Cholesterol in Seafood – Good or Bad?

Cholesterol in Seafood

Fears concerning the cholesterol in seafood have made it a pretty regular high ranker on the list of foods to avoid if your cholesterol levels are higher than they need to be. But, while there are many misconceptions about dietary intake and cholesterol numbers, new studies are pointing to a very different relationship that ocean dwelling fare may have with blood fat levels. These exciting new studies combined with factual information about the beneficial compounds contained inside seafood point to its purported ability to increase HDL cholesterol and perhaps have a markedly lower impact on bad cholesterol levels than previously thought.

One of the biggest offenders in terms of cholesterol in seafood is shrimp and there is simply no denying that its 220 milligrams per four ounces is indeed staggering. However the cholesterol in shrimp is just not as clear cut as this simple quantity calculation. The World’s Healthiest Foods, which lists the shellfish on its list of the top ten most controversial foods, notes that the common shrimp cholesterol connection may not be as well established as previously thought. For one, shrimp contains healthy sterols like beta-sitosterol, brassicasterol and campesterol which are actually known to reduce bad cholesterol levels. Additionally, the impressive quantity of omega 3 fatty acids found in shrimp may also be beneficial to a potential to increase HDL cholesterol, which in turn may help keep LDL levels in check. The cholesterol in seafood when it comes to shrimp may also be overshadowed by the fact that the fatty acids it contains are comprised of DHA and EPA which are both thought to contribute to cardiovascular health.

In fact, many types of seafood may be able to help raise good cholesterol levels. HDL (good) cholesterol is necessary because it helps to keep bad cholesterol levels in check. Good cholesterol canvasses the bloodstream and seeks out LDL buildups that have attached themselves to arterial plaques. It removes them and sends them off to be disposed of. Certain types of seafood may be beneficial in the endeavor to increase HDL cholesterol, as indicated by Dr. David Williams, citing a man eating seafood study. Participants enjoyed various types of ocean edibles and some shocking revelations about the cholesterol in seafood and the way in which seafood affects existing cholesterol levels were observed. Men who enjoyed regular intake of squid, mussels and oysters saw an increase in their HDL levels, a surprising revelation from foods notorious for their cholesterol content.

Perhaps even more surprisingly however, was the effect that certain types of seafood had on bad cholesterol levels. In the same study, Dr. David William explains that men who ate crab, mussels, clams and oysters experienced a drop in their LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. What’s interesting is that not only were these positive effects observed, there also were not any disadvantageous benefits in terms of cholesterol levels observed in the studies.

These revelations challenge the previously conceived notions about the cholesterol in seafood and whether or not it is important to avoid seafood as a part of a cholesterol diet. While the studies are still in their earliest of stages and in no way on a large enough scale to really determine if one day seafood may actually be considered a mainstay among good cholesterol foods, they do scratch the surface of what may very well be nothing more than a dietary myth. For its rich concentration of difficult to obtain nutrients like Omega-3 fatty acids and selenium, seafood is an important part of the diet that is often excluded in people with high cholesterol.

However, it is important to note that diet is not the only important part of managing elevated cholesterol levels. Lifestyle plays a role as well, and increasing physical activity and quitting smoking can be just as significant as diet in terms of reducing high cholesterol. But, dietary changes remain an essential part of an overall healthful change that can positively impact high cholesterol levels in time. Whether or not seafood is a beneficial part of that equation is yet to be conclusively determined. However, new and exciting studies surrounding the cholesterol in seafood point to it as being less of a negative and even potentially a positive part of a healthy and well rounded diet, even for those with elevated cholesterol.