad” cholesterol levels. In contrast, the better a person copes with the stress, the higher his “good” cholesterol levels are.[3]
  • Scientists have identified a group of chemicals called saponins in red wine that helps lower cholesterol.[11]
  • An Ohio State study shows that increasing cholesterol levels can help ease autism symptoms in children.[6]
  • Major risk factors that increase high LDL levels include cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol (below 40 mg/dL), family history of early heart disease, obesity, and age (men: 45 years or older, women: 55 years or older).[8]
  • Cholesterol Levels[7]
    Total Cholesterol LevelCategory
    140- 200 mg/dLNormal
    200-239 mg/dLBorderline High
    240 mg/dL and aboveHigh
    Top Five Foods High in Cholestrol[9]
    Egg yolkEgg yolks have the highest levels of cholesterol of any food.
    Caviar (fish roe)One hundred grams of caviar provides 588 mg of cholesterol, 196% of the RDA.
    Liver, pate, foie grasCholesterol is produced in the liver; consequently, liver is very high in cholesterol.
    ButterOne stick of butter has 243 mg. of cholesterol, 81% of the RDA.
    Shrimp100 g. of shrimp contains 195 mg. of cholesterol, 65% of the RDA.
    High Cholestrol by Age[5]
    AgeWomen (%)Men (%)
    75 and older18.69.6
    Top Five Foods That Lower Cholestrol[1]
    Oatmeal, oat bran, and high-fiber foodsOatmeal and other foods that contain soluble fiber reduce the absorption of cholesterol into the blood stream. Soluble fiber is also found in kidney beans, apples, pears, barley, and prunes.
    Fish and Omega-3 fatty acidsOmega-3 fatty acids reduce blood pressure and the risk of developing blood clots. Fish high in Omega-3s include mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, Albacore tuna, salmon, and halibut.
    Walnuts, almonds, and other nutsRich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, nuts reduce blood cholesterol and keep blood vessels healthy.
    Olive oilContains a powerful mix of antioxidants that lower LDL levels but leaves the HDL cholesterol intact.
    Foods with added plant sterols or stanolsSterols or stanols help block the absorption of cholesterol and occur naturally in the foods mentioned above. Margarines, orange juice, and yogurt drinks with added plant sterols can reduce LDL cholesterol by more than 10%.

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