Nutrition and Health Sciences, Department of


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Date of this Version



Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2014 September ; 34(9): 1880–1887.


Used by permission.


Objective—Excessive caloric intake is associated with obesity and adipose tissue dysfunction. However, the role of dietary cholesterol in this process is unknown. The aim of this study was to determine whether increasing dietary cholesterol intake alters adipose tissue cholesterol content, adipocyte size, and endocrine function in nonhuman primates.

Approach and Results—Age-matched, male African Green monkeys (n=5 per group) were assigned to one of three diets containing 0.002 (Lo), 0.2 (Med) or 0.4 (Hi) mg cholesterol/Kcal. After 10 weeks of diet feeding, animals were euthanized for adipose tissue, liver, and plasma collection. With increasing dietary cholesterol, free cholesterol (FC) content and adipocyte size increased in a step-wise manner in visceral, but not subcutaneous fat, with a significant association between visceral adipocyte size and FC content (r2=0.298; n=15; p=0.035). In visceral fat, dietary cholesterol intake was associated with: 1) increased pro-inflammatory gene expression and macrophage recruitment, 2) decreased expression of genes involved in cholesterol biosynthesis and lipoprotein uptake, and 3) increased expression of proteins involved in FC efflux.

Conclusions—Increasing dietary cholesterol selectively increases visceral fat adipocyte size, FC and macrophage content, and proinflammatory gene expression in nonhuman primates.