Cholesterol is not a fat, but its metabolism is closely related to fat in the diet. It is made in the body from fats and sugars. Cholesterol is a hard, waxy substance that is essential for human health and life. It is the precursor to the male and female sex hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. It is a well known risk factor for atherosclerosis, the process of plaque formation in the arteries that can lead to heart attack or stroke.
Cholesterol is found in your food, but the primary source of cholesterol in the body is manufactured by your cells, especially in the liver. Excess cholesterol can only be removed from the body in the stool, where it is combined with bile acid. This process is facilitated by dietary fiber.
Excess calories contribute to the body manufacturing more cholesterol than is healthy. These come especially from high-glycemic-load carbohydrates and unhealthy fats, especially saturated fat, trans-fatty acids, and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Stress also contributes to excessive cholesterol levels because the body needs to make cholesterol to produce the stress hormone Cortisol.
In terms of dietary influences on cholesterol levels, the most important thing you can do is eat less saturated fat, trans-fatty acids, and polyunsaturated fatty acids. While it is true that the body manufactures much of the cholesterol regardless of diet, the body can only regulate cholesterol levels if dietary sources are low and the metabolic pathways are working correctly. Neither of these assumptions are true for many people today. The average person has about 150,000 milligrams of cholesterol, most of which is incorporated into cell membranes, with only about 7,000 milligrams circulating in the blood. The daily usage of this circulating cholesterol is about 1,000 milligrams. So, consuming several hundred milligrams per day of cholesterol can increase blood cholesterol levels, particularly if cholesterol-related pathways are impaired. We recommend dietary cholesterol consumption be kept under 1,400 milligrams per week.
The average American diet contains about 800 milligrams of cholesterol each day. Cholesterol is found only in animal products including shrimp and lobster, meats including beef, pork, and poultry, and butter. Keep saturated fat to less than 3% of total calories. For individuals consuming 2,400 calories a day, which comes to no more than 8 grams of saturated fat.

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