Is High Cholesterol Caused By A High Protein Diet?

Is High Cholesterol Caused By A High Protein Diet? | The Paleo Diet

Hello Loren,

Thank you for all your great research and study. I am an acupuncture intern here in Boulder and I am writing a research paper on high cholesterol. Do you have any information on the controversies around a meat-based diet such as Paleo and lowering cholesterol? My hope is that I can recommend this diet to clients with High cholesterol with confidence. I do understand a lean cut and farm-raised can contribute to healthier fat. If you have any information or studies you can pass my way, I would be most grateful.


Dr. Cordain’s Response:

Hi Erica,

In my latest book, The Paleo Answer, I devote an entire chapter examining the link between dietary cholesterol, dietary saturated fat and high blood cholesterol levels.  Basically the most recent meta analyses (these are studies that combine the results of multiple studies) show that dietary cholesterol and dietary saturated fat have little or no effect upon the development of fatal cardiovascular disease.  These results are consistent with a book chapter I wrote in 2006 (Cordain L. Saturated fat consumption in ancestral human diets: implications for contemporary intakes. In: Phytochemicals, Nutrient-Gene Interactions, Meskin MS, Bidlack WR, Randolph RK (Eds.), CRC Press (Taylor & Francis Group), 2006, pp. 115-126.).  You can download and read this paper at my website: ( //

Best wishes

Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor

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“13” Comments

  1. I am a meat eater and just recently was told my cholesterol was high. Yet, after eating a vegetarian diet a week at a time, I find that I lack energy, that I no longer get up and start doing things like I use to. I feel I’m lacking the protein I used to get from eating meat. In the past, eating a vegetarian only diet never made me feel good but nowadays it’s not that I don’t feel good it’s that I lack energy. I want to eat meat, it’s in my dna to want to have it, but with so many mixed reviews about saturated fat what is one to do? I’m allergic to eggs, and soy anything. I lowered my cholesterol 40 points in just 2 weeks after eating a veggie diet. Can eating meat at least once a month be that detrimental to my health?

  2. Pingback: Evolution and High Protein Diets Part 2 | The Paleo Diet : The Paleo Diet™

  3. Cholesterol is a waxy substance that’s found in the fats (lipids) in your blood. While your body needs cholesterol to continue building healthy cells, having high cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease.’:’..

    Most current article on our very own web page

  4. Most people should aim for an LDL level below 130 mg/dL (3.4 mmol/L). If you have other risk factors for heart disease, your target LDL may be below 100 mg/dL (2.6 mmol/L). If you’re at very high risk of heart disease, you may need to aim for an LDL level below 70 mg/dL (1.8 mmol/L). In general, the lower your LDL cholesterol level is, the better. There is no evidence that really low LDL cholesterol levels are harmful. ‘*..

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  5. Conventional diet-heart wisdom did not begin until Ancel Keys and his Seven Countries study (1961). He cherry picked his data to show a correlation between heart disease and cholesterol.

    He chose 7 countries out of 22 that showed his correlation to be true. That means he ignored 15 out of the 22 that did not show a correlation.


    Cancer and heart disease are correlated to eating meat because most people eat meat. A Gallup poll from July 9, 2012, states only 4% of Americans consider themselves vegetarian. That means 96% of Americans eat meat. Pretty easy to make a correlation between cancer and/or heart disease and meat. (I know it was a Chinese study, but I’m pretty sure the stats are similar.)

    Also, it’s probably a good bet rice was consumed by the participants in the Chinese study.

  6. Our body’s cells replicate and die every second of our lives. The cells are made up of a phospholipid bilayer (i.e. 2 layers of fat and a phosphorous molecule). The basis for nerve tissue is fat. Myelin that makes up the outside covering of the nerves in our bodies requires Omega-3 fats (search-Schwann cells). Cholesterol is the basis for the construction of hormones (i.e. sex hormones-testosterone, estrogen, progesterone; aldosterone and cortisol-adrenal hormones; among others required for homeostasis).

    If the body is constantly replicating cells, recycling and wasting old cells, and constantly making hormones to maintain homeostasis in the body, then without fats and cholesterol we will age prematurely because we cannot replace the current cells and hormones effectively (without cholesterol the body will be deficient of hormones because it cannot make the hormone). In other words if we eat a low fat, low cholesterol diet we are setting our body up to replicate and maintain its homeostasis poorly, which can induce premature aging and poor body process control due to deficiency.

    This does not mean you should go to your local butcher and buy 10 pounds of suet and start gnawing on it. The idea of Paleo is the diet is seasonal and gathered from nature. Pick an apple off a tree and eat it (yum). Pull some broccoli from the ground and eat it (yum). Pull a head of wheat off of its stem and eat it (yuck).

    My eyes are in the front of my head because I chase my prey (about a 140 degree field of view). Common prey animals like rabbits, deer, elk, and cattle have their eyes angled to the sides of their head to increase their field of view to avoid predators (about a 300 degree field of view). Herbivores have a long complex digestive tract. Carnivores have a short simple digestive tract (i.e. humans, dogs, cats, lions).

    We have been hunter, gatherers since the beginning of hominid time. Think variety as much as possible. We are omnivores.

  7. I don’t follow the Paleo diet but I have been interested as of late and have found a lot of studies confirming that saturated fats (from meats) have little effect on cardiovascular disease just as the Dr is stating. The brain and the body process fats easily and use fat for optimum functioning and as a bonus make the body trim. The real culprit everyone should agree on is sugar/white processed foods. If you watch Dr. Robert Lustig’s video you could see how he followed the pathway of sugar in your body once it is consumed.

    It seems to me though that a vegetarian diet could use something like coconut oils and some nuts to get the same benefits? I know the Paleo diet veers away from agriculturally raised foods but I am not sure of what benefits you can only get from meats other than Omega 3. But someone with more expertise/knowledge would have to answer that. I however like to eat meat so I will not be going there, but I think that many of the Paleo followers say it shouldn’t be a huge amount of meat, but a good amount of vegetables too.

  8. Sorry. I agree with Jan. I am a female in my 50’s and also dropped my cholesterol 120 pts by going on a vegetarian diet. I will add that my Dr told me it would not help when I said I was going to do it, but the Statins made me so sick, it was a last resort. I have nothing against the Paleo Diet, and think it’s great for young and athletic, but it would be deadly for me. Don’t blind yourself or your readers to the possible dangers or facts in the name of product sales. Thanks.

  9. See the documentary (on Netflix if you stream)…Forks Over Knives. 30 year Chnia Study links cancer and heart disease to eating meat. I went to a whole food plant based diet after seeing this documentary and within a few months lowered my total cholesterol from 274 to 170. I'm not done yet. No meat, cheese, eggs for me. And no cholesterol medicine!

    • Going vegan and vegetarian after living your whole life eating meat and feeling good is the most reducilous approach. Why do you think that meat tastes so darn good. You watched a movie made by animal rights activists and special interest groups. Ask anyone who was a vegan why they aren’t a vegan anymore and they will tell you that they just couldn’t do it. But yet almost all vegans start out with the same mentality and approach you have. The statement you are making clearly shows that you are easily influenced and that you jumped into something you know very little about. You know nothing about paleo after a statement like that. Paleo says cut out grains and legumes. And to eat like your DNA evolved. Paleo looks at our human history to base our diet on. Not a blind idea that eating animal products is the only reason people are sick. People who eat paleo are just as passionate about animal cruelty and are just as aware of the influences it has on our health. With a better understanding of how your body works, you would be able to make your decision on food choice much safer. The body needs cholesterol.

      • Ad hominem much? It seems to me that Jan is making statements of fact: Jan saw a movie, Jan became a whole foods vegan, Jan’s cholesterol dropped. Good for Jan. On the other hand statements like “eat like your DNA evolved” and “the body needs cholesterol” are not well defined. I know this is a paleo site, but flaming everyone who veers from orthodoxy is pointless and boring.

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