Can It Be Harmful to Have Too Much “Good” Cholesterol?

9 April, 2019 , ,

Healthy Meal Plans from SOSCuisine

Is it possible to have too much “good” cholesterol?

A high level of “good” HDL cholesterol is associated with a decrease in cardiovascular risk. On the other hand, is it possible to have a HDL cholesterol level that is too high? This is still a controversial issue. Some research shows a U-shaped relationship between HDL cholesterol and mortality, with low or high levels of HDL cholesterol being associated with an increased risk of death. A very high level of HDL cholesterol is most often caused by genetic factors. In rare situations, it may be caused by other factors such as certain medications, long-term alcohol abuse, estrogen replacement therapy or high levels of aerobic exercise (endurance sports). There is no particular approach to managing a very high HDL cholesterol level. It is important to consider all factors that influence heart health including LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, blood pressure, inflammation, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and one’s lifestyle habits.

In order to promote normal cholesterol levels, here are some things to consider when it comes to diet:

  • Limit saturated and trans fats

To do this, limit fried foods, red meats as well as commercial pastries and choose low-fat dairy products.

  • Focus on good unsaturated fats

Good unsaturated fats are found in various foods including nuts, seeds, avocados, fish and olive oil. It is recommended to eat foods rich in omega-3 every day. These include flaxseed and chia seeds, walnuts, fatty fish (salmon, trout, herring, mackerel, sardines), seaweed, organic canola oil, flaxseed oil and camelina oil.

  • Adopt a diet high in fiber, especially in soluble fiber

Dietary fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grain products. In Europe, it is recommended to consume 30g of fiber per day. In Canada, fiber requirements are set at 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men. According to Health Canada, most Canadians consume only half of these fiber amounts. A high intake of soluble fiber helps to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol. Foods rich in soluble fiber include oatmeal, flaxseed and chia seeds, legumes, edamame, barley, psyllium and some pectin-rich fruits (bananas, oranges, strawberries, apples, pears, etc.).


  • Madsen et coll. (2017)  Extreme high high-density lipoprotein cholesterol is paradoxically associated with high mortality in men and women: two prospective cohort studies. European Heart Journal; 38 (32): 2478–2486.
  • Hamer, O’Donovan et Stamatakis (2018) High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol and Mortality: Too Much of a Good Thing? Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol;38(3):669-672.

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Kathryn Adel

Kathryn Adel

Kathryn completed degrees in kinesiology and nutrition, as well as a Masters in Sports Nutrition. She is a member of OPDQ and of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She ran track and cross-country at a national level. Kathryn specializes in sports nutrition, weight loss, diabetes, as well as heart and gastrointestinal health. Kathryn is experienced with the low FODMAP diet and she completed the Monash University low FODMAP dietitian’s training.

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