The nation's top nutritionists have dropped another bomb in the never-ending shell game about what we should and should not eat. Cholesterol has taken its rightful place among the list of recently vindicated foods.
Last year, it was fat. The British Medical Journal unraveled decades of low-fat dieting when it revealed that saturated fats were, in fact, not bad for the heart. Sugar became responsible for everything which fat had previously been blamed.
The nation’s top nutrition panel, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), filed their 2015 report last week. Notably absent from the document were its traditional warnings about dietary cholesterol, the kind consumed in eggs and other foods. The DGAC declared “[c]holesterol is not a nutrient of concern,” thereby upending decades of advice to the contrary.
The Washington Post explained that the historical warnings against cholesterol has been “based on the idea that eating cholesterol-rich foods would significantly raise the levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol in the blood, and that phenomenon would in turn lead to heart troubles.”
It was an attractive theory, with a seemingly easy “fix.” Stop eating foods high in cholesterol, as the American Heart Association advised in 1967. A decade later, the DGAC incorporated warnings against cholesterol consumption in the 1977 Dietary Guidelines.
Problem is that it’s not quite true.
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It turns out eating foods high in cholesterol doesn't really affect the levels of cholesterol in the blood, as DGAC concludes in its report. It further states that "available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and [blood] cholesterol." According to the American Heart Association, blood cholesterol levels are primarily determined by heredity or the consumption of foods high in saturated fats. (Saturated fats appear to be back on the chopping block, notwithstanding last year's findings.)
It should be noted that it is still important to monitor the level of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) in the blood, because it has been shown to be linked to heart disease. Further, the Washington Post notes that “people with particular health problems, such as diabetes, should continue to avoid cholesterol-rich diets.”
Scientists are not in unanimous agreement on the report's advice against saturated fat, and in fact, warn that "replacing saturated fat with the polyunsaturated fats in vegetable oils could worsen blood cholesterol levels and raise cancer and heart disease risk," as cardiovascular scientist Dr. James DiNicolantonio indicated rather bluntly. “The recommendations on saturated fat are a farce,” he said.
The new recommendations still have to undergo a review before being implemented by Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. The DGAC report is now open for a 45-day public comment period, during which the public, industry groups and federal agencies can weigh in. Comments may be submitted at http://www.DietaryGuidelines.gov.