Does Shrimp Raise Cholesterol?

Is shrimp high in cholesterol? Dive deeper into the science behind this popular seafood and check how it affects your blood plasma levels.

Diana Licalzi
By Diana Licalzi
Jovan Mijailovic
Edited by Jovan Mijailovic

Published March 6, 2024.

A plate of shrimp salad.

Shellfish, especially shrimp and squid, are naturally higher in cholesterol than other foods, but does this mean it increases its levels in your bloodwork?

We reviewed the research, and the simple answer is no. The cholesterol in shrimp does not directly impact the one in your blood plasma.

Cholesterol in shrimp: blame it on the rabbits

In the 1960s, scientists researched the causes of atherosclerosis—the buildup of plaque and other substances in the arteries. They discovered that a diet of dried shrimp and chow increased the cholesterol of rabbits, which quickly developed this condition.

The findings stated that high cholesterol levels in the blood contribute to plaque buildup in the arteries. Over time this may lead to the, which may lead to heart disease. [1]

But does the same effect occur in us? Does shrimp increase cholesterol? In hindsight, the scientists' research merely demonstrated that rabbits are hypersensitive to dietary sources that have it. [2] Studies in humans fail to produce similar findings.

» Looking to get bloodwork done? Understand the meaning of cholesterol results

Really? But shrimp has more cholesterol than an egg

Cholesterol in eggs is slightly lower compared to shellfish like shrimp and squid. These two anomalies have about two to three times more than other animals. Nonetheless, research reveals they have a negligible effect on blood markers.

In a large study performed in China, eating one serving of fish and shellfish a week was associated with a reduced risk of heart attacks in men. The primary types eaten in the country are crab and shrimp, which may have positive heart-health effects. [3]

A bar chart comparing shrimp cholesterol to other foods.

Likewise, another study showed similar results in women. [4] Fish and shellfish intake was linked with decreased risk factors for heart disease. This is because, unlike land animals, seafood has very little saturated fat and is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 acids, which lowers cholesterol and triglycerides.

In another smaller study, subjects substituted their regularly consumed animal-based protein with various shellfish. Oysters, clams, and crabs—naturally high in omega-3s—significantly lowered participant's bad cholesterol (LDL) and total levels in blood plasma. Squid and shrimp did not impact these markers. [5]

Note: What happens if we add shrimp to omnivores' diets Instead of replacing meat with shellfish? It turns out not much. Subjects who added eight ounces of shrimp to their diet for four weeks saw no increase in their LDL cholesterol. [6]

» Find out if your total cholesterol count matters

A hidden secret about cholesterol regulation

Our body generates all the cholesterol it needs, so we don’t require any from our diet. [1] Unless you’re a vegan, you’re most likely consuming it; animals and their byproducts—meat, seafood, eggs, cheese—all contain varying levels.

But, our body regulates the amount it produces against what we eat. If we get a lot from our diet, it compensates by creating less internally, and vice versa. [7] For this reason, dietary cholesterol has a minimal impact on its blood plasma levels

A diagram of LDL cholesterol.

So what does increase cholesterol? 

When considering this question, it's critical to examine all biomarkers involved. You should check good cholesterol (HDL) and LDL, together with its total value and triglycerides.

Numerous culprits contribute to poor cholesterol levels, including a diet high in unhealthy fats—saturated and trans—and low in nutrient-dense foods. Those high in unhealthy fats include fried and processed foods, baked goods, and certain meat and dairy products. [1]

Note: With InsideTracker’s personalized health analysis, you can get optimal zones for cholesterol biomarkers to fine-tune your health.

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What you can do to lower your cholesterol

Fortunately, there are scientifically proven recommendations for lowering cholesterol. Through a fascinating mechanism, dietary fiber indirectly lowers blood levels. Our liver uses it as a building block to produce bile acids, which aid in digesting fats in our small intestine.

After they've done their job, bile acids are reabsorbed and recycled back to the liver. High-fiber foods prevent process and instead eliminate them in our bowels. Our liver must return to our pool of circulating cholesterol to generate more, lowering blood plasma levels. [8]

Instead of passing on shrimp, take these measures to reduce or prevent high cholesterol:

  • Focus on fiber-rich food recipes with steel-cut oats, berries, and legumes.
  • Choose nutrient-dense foods, including dark leafy greens, brightly colored fruits and vegetables, and nuts and seeds. They provide ample antioxidants to lessen the buildup of plaque in the arteries. 
  • Replace a few fatty protein sources—beef, chicken, pork—with leaner, omega-rich sources like seafood.
  • Engage in regular exercise. 

Don't fear the shrimp

For most people, enjoying shrimp in moderation as part of a balanced diet is perfectly fine. However, if you have pre-existing health conditions or genetic sensitivity to cholesterol, consult your physician for personalized advice.

If you want to take a proactive approach to optimizing your well-being, InsideTracker's Ultimate + DNA + InnerAge Bundle gives you a complete picture of your health, together with science-backed recommendations to live healthier, longer. It analyzes your DNA for genetic variants linked to cholesterol and heart disease risk—like Apolipoprotein B.

InsideTracker doesn't diagnose or treat medical conditions. Consult your physician if you have any health concerns.


[1] National Library of Medicine, “Cholesterol,” MedlinePlus.

[2] W. S. Jones, M. L. Wong, G. Lowe, I. G. Davies, C. Isherwood, and B. A. Griffin, “The effect of prawn consumption on lipoprotein subclasses in healthy males,” Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, vol. 69, no. OCE1, Jan. 2010, doi: 10.1017/s0029665109992849.

[3] J. Yuan, R. K. Ross, Y. Gao, and M. C. Yu, “Fish and Shellfish Consumption in Relation to Death from Myocardial Infarction among Men in Shanghai, China,” American Journal of Epidemiology, vol. 154, no. 9, pp. 809–816, Nov. 2001, doi: 10.1093/aje/154.9.809.

[4] H. Kim, S. Park, H. Yang, Y. J. Choi, K. B. Huh, and N. Chang, “Association between fish and shellfish, and omega-3 PUFAs intake and CVD risk factors in middle-aged female patients with type 2 diabetes,” Nutrition Research and Practice, vol. 9, no. 5, p. 496, Jan. 2015, doi: 10.4162/nrp.2015.9.5.496.

[5] M. T. Childs, C. S. Dorsett, I. B. King, J. G. Ostrander, and W. K. Yamanaka, “Effects of shellfish consumption on lipoproteins in normolipidemic men,” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 51, no. 6, pp. 1020–1027, Jun. 1990, doi: 10.1093/ajcn/51.6.1020.

[6] W. S. Jones, M. L. Wong, G. Lowe, I. G. Davies, C. Isherwood, and B. A. Griffin, “The effect of prawn consumption on lipoprotein subclasses in healthy males,Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, vol. 69, no. OCE1, Jan. 2010, doi: 10.1017/s0029665109992849.

[7] M. Da Silva Afonso, R. M. Machado, M. S. F. Lavrador, E. C. R. Quintão, K. J. Moore, and A. M. Lottenberg, “Molecular pathways underlying cholesterol homeostasis,” Nutrients, vol. 10, no. 6, p. 760, Jun. 2018, doi: 10.3390/nu10060760.

[8] P. Gunness and M. J. Gidley, “Mechanisms underlying the cholesterol-lowering properties of soluble dietary fibre polysaccharides,” Food & Function, vol. 1, no. 2, p. 149, Jan. 2010, doi: 10.1039/c0fo00080a.