The only way to get dietary cholesterol is from animal products. This is because cholesterol is manufactured by the livers of animals (including humans), and since plants don’t have livers, cholesterol is found only in foods of animal origin. And since humans can make cholesterol without getting any from the diet, dietary cholesterol is not an essential nutrient. The production of cholesterol is normal and healthy, as cholesterol serves many important functions in the body. Of course, as you know, too much cholesterol coursing through our veins is not healthy, as it increases the risk for heart disease and stroke.

That said, a vegan still may have high cholesterol if the liver produces too much cholesterol. What stimulates the liver to produce cholesterol? Cholesterol production is a complex process, driven by genetics, diet, and other factors. One of the dietary factors that appears to stimulate cholesterol production is high intakes of saturated and trans fats (the types of fats found in hydrogenated oils). In that way, eating a lot of hydrogenated vegetable oils may cause the liver to overproduce cholesterol (this is different than these oils actually turning into cholesterol, which does not happen).

Studies show that vegans have about 35% lower blood cholesterol levels than omnivores.

Source: Dina Aronson, MS, RD

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