Will Eating Seafood Raise My Cholesterol Levels?

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Filed Under: Heart Health, Cholesterol, Q&As
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Will Eating Seafood Raise My Cholesterol Levels?

I've always enjoyed seafood, especially boiled shrimp and raw oysters. I've read (and been told by my doctor) that shrimp, crab, etc., are all high in cholesterol and should be avoided or eaten sparingly. Since I know you'll give me the "real" facts about cholesterol, please tell me if eating shrimp, oysters, crab, and other shellfish will cause cholesterol problems.

 

This should be a welcome response—to you and everyone else who enjoys sucking down a few slimy raw oysters.

With all of the concern about cholesterol and fat in the diet, it seems that shellfish often get an undeserved reputation. If you like foods such as oysters, clams, shrimp, crabs, and mussels, you'll be happy to know they can be part of a healthy cholesterol-lowering diet. Not only do shellfish have a low fat content (0.5 percent to 2.5 percent), but about half of that fat is in the form of beneficial omega-3 oils.

Studies have shown that diets high in shellfish can actually lower harmful forms of cholesterol in the bloodstream.

Eighteen men were divided into two groups. After evaluating their normal diet for seven days, each was given three different shellfish diets for the next 21 days. Oyster, clam, crab, and mussel diets lowered triglycerides, as well as the so-called "bad" forms of cholesterol (LDL and VLDL). Even more surprisingly, oyster, mussel, and squid diets actually increased the beneficial form of cholesterol (HDL).

Overall, shrimp and squid were less responsible for beneficial changes in cholesterol and blood fat levels; however, they didn't cause any detrimental effects either. This makes sense considering they contain more cholesterol and have less of the omega-3 fatty acids.

These are the kind of studies I always hoped I could participate in. Unfortunately, my experiences as a guinea pig have been far less pleasant. Instead of getting to eat all of the fresh shellfish I wanted for three weeks, I was asked to consume mountains of bran and then provide stool samples two or three times a day. Eating raw oysters would have been a whole lot more fun!

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