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J Lipid Res. 1990 Jul;31(7):1149-72.

Dietary influences on serum lipids and lipoproteins.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas.


Substantial data are available to indicate that the diet influences serum levels of cholesterol and lipoproteins. These data are derived from studies in laboratory animals, from epidemiologic studies, and from human investigations. Most research has focused on effects of diet on serum total cholesterol concentrations. In recent years, however, attention has shifted to individual lipoproteins, i.e., low density lipoproteins (LDL), high density lipoproteins (HDL), and very low density lipoproteins (VLDL). Three nutritional factors have been identified that raise serum LDL levels; these are saturated fatty acids, cholesterol itself, and excess caloric intake leading to obesity. The major cholesterol-raising saturated fatty acid in the diet is palmitic acid. Several nutrients can be substituted for saturated fatty acids to produce a reduction in LDL-cholesterol levels. These are polyunsaturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, carbohydrates, and even one saturated fatty acid, stearic acid. The latter appears to be converted rapidly into a monounsaturated fatty acid in the body. Any of these nutrients can be used for replacement of cholesterol-raising saturated fatty acids in the diet. However, their relative effects on other metabolic processes remain to be determined fully. At present it appears that carbohydrates and monounsaturated fatty acids represent the preferred replacements for saturated fatty acids, although modest increases in polyunsaturated fatty acids and stearic acid, at the expense of cholesterol-raising saturates, probably are safe and may provide for greater variety in the diet.

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