Ditch eggs and meat… to avoid diabetes

| 30 May 2023
minute reading time

Cholesterol is a blood lipid – a waxy, fatty substance that circulates in your blood. We need some to help build cells, make vitamin D and a range of hormones but high levels of LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol can build up on your artery walls, reduce blood flow and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

According to this review of 11 studies, which includes a third of a million people, cholesterol in foods, such as eggs, shellfish, meat and dairy, also increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, which in turn increases the risk of heart disease. Those who consumed more cholesterol from foods, such as eggs and red meat, increased their risk of diabetes more than those who consumed the least.

For every 100 milligrams a day of added cholesterol (one egg has about 180 milligrams) the risk increased by five per cent.

While cholesterol is found in some animal foods such as eggs, shellfish, meat and dairy products, we also make it in our liver. Dietary cholesterol underwent a bit of a reprieve a few years ago, when it was found that saturated fat is even more of a driver of high blood cholesterol levels. High levels of saturated fat; the unhealthy type found in meat, eggs, dairy, pies, pastries, processed foods, coconut oil and palm fat, cause your liver to make more cholesterol than it otherwise would. Cholesterol levels in the UK are among the highest in the world, with three out of five adults considered to have levels that are too high.

There is absolutely no cholesterol in plant foods – so, it follows that a vegan diet is completely cholesterol-free. A healthy, varied vegan diet is also low in saturated fat. This may be why British vegetarians and vegans have a whopping 32 per cent lower risk of heart disease than meat-eaters. Avoiding eggs and other animal products – the only dietary source of cholesterol – is also best for diabetes prevention.


Li Y, Pei H, Zhou C, Lou Y. 2023. Dietary cholesterol consumption and incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus: A dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases. 33 (1) 2-10.

About the author
Dr. Justine Butler
Justine joined Viva! in 2005 after graduating from Bristol University with a PhD in molecular biology. After working as a campaigner, then researcher and writer, she is now Viva!’s head of research and her work focuses on animals, the environment and health. Justine’s scientific training helps her research and write both in-depth scientific reports, such as White Lies and the Meat Report, as well as easy-to-read factsheets and myth-busting articles for consumer magazines and updates on the latest research. Justine also recently wrote the Vegan for the Planet guide for Viva!’s Vegan Now campaign.

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