We answer a query about cholesterol in shrimp, which raises another question: “Does dietary cholesterol matter?”
Last week, we received this query from Curt, a visitor to VitalChoice.com:
“I was wondering why the cholesterol was so high in your shrimp. Is that normal?
Before you read our answer to Curt, we should note 3 things:
- Only animal foods contain cholesterol.
- Cholesterol is an essential bodily compound needed to form cell membranes, some hormones, and vitamin D.
- Most of the cholesterol in human blood is made in the liver to meet immediate needs.
- The amount of cholesterol people get from foods is much less important to cardiovascular health than once thought (The only exceptions are uncommon individuals whose blood cholesterol levels are very sensitive to dietary cholesterol intake).
For more on the increasingly controversial topic of the role of cholesterol in heart disease, see the related article in this issue (“Egg Study Puts Cracks in Anti-Cholesterol Claims”), and two more cited at the end of our reply to Curt.
Here’s how we answered Curt’s question (We added some information about other foods, to help put the answer in context).
All Shrimp and Prawns—including ours—are relatively high in cholesterol, compared with poultry and red meats. Only butter and liver have higher levels.
But our Prawns and Shrimp have no more cholesterol than the average amount reported by the USDA.
The USDA nutrition database gives the following cholesterol values* for a standard, 2 oz serving of shrimp, and for other animal foods. We’ve listed them in descending order of cholesterol content:
Cholesterol (mg) per 2 oz (56 gm) serving
- Chicken Liver = 316 mg
- Beef Liver = 213 mg
- Butter = 120 mg
- Shrimp = 109 mg (mix of various species)
- Lamb Shoulder = 59 mg
- Cheddar Cheese = 59 mg
- Beef Sirloin = 42 mg
- Pork Sirloin = 36 mg
- Sockeye Salmon = 35 mg
- King Crab = 24 - 30 mg
- Chicken Breast = 23 mg
- Scallops = 18 - 20 mg
- Halibut = 18 mg
*All cholesterol figures are for raw uncooked food, except the figures for lamb and beef or chicken liver, which are the values for cooked product. These numbers are substantially higher than the cholesterol figures reported for raw lamb and liver.
By comparison to the USDA average of 109 mg per 2 oz serving:
- Vital Choice Wild Pacific Prawns (raw) have considerably less cholesterol (85 mg)
- Vital Choice Wild Oregon Pink Shrimp (pre-cooked) have very slightly more cholesterol (111 mg)
But dietary cholesterol probably does not matter as much to heart health as once thought.
You may want to peruse two articles we published on this subject:
This last article contains links to thorough reviews of the controversy and evidence, published recently in The New York Times and The Boston Globe.