The Good & the Bad Kinds of Cholesterol

By Hans Diehl, M.D.

Does The Body Need Cholesterol?

Yes, but we don't have to eat it. The liver manufactures all the cholesterol the body needs. But most Westerners eat an additional 400 mg of cholesterol a day. It's this extra dietary cholesterol that causes a considerable part of the problem.

What Foods Contain Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is found only in animal foods. Plant foods do not contain cholesterol. It's as simple as that.

What Is A Safe Blood Cholesterol Level?

Many heart researchers suggest that total cholesterol levels under 150 mg% (3.8 mmol/L) will protect people from atherosclerosis—the narrowing and hardening of the arterial walls leading to angina and heart attacks.

Aren't There Several Kinds Of Cholesterol In The Blood?

Cholesterol never travels alone. In the blood it has different carriers. The heaviest carrier is HDL cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein), known as the 'healthy' cholesterol. HDL is protective because it removes cholesterol from arteries and takes it to the liver, where it is made into bile. The higher the HDL in the blood, the better the protection. Men with HDL cholesterol over 75 mg% (1.9 mmol/L) are considered protected from heart attacks.

A simple way to estimate heart attack risk in Western societies is to divide the Total Cholesterol by the HDL cholesterol. Ideally, this TC/HDL ratio should be under 4.0.

A lighter cholesterol carrier, the LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein), is the 'lethal' one. LDL basically determines the rate at which cholesterol is deposited on artery walls. To be safe, LDL cholesterol should be under 90 mg% (2.3 mmol/L). It is now believed that once the LDL is below the 90 mg% value, then HDL, Total Cholesterol, and Triglycerides (TG and TC/HDL ratio) lose their clinical significance.


While there are several kinds of cholesterol carriers, the LDL cholesterol is emerging as probably the most important one.

Incidentally, Total Cholesterol is the sum of [HDL + LDL + 1/5TG]. This formula loses its accuracy if the Triglycerides exceed 400 mg% (4.5 mmol/L).


An example to illustrate:
Actual # To calculate
HDL = 40 40
LDL = 160 160
TG = 200 40
Total Cholesterol 240
TC/HDL ratio 240/40 = 6.0


Would You Explain "Oxidized" Cholesterol?

When cholesterol is exposed to air, it can become oxidized by combining with oxygen. Even a small amount of this substance can be quite toxic (damaging) to the lining of our arteries. Damaged arterial linings initiate atherosclerosis. Known sources of this most harmful cholesterol include pancake and custard mixes, parmesan cheese, lard, and ice cream. Eating foods high in antioxidants (plant foods) helps neutralize these kinds of dangerous free radicals.


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