Cholesterol: "Not a Nutrient of Concern for Overconsumption"

Health Professional

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are updated every five years by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The first edition was released in 1980 with the 7th edition released in 2010, Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This means the 8th edition will be released this year.

There is a group referred to as the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) consisting of recognized experts in nutrition and public health. This committee reviews the latest research and provides the USDA and HHS Secretaries with evidence-based recommendations.

On February 19, 2015, the DGAC released its recommendations (i.e. Advisory Report).

In the report, the DGAC stated cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.

This means eliminating the 2010 guideline recommending cholesterol intake be limited to 300 mg per day or less. The average American cholesterol intake is 340 mg daily.

This is consistent with new recommendations from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology, but has still caused significant debate on the impact if dietary cholesterol guidelines are removed.

So, what are the some concerns being debated?

1. A green light to eat unhealthy foods Concern the public will hear "cholesterol does not need to be limited" and they will suddenly consume unlimited amounts of butter, cheese, eggs, steak, and so on to the detriment of their health.

2. Foods high in cholesterol tend to be high in saturated fat

If consumption of foods high in dietary cholesterol increases, consumption of a high saturated fat diet will most likely increase also. Per the dietary guidelines, saturated fat remains a nutrient to consume in limited quantities, along with sodium and added sugar.

3. Reversing public health advancement

Intake of dietary cholesterol has decreased over time, likely due to dietary guidelines promoting dietary cholesterol intake be limited. For some this reduction in dietary cholesterol intake represents a significant public health advance which is now at risk if dietary cholesterol limits are removed.

4. Cholesterol in eggs

This recommendation could be great news for eggs. Eggs are a nutrient-rich source of protein that are affordable and accessible. One egg yolk contains 185 mg of cholesterol. Not easy to work into your daily diet if you are trying to stay within current guidelines of fewer than 300 mg cholesterol per day.

Keep in mind this is all based on recommendations by the DGAC and has not been finalized in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

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