The cholesterol – atherosclerosis – consumption of meat and fat debate


One camp claims that fat, butter, meats don’t give you high cholesterol and atherosclerosis, and another camp – more traditional medicine tells you to limit your cholesterol intake especially if you have CAD. One thing both camps seem to agree on is that pickling your liver with alcohol and eating a lot of sugary foods will cause harm. Why the debate? I err on the side of caution and eat a low fat diet, don’t drink alcohol, and am cautious with sugary foods as I have mild CAD. Whom do I believe?

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A slight clarification, if I may. Overall, the camp that is pro-meat/fat doesn’t say that a person eating a diet high in meat and fat will not raise a person’s cholesterol. Most will say that eating that way may very well raise a person’s cholesterol—maybe a little, or maybe a lot; it depends on the person’s individual biology.

Where these folks disagree with the mainstream is that, even though a person eating that way may end up with higher cholesterol, they feel that this cholesterol will not result in atherosclerosis, due to the diet tends to put that person in a metabolic milieu different from that prevalent in people that eat a large amount of hyper-processed, carb-rich foods.

tl;dr: pro-meat folks say your cholesterol may go up, but it’s the hyper-processed, carb-rich foods that give you atherosclerosis.


You should believe what your doctor tells you with this one.

I myself have eaten over 1.5g of cholesterol a day for the last 3 years and my LDL and HDL are 49 and 59 respectively.

The human body is an immensely complex machine and while the current model says that dietary cholesterol doesn’t impact blood cholesterol to any meaningful degree, it isn’t the exact same for everyone.

Should you avoid dietary cholesterol? Maybe, maybe not.

And a low fat diet is fine, just know not to go too low as fats are crucial for hormone function and regulation.

You should probably believe the scientists. Fatty* foods contain the chemical precursors you need to make hormones, connective tissue, and nerve cells. They also cause a hormone reaction that makes you feel full.

Sugar has no nutritional value and gets converted to body fat and cholesterol if you eat too much of it.

*this only applies to natural fatty foods. Beef, butter, pork, avacado, etc… not seed or vegetable oils made in a factory.

The cholesterol hypothesis is that high saturated fat intake/high cholesterol intake/high LDL cholesterol/high LDL cholesterol/high LDL particle count/high LP(a) (choose whichever one you like) leads to fat accumulating inside the arteries and that is what causes artherosclerosis.

If that theory is true, it should allow us to explain all of the big drivers for CVD.

The reality is that it does a really poor job – there are tons of things that are well-established to increase CVD risk but have no effect on any of factors I listed above. Here’s a short list:

* Diabetes
* Smoking
* Air pollution
* Lead exposure
* Lupus
* Steroid use
* Cushing’s disease
* Hasinmoto’s disease
* etc.

There is a theory that explains all of these – it views CVD in terms of arterial damage and repair. Things that raise risk increase damage and/or reduce repair, things that lower risk decrease damage or improve repair. There are links from pretty much everything I listed to that theory.

There are two big disadvantages to that theory…

First, it is not compatible with pharma being able to make hundreds of billions of dollars selling statins.

Second, it is not compatible with food companies that really want to sell as much food as possible made from cheap grains, cheap oils, and cheap sugar.

It’s also not compatible with those who have philosophical or religions complaints about meat eating.