{mosimage}Cholesterol is a type of fat (lipid) in the body, the levels of which are checked by blood tests. Two types of cholesterol are measured, LDL (low density lipoprotein) and HDL (high density lipoprotein).

  • The ideal level for total blood cholesterol is below 5.2 mmol/l
  • HDL levels should ideally be above 0.9 mmol/l, and
  • LDL should be below 3 mmol/l.

LDL has been linked to coronary heart disease, whereas HDL has a protective effect.
High levels of triglycerides (another lipid) in the blood are also associated with an increased risk of heart disease.

  • The ideal range for triglycerides is between 1.2 to 2.0 mmol/l.

Heart disease occurs when lipids are deposited on the lining of the arteries, which build up. This causes narrowing, or hardening, of the arteries (atherosclerosis), and eventually a complete blockage of the artery and heart attack. Chest pain (angina) can result as the blood tries to flow through the narrowed arteries. It can also increase the risk of stroke.

Individuals who have a high fat intake, are overweight and have a high waist to hip ratio, or an "apple" shape, where the fat is typically situated centrally around the abdomen, are particularly at risk. This type of fat is more unstable and is more easily released into the blood stream, increasing the levels of circulating cholesterol.

The Role of Diet
High lipid levels in the body can be treated with diet and exercise, and sometimes drugs are prescribed. The drugs work either by affecting the way the body absorbs fat, or by stopping the liver producing cholesterol. Cholesterol in the body is either synthesised by the liver or is provided by the diet, therefore a change in diet can help reduce cholesterol. Dietary intervention can help to slow down the development of further blockages, and may possibly reverse some of the damage.

The levels of cholesterol in the blood are linked to the quantity and type of fat consumed in the diet. Studies have shown that the amount of saturated fat in the diet directly relates to cholesterol level. While essential fatty acids, such as Omega 3, increase HDL are therefore reduce total cholesterol. Foods, such as eggs, offal and shellfish, contain cholesterol, therefore need to be eliminated from the diet. Factors effecting triglyceride levels include being overweight and excessive alcohol and sugar intake. Alcohol and sugar are metabolised by the liver and excessive intakes increase the amount of triglyceride that the liver has to produce.

Diet Changes


  • Reduce amount of saturated fat consumed (mostly comes from animal sources); especially beef, cheese, cream, butter, whole milk, buttermilk, yoghurt, also remove skin from chicken before cooking it. Ostrich is a lean meat that can be eaten occasionally, and cold water deep sea fish should be eaten at least twice a week e.g. tuna, salmon, sardines, halibut, mackerel.
  • No trans-fats or hydrogenated oil, found in processed foods e.g. biscuits and margarine.
  • Use cold pressed oils and do not heat them, you can add a small amount of olive oil after cooking if you want.
  • Eat raw, unsalted nuts and seeds (no more than a hand full a day) good for the omega oils and also a soluble form of fibre.
  • Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. More veg than fruit, as fruit is high in sugar. Some veg should be eaten raw as this retains the nutrients – organic where possible.
  • Include plenty of fibre in the diet, especially soluble fibre such as oats, grains, veggies, legumes, psyllium husk, ground flax seed.
  • No more than two or three eggs a week (this includes the eggs in baked foods!)
  • Cut down on sugar and foods containing sugar, processed biscuits, cakes etc.
  • Reduce alcohol and coffee consumption.
  • Use less salt.
  • Cut out fast foods and junk foods, such as pizza, hamburgers, chips, crisps etc.

Preferred cooking methods include steaming, boiling, stewing, grilling and roasting. Water frying works well if you have a good frying pan. Stay away from frying with oil and foods fried in oil, especially greasy deep-fat-fried ones!

Nutritional Supplements
Soya lecithin, this can be added in smoothies, sprinkled on your cereal or porridge, added to gravies etc.
Take a cold pressed flax seed oil or a salmon oil (GLA, DHA) supplement daily.
Vitamin Bs are important, especially B12 and B9.
Antioxidants such as CoQ10, Vitamin C, E, quercitin, resveratrol.

Drink plenty of filtered water.
Exercise regularly.
Relax, reduce stress as much as is possible.
Keep happy and healthy!