Cholesterol Required in the Diet

Question:

Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome (SMOS) is a genetic mutation that impairs the body’s ability to produce its own cholesterol. This very small group of people (1 in 20,000) would need cholesterol in their diet. Any suggestions on how to answer this? Are there any vegan cholesterol sources?

Answer:

The listing for Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome Treatment & Management at Medscape says, “Currently, no treatment has proven effective for patients with Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome (SLOS). Potentially, cholesterol supplementation is a logical treatment because it may be expected to raise plasma and tissue cholesterol levels…. Therapeutic trials are underway.”

Someone with SMOS should be under the care of a physician who is probably instructing them (or their parents) as to whether they need cholesterol supplementation and how much they need in their diet.

I am not aware of any vegan sources of cholesterol with which someone could supplement. My understanding is that some plants contain cholesterol, but only in miniscule amounts. For committed vegans, obtaining eggs from someone with companion chickens would be a way to get cholesterol in the diet while causing minimal or no harm to animals. Oysters, clams, or mussels might be another option.

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11 Responses to “Cholesterol Required in the Diet”

  1. Sam Says:

    Hi Jack,

    I haven’t posted a comment before, but I have been enjoying your blog through Google Reader for awhile now. I was motivated to comment based on your food selection suggestions in the above Cholesterol post.

    I think your recommendations on how “committed vegans” could deal with SMOS are controversial and not necessary. Separating vegans into committed and uncommitted groups is risky – one can never really know another’s motivations. Rank-ordering acceptability of animal products under what-if scenarios is ethically problematic.

    When dealing with someone with a medical condition, I think it’s more appropriate to underscore the importance of listening to one’s health care professional and to give unconditional support.

    Sincerely,
    Sam

  2. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Sam,

    I don’t understand what your objection is. I broke the paragraph you are referring to into two paragraphs to separate the thoughts better. But, in any case, I was not prescribing a regimen for vegans with SMOS, simply pointing out sources of cholesterol that could do less harm to animals if that is important to someone.

  3. Cobie deLespinasse Says:

    Would it make a lot of difference whether the eggs they eat came from rescue hens (impact on male chicks, etc.)?

  4. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Cobie,

    I’m not sure what you mean.

  5. Cobie deLespinasse Says:

    Oops, I wasn’t clear. Your blog entry that talked about companion chickens reminded me of some conversations I’ve had while leafleting. When I’m leafleting, sometimes a person tells me they raise their own hens. I tend to suggest that in the future they get hens that have been rescued, instead of buying chicks from a breeder who kills male chicks. Let me know if you have any other suggestions for what I should tell the people who I leaflet.

  6. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Cobie,

    Seems like a good response to get people thinking. But, as you probably know, the chances are very remote that any of these people need cholesterol in their diets.

  7. Ariann Says:

    It may just be that I’m a “committed vegan,” but I immediately understood Jack’s “companion hens” remark to mean “rescued hens.” I don’t think we need to question Jack’s devotion to either the animals or to human health. What I’ve learned on visits to farm sanctuaries is that rescued hens still obviously lay a bunch of eggs! Sanctuaries feed them back to the hens to replenish lost nutrients used to form the eggs in the first place. If you had to find a source for cholesterol in the diet, eating the yolks and continuing to feed the rest back to the hen might be a good solution (along with more fat in their feed maybe).

    I do think Cobie’s right that “what ifs” are usually counter-productive, but I also think it’s really important to tackle the issues facing people on the far margins of normal (especially when they’re real people and not just hypotheticals) so that we can move the entire population toward veganism as a realistic alternative to our current system. If people like Jack weren’t out there saying, here’s a way to stay 99.9% vegan and deal with your real health issues – while of course not ignoring reasonable medical advice, the only alternative on the table would be “eat some meat.”

  8. Cobie deLespinasse Says:

    Ariann has some good points. Probably a lot of the people who read Jack’s blog know about rescued hens, so it’s really not that important for me to comment on it.

  9. Samuel Says:

    Hi Jack,

    My partner got the results from her biochemical profile and her cholesterol levels are below normal (116 mg/dL). Just a year ago they were above normal (233 mg(dL) when she was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.

    I’ve read that this disease may increase cholesterol levels but I can’t find whether its treatment can lower them below normal. Do you have any info on this?

    My other question is, can a vegan diet cause levels of cholesterol below normal or if a healthy organism should be able to produce enough regardless of diet?

    She is going to her doctor today but I thought it was no waste to ask you anyway. :) Thanks in advance!

  10. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Samuel,

    I don’t have any info on Hashimoto’s treatment and cholesterol levels. A vegan diet can decrease cholesterol levels to below normal, but it’s not clear how low can generally become a problem. From my experience, 116 mg/dl does not seem low enough to cause problems in most cases, but this has not been studied in any exhaustive way.

  11. Ciara Says:

    I wanted to mention that while most of the readers of this site probably are aware of rescue hens, it had never occurred to me. I am new to clean eating and vegetarianism. My family still eats eggs, and in efforts to know where our food comes from we plan to grow our own food and raise our own hens. Cobie deLespinasse’s comment had actually been really insightful for me and is an option that I will further research.
    Also I want to thank Jack for having such an informational site. While this particular post doesn’t pertain to me, I have learned quite a lot on your site, and will continue to visit.

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