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Meat and Cholesterol Levels

High blood serum cholesterol levels is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. A build up of cholesterol in the arteries can eventually stop blood flow and bring on a heart attack. There are two sources of cholesterol - the cholesterol we get from our diet and the cholesterol we make in our own bodies. The levels of cholesterol in the body are partially controlled by heredity. Some unlucky people have very high levels of cholesterol because of their genes.


Meat, particularly red meat, is commonly identified as a major source of dietary cholesterol. It is often the first food that medical doctors advise should be reduced in the diets of their hypercholesterolemic patients. However, the amount of cholesterol in lean meat is low when you compare it to how much we produce each day in our body.

Cholesterol is an important building block, especially in the membranes of cells. Each cell in our body contains cholesterol - cells couldn't function without it. Just as important, cholesterol is a major part of bile salts that the body produces to help digest fats. More fat in the diet signals the body to produce more bile salts. To do this, more cholesterol is synthesized.

Cholesterol is produced by the liver and other organs in the body via a complex but well understood metabolic pathway. For most people, the amount of cholesterol produced by the body is greater than the amount of cholesterol they get in their diet. Each day we all produce about 1000 milligrams of cholesterol. Changes to the diet can affect the production of cholesterol in the body. Eating a diet low in fat, low in cholesterol, and high in soluble fibre is one way to help reduce the levels of blood cholesterol.

Lean red meat provides many nutrients that we need in our diet. Meat that is trimmed of fat and cooked so that the drippings run off can be part of a balanced diet. People with high blood cholesterol levels should be looking at their total diet and not just the meat portion. Reducing fatty foods from the diet may be just as effective as cutting back on red meat consumption.

Cholesterol Content of Meats
Meats Cholesterol
Ground beef, lean, pan fried:84
Beef tenderloin, trimmed to ¼ inch fat, broiled:84
Pork tenderloin, broiled: 94
Pork chop, bone in, broiled:86
Lamb, leg (shank and tenderloin), trimmed ¼ inch fat: 89

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