Does Losing Weight Lower Cholesterol? Answered by a Doctor

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson | Co-Founder & Chief Editor
Last updated: November 22, 2023
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Researchers have established there’s a direct correlation between high cholesterol and obesity, and this is a common issue for many Americans.

I’ve been a fitness coach for more than a decade, and one of the most common questions I get is: will weight loss lower cholesterol levels?

I talked with a doctor friend and spent hours going over scientific studies. Here’s what you should know about cholesterol and weight.

Quick Summary

  • Losing weight can help lower the LDL cholesterol levels, and triglycerides levels at large.
  • To lower the cholesterol levels, regularly exercise, be careful on the meals you eat, and avoid drinks with a lot of calories.
  • Swimming, rowing, cycling, and walking are the best workout routines for lowering your bad cholesterol levels.

Obesity and Cholesterol

An obese person with measuring tape wrapped around

Our bodies need a certain amount of cholesterol. For example, we need it to make vitamin D, which contributes to a healthy immune system.

But, health problems happen when we have too much low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the bloodstream, which is called hypercholesterolemia.

This results in a build-up of fatty deposits, which block arteries and restrict blood flow. The end result is a heart attack or a stroke.

Overweight people have higher cholesterol because of the way the body makes lipoproteins and triglycerides. These form in the liver from free fatty acids and glucose. Too many triglycerides result in high levels of lipoproteins, including cholesterol.

Being overweight raises high triglycerides, which results in increased cholesterol levels because:

  • You have a high number of fat tissue in the body, which means a high number of fatty acids in the liver.
  • You’re insulin resistant, which also raises the number of fatty acids in the liver.
  • Have inflammation, so the body can’t manage cholesterol.

Another reason why some people have high cholesterol levels is related to genes.

Your DNA, how much, and what you eat combine and form high cholesterol. For example, if you eat a diet high in fat, like fried foods and fast food, you can develop both obesity and cholesterol.

“Hypercholesterolaemia occurs in 1 in 200-250 patients… It is a genetic disease typically affecting the LDL receptor, making it defective.”

-  Seth Baum,  Preventive Cardiologist & Clinical Lipidologist


Weight Loss and Cholesterol

Top view of weighing scale

Losing weight is beneficial for cholesterol levels because it reduces the amount of fat in your body.

Losing even 10 pounds can be enough to improve your cholesterol.

One study found that obese adults who lost 5% to 10% of their weight reduced levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides [1].

Another study on six obese women also concluded that their cholesterol went from high to normal ranges when they reached normal weight [2].

Apart from lower risk factors of cholesterol and high blood pressure, losing weight reduces inflammation and insulin resistance. The body is able to regulate hormones and lipoproteins better.

Once you reduce your weight, you’ll quickly see benefits to blood cholesterol levels.

Once the LDL levels go down (bad cholesterol) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels go up (good cholesterol), you’ll have proper blood flow, unclogged arteries, and a lower risk of heart disease.

Of course, this all stands if you maintain a healthy weight and do not have a weight gain.

3 Tips for Lowering Cholesterol

Lifting weight and top view of healthy vegetables

There are several things you can do to lower cholesterol.

1. Lose Weight

Losing weight is known as reducing blood pressure and is also the most effective for lowering cholesterol.

A good way to reach your desired weight is to start with smaller portions and avoid saturated fat.

Also, be careful with liquids. Don’t drink your calories, but go for zero-calorie drinks.

Finally, make sure you eat food that makes you feel full. This way, you can avoid snacking and over-indulging.

2. Be Careful What You Eat

You should be careful with what you eat, even if your goal isn’t weight loss.

You should check our list of healthy fats and avoid the saturated fats that directly contribute to bad cholesterol.

Here’s what you shouldn’t eat:

Animal fats — Avoid eating processed meats, such as hot dogs, salami, and red meats, such as beef, pork, and lamb. Also, avoid skin-on poultry and full-fat dairy products such as milk, cheese, and butter. These foods are rich in saturated fat and cholesterol.

Carbs — A low-carb diet can help you lose weight and avoid cardiovascular disease. Eat foods such as whole-grain starch, fruit, and lentils. However, be careful with your portions. A good rule is one cup of starch or fruits with your meal.

Here’s what you should eat to have normal blood cholesterol:

Fiber — Specifically, foods with soluble fiber. It binds to bile and removes it. This is helpful because bile is made up of cholesterol. Oats, flaxseed, barley, fruits, and whole-grain cereals are rich in fiber.

Vegetables — Try to have at least one meatless meal a week and eat plant-based proteins. You can make a burrito, salad, or stir-fry. These decrease amount of saturated fat in your body.

3. Exercise

A woman doing cardio

Exercising is also a good way to lower cholesterol present in your body and improve overall cardiovascular health.

Ninety minutes of exercise a day is best for heart health, especially if you do cardiovascular exercise.

These exercises include cycling, walking, rowing, and swimming.

If you can’t set apart 90 minutes a day, try at least 30 minutes. For some people, even 45 minutes can be enough.


What Foods Should You Avoid If You Have High Cholesterol?

Foods you should avoid if you have high cholesterol are full-fat dairy, red meat, baked foods, and other foods with trans fats.

Is Banana Good for High Cholesterol?

Yes, banana is good for high cholesterol. It’s rich in potassium and fiber, which can lower both blood pressure and cholesterol.


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