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Dietary Guidelines: Cholesterol Is No Longer A Nutrient Of Concern

Revised Dietary Guidelines are expected to let us enjoy eggs again without guilt.

Our consumer health series, Vital Signs, recently identified six foods to help maintain good cholesterol levels. The suggestions are good for anyone to follow, but  a new report from the advisory committee behind the federal government’s Dietary Guidelines says healthy adults no longer have to worry so much about cholesterol.

Lona Sandon, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern Medical Center, said the change did not surprise her.

From Sandon’s interview…

Reason for the change: “We’ve had some good science for a while now showing that dietary cholesterol itself is not a big factor in blood cholesterol. In fact, the American Heart Association changed their guidelines back in 2000, and really started focusing more on saturated fat intake related to blood cholesterol. Cholesterol was largely guilty by association. It’s found mostly in our animal foods and animal foods also tend to be high in saturated fat, as well as total fat. So we can’t just go out and take down all the high cholesterol foods, the egg and everything. We still want to be in moderation.”

Why cholesterol’s important:  Our body naturally makes cholesterol because we need cholesterol for proper digestion and absorption of our foods. We cannot live with absolutely no cholesterol. We just don’t need so much in the diet.

On the other hand: “We know animal-based diets are not as healthy for us as plant-based diets. So we can’t ignore the other (dietary) guidelines of eating more fruits and vegetables and more whole grains. That’s still key and very important.”

So for healthy people: “Enjoy your egg. Don’t feel guilty about enjoying an egg with a yolk. We don’t have to stick to egg whites all of the time. If you’re already leading a heart-healthy lifestyle, and eating those fruits and vegetables, eating those whole grains, and watching your saturated fat, added sugars, and even limiting your sodium intake, then stick with it. You’re doing the right thing.”

For more information:

Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee

Panel suggests that dietary guidelines stop warning about cholesterol in food

Proposed Guidelines: You Can't Eat What You Want 

Why the Government’s New Dietary Guidelines Could Set Off a Food Fight 

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.