What causes high cholesterol levels?
Many different factors can contribute to high cholesterol, including genetics, age, gender and diseases such as type 2 diabetes, liver or kidney disease.
However, the biggest contributors to high cholesterol levels by far are diet and lifestyle.
Eating too much saturated fat greatly contributes to high cholesterol levels. This is found mostly in meat, eggs, butter, cheese, pies, pastries, processed foods, fatty spreads, coconut oil and palm fat.
High intake of animal protein, which usually goes hand in hand with excessive saturated fat intake, and too much sugar in the diet also increase cholesterol levels3.
When you eat animal products, there’s one more substance making things worse – a compound called trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO).
Human gut bacteria produce TMAO parent molecule from foods rich in L-carnitine (meat) and choline (eggs) and the liver then finishes the last step in TMAO formation3,4.
This compound increases the stickiness of cholesterol particles, contributing to atherosclerosis. That’s why it’s a substantial risk factor for heart disease and stroke5.
Trans fats, also called hydrogenated, are another problem. They raise your levels even more than saturated fats.
Low levels are found in meat and dairy products. Higher amounts are used in some processed foods, such as biscuits, cakes, pastries, spreads and shortening.
Always read the ingredients and when you see that a product contains hydrogenated fat, put it back and walk away.
Margarine used to contain hydrogenated fats, which is why some people think it’s bad. However, most margarine producers have now removed these from their products.
Smoking, drinking alcohol and a lack of physical activity can increase your cholesterol, too.
If these lifestyle habits are combined with a poor diet, you’ve got a recipe for a cholesterol disaster.