Regulation of plasma LDL-cholesterol levels by dietary cholesterol and fatty acids

D. K. Spady, L. A. Woollett, J. M. Dietschy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


Extensive data obtained in both experimental animals and humans demonstrate that steady-state plasma LDL-C concentrations are determined largely by the rate of LDL-C formation, J(t), and the level of LDL-R activity, Jm), located primarily in the liver. An increase in net cholesterol delivery to the liver suppresses Jm, slightly elevates J(t), and modestly raises the LDL-C level. Feeding lipids such as the 12:0, 14:0, and 16:0 saturated fatty acids further suppresses Jm, increases J(t), and markedly elevates the plasma LDL-C concentration. Feeding triacylglycerols containing the 18:1(c9) fatty acid restores hepatic receptor activity, decreases J(t), and modestly reduces the concentration of LDL-C in the plasma. The 18:2(c9, c12) compound has similar effects, although it is quantitatively less active than the monounsaturated fatty acid in restoring Jm. In contrast to these fatty acids that actively raise or lower hepatic receptor activity, a large group of compounds including the 4:0, 6:0, 8:0, 10:0, 18:0 and 18:1(t9) fatty acids have no demonstrable effect on any parameter of LDL-C metabolism. These fatty acids, therefore, can be added to animal and human diets with relative impunity. They will alter plasma LDL-C levels only to the extent that they replace the active saturated fatty acids (in which case they lower the LDL-C concentration) or unsaturated compounds (in which case the raise the plasma cholesterol level). All of these effects of cholesterol and the various fatty acids can be explained by the effects of these lipids in altering the size of the regulatory of cholesterol in the hepatocyte. However, many aspects of the cellular and molecular biology of these regulatory processes require additional investigation. In particular, new studies should focus on how the genetic background of an individual animal or human alters the quantitative response of its plasma LDL-C concentration to the dietary challenge of each of these types of lipids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-381
Number of pages27
JournalAnnual review of nutrition
StatePublished - 1993


  • LDL production
  • LDL receptors
  • atherosclerosis
  • cholesteryl esters
  • liver cholesterol synthesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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