With use of a food scale, I’ve been tracking my daily macro- and micronutrient intake every day since April 2015. In addition, I have 15 blood test measurements during that period, and accordingly, I’m able to examine correlations between my dietary intake with my circulating biomarkers. In this post, I’ll address the question, is my dietary cholesterol intake significantly correlated with plasma levels of cholesterol?
1. Plasma levels of total cholesterol vs. dietary cholesterol:
In the plot we see a borderline significant (p = 0.06), moderate correlation (r = 0.5) between my plasma total cholesterol with my dietary cholesterol intake. However, note that total cholesterol is comprised of “good” and “bad” parts, with HDL as the “good”, and with non-HDL cholesterol, including LDL and VLDL, as the “bad”. What does that data look like?
2. Plasma levels of non-HDL (LDL+VLDL) cholesterol vs. dietary cholesterol:
In the plot we see a highly significant (p = 0.006), strong correlation (r = 0.67) between my non-HDL cholesterol levels with my dietary cholesterol intake. It’s not possible to show causation via correlation, but this data suggests that my dietary cholesterol intake may be driving increased levels of non-HDL cholesterol.
3. Plasma levels of HDL cholesterol vs. dietary cholesterol:
In the plot, first note that in contrast with the positive correlations between total and non-HDL cholesterol with my dietary cholesterol intake, the correlation between HDL with my dietary cholesterol intake is negative (i.e., going in the opposite direction; r = 0.51), and borderline significant (p = 0.054).
Cumulatively, it looks like my dietary cholesterol intake may be related to increased “bad” cholesterol and decreased “good” cholesterol. As a limitation of this approach, although I’ve shown blood test data for 15 measurements (which is a decent sample size), I only have 4 measurements with an average daily cholesterol intake around 200 mg or greater. In the near future, I expect to average 200 mg of daily cholesterol (or more) per day, so let’s see if these correlations hold up!
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