Dietary protein effects on cholesterol and lipoprotein concentrations: A review

William A. Forsythe, Manfred S. Green, J. J.B. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Different dietary proteins exert different effects on plasma cholesterol concentrations. Animal studies have shown that animal proteins, most notably casein, increase plasma total cholesterol concentrations compared with vegetable proteins, such as soy. Soy protein has been shown to be hypocholesterolemic in rats, swine, primates, and rabbits. Epidemiologic studies have disclosed that vegetarians have lower mean plasma cholesterol concentrations than populations consuming diets of mixed proteins, but it is unclear whether this effect results specifically from the animal or vegetable nature of the protein. In human clinical experiments, substituting soy protein for mixed protein reduces plasma total cholesterol concentration in hypercholesterolemic subjects, but it causes only a small, nonsignificant change in persons with normal plasma cholesterol concentrations. The mechanism responsible for the effects of different proteins on plasma cholesterol concentrations has not been established. One hypothesis suggests that animal proteins, which have a greater content of phosphorylated amino acids than vegetable proteins, interfere with bile acid reabsorption. Another hypothesis suggests that the amino acid content of the protein affects cholesterol absorption, tissue storage, synthesis, and excretion. The dietary protein may also alter cholesterol metabolism by affecting plasma hormone concentrations, either postprandially or over weeks to months. Among the hormones thought to be affected by dietary protein source are insulin, glucagon, and thyroid hormones. Gastrointestinal hormones, such as gastrointestinal inhibitory polypeptide, may also be affected by dietary protein.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)533-549
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the American College of Nutrition
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1986
Externally publishedYes


  • Casein
  • Gastrointestinal hormones
  • Glucagon
  • Insulin
  • Soy protein
  • Thyroxine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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