How does a vegetarian diet affect cholesterol?

How does a vegetarian diet affect cholesterol?

How does a vegetarian diet affect cholesterol?
How does a vegetarian diet affect cholesterol?

High cholesterol levels , especially " bad cholesterol " and triglycerides, are associated with an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease.

Therefore, for some people, lowering cholesterol levels is important for maintaining good health.

Interestingly, research confirms that vegetarian and vegan diets can help reduce total and bad cholesterol in the blood. However, they also warn that the connection with good cholesterol is not the best.

Read on to find out what the effects of a vegetarian diet are on cholesterol and why researchers say they help lower bad cholesterol.

Vegetarian diets lower cholesterol

Vegetarian diets lower cholesterol

The word cholesterol is a broad concept and often confuses many people. So before you think about raising or lowering cholesterol, you must first understand what we are talking about.

On the one hand, levels of total cholesterol (TC), bad cholesterol (LDL) and  high triglycerides  are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, so it is better to reduce them at these values.

On the other hand, levels of HDL or good cholesterol can be beneficial to the cardiovascular system and its values ​​are related to protective functions, so raising this type of cholesterol is desirable.

Now, how does a vegetarian diet affect different types of cholesterol?

According to a review published by the American Heart Association, vegetarian diets can effectively lower the levels of all types of cholesterol. (1)

In this study, there was a significant reduction in both good and bad cholesterol and triglycerides in participants who ate a vegetarian diet.

Another review states that vegetarians and fish eaters tend to have lower  BMI  , blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and claim that these factors are likely to reduce the risk of heart disease. (3)

The authors suggest that vegetarian diets have a positive effect on body weight, as well as general health, which may help regulate plasma lipids.

Another study published in the British Medical Journal states that in the context of regular exercise, strict vegetarian or vegan diets can reduce excessively good cholesterol. According to researchers, this can be considered an unhealthy factor. (two)

So does vegetarianism help lower cholesterol?

In general, no study provides enough evidence that people should switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet for reasons with high cholesterol.

That is, you may have normal cholesterol levels whether you eat meat or not.

However, too many cold cuts, burgers, poor quality meats and too much sugar are likely to significantly increase your bad cholesterol levels.

In addition, people who eat a diet rich in ultra-processed foods, both vegetarian and meat, tend to have a higher risk of metabolic disorders closely related to heart health.

So to avoid possible heart disease, whether you choose a vegetarian or carnivorous diet, it is important to control foods high in sugar,  trans fats  and  saturated fats  .

In addition, a good measure for those with  hypertension ,  they are not checked at regular blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Other causes of high cholesterol

It is also important to recognize the limitations of research and interference with cholesterol levels and causes other than meat or vegetable intake.

Although researchers try to take into account most of the potential factors that affect cholesterol, they cannot explain everything.

For example, vegetarians are younger than carnivores, are more active, and are less likely to smoke. In addition, the influence of genes on the production of bad cholesterol is known to be high.

  • Poor diet  Eating saturated fats and trans fats found in crackers, popcorn can raise cholesterol levels. Other foods, such as gourmet meats and whole milk products, will also raise blood cholesterol.
  • Obesity. A body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more puts you at risk for high cholesterol.
  • Lack of exercise. Exercise helps increase HDL or "good" cholesterol in your body, while increasing the particle size that makes up LDL or "bad" cholesterol, making it less harmful.
  • Smoking  . Cigarette smoking damages the walls of your blood vessels, making them more likely to accumulate fat. Smoking can also lower HDL levels.
  • Age  . As your body's chemistry changes with age, the risk of high cholesterol increases. For example, as you age, your liver becomes less able to remove bad LDL cholesterol.
  • Diabetes. High blood sugar contributes to higher levels of a dangerous type of cholesterol called very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) in addition to lower HDL. High blood sugar also damages the lining of the arteries.


Vegetarian diets help reduce levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides. Although they can also lower HDL or good cholesterol.

Studies show that the most important thing to have healthy cholesterol levels is to avoid refined carbohydrates and low-fat foods.

Both following a healthy vegetarian diet and including moderate amounts of meat are good for lowering cholesterol. Although, of course, many people choose a vegetarian diet primarily for ethical reasons and not for health reasons.


  1. Effects of vegetarian diets on blood lipids: a systematic review and meta - analysis of randomized controlled trials. Source
  2. Vegetarian diets, along with regular exercise: Effects on high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels in Taiwanese adults. Source
  3. Risks of coronary heart disease and stroke in carnivores, fish eaters and vegetarians over 18 years of follow-up: results from a prospective EPIC-Oxford study. Source