Lowering cholesterol: Is there a limit?

Published: May, 2007

Strict vegetarians don't get any cholesterol in their diets, but they still have plenty of cholesterol in their blood. So does everyone else. In fact, even folks in the burger and fries crowd can trace about two-thirds of their blood cholesterol to their metabolism, not their appetites.

Cholesterol is manufactured in the liver. Diet certainly influences how much your liver produces — when you eat more saturated or trans fat, your liver churns out more cholesterol — but even with a vegetarian diet, regular exercise, and a trim build, the liver produces an irreducible minimum amount of cholesterol. It's a good thing, too, since cholesterol makes vital contributions to health. For one thing, it is a major component of all human cell membranes. For another, it is the building block of steroid hormones, including cortisol, estrogen, and testosterone.

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