Most of us have heard a great deal about the link between high cholesterol and heart disease. But how many have heard that high blood cholesterol levels are also associated with cancer? In China, we found that those with the highest cancer rates also had the highest cholesterol levels. Among the cancers associated with high cholesterol levels in China were: liver, colon, rectum, lung, brain, leukemia and various childhood cancers.

In what seems to be a contradiction to our China findings, large studies done in the Netherlands found no correlation between cholesterol levels and cancer. How is this possible? The difficulty here appears to be that the Dutch have one of the highest intakes of animal fat in the world. On average, cholesterol levels in the West are 210-­220 milligrams versus the Chinese 125-­130. The implication is that reducing cholesterol from very high levels to high levels may not be enough to affect cancer incidence. Only as cholesterol levels drop further, into the strikingly low levels seen in China, do cancer rates decline. How to achieve such low cholesterol levels? Doing so is possible only on a low-fat, plant-based diet, since even surprisingly small intakes of animal-based foods are associated with significant increases in cholesterol levels.