The effect of dietary cholesterol on macrophage accumulation in adipose tissue: implications for systemic inflammation and atherosclerosis

Curr Opin Lipidol. 2009 Feb;20(1):39-44. doi: 10.1097/mol.0b013e32831bef8b.


Purpose of review: It is well recognized that adipose tissue in obesity is characterized by macrophage accumulation and local inflammation. This review summarizes current evidence regarding dietary cholesterol on adipose tissue macrophage accrual, systemic inflammation and its potential link to atherosclerosis.

Recent findings: Based upon epidemiological data and animal studies, both obesity and dietary cholesterol have been associated with coronary artery disease. However, the effect of dietary cholesterol on adipose tissue has not been widely studied. In an animal model of obesity/metabolic syndrome, feeding a diabetogenic diet high in saturated fat and refined carbohydrate with 0.15% cholesterol added resulted in increased adipose tissue macrophage accumulation, local inflammation and chronic systemic inflammation compared to animals that received the same diet without added cholesterol. There also was an increased macrophage content of atherosclerotic lesions observed in the added cholesterol group.

Summary: Mechanisms involved in adipose tissue macrophage accrual continue to be elusive. There are limited data that dietary cholesterol may worsen macrophage accumulation in adipose tissue and the artery wall. Cytokines produced by inflamed adipose tissue may lead to inflammatory changes in the liver, which could then play a role in atherogenesis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / pathology*
  • Animals
  • Atherosclerosis / metabolism
  • Atherosclerosis / pathology*
  • Cholesterol, Dietary / metabolism
  • Cholesterol, Dietary / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Inflammation / pathology*
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver / pathology
  • Macrophages / drug effects*


  • Cholesterol, Dietary