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Change of the cholesterol tune?

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For years we have been cautioned about consuming cholesterol-containing foods as a way to control our blood cholesterol levels. Perhaps that is why a collective gasp was heard when the 2015 Dietary Advisory Committee Scientific Report recently proposed lifting dietary cholesterol-limiting recommendations.

The Dietary Advisory Committee is made up of health experts who are charged with researching scientific and medical literature and making recommendations that guide dietary health practices. They make suggestions that other organizations review; organizations such as the United States Department of Agriculture or the United States Department of Health and Human Services, which jointly publish the Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years. The last published set of Dietary Guidelines was in 2010 and the 2015 Dietary Guidelines will be published later this year. The guidelines are just that, a highly referenced nutrition guide for not only nutrition professionals, but also the general public.

The current dietary guidelines advise Americans to limit dietary cholesterol to less than 300 milligrams per day. For egg lovers this poses a challenge, with the average egg taking up most of this allowance. So why the change in recommendations by the Dietary Advisory Committee?

Cholesterol had historically been thought to increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol within the body. LDL is also known as the “bad cholesterol.” A high level of LDL cholesterol is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The issue is that there seems to be limited evidence to support that cholesterol-containing foods impact the cholesterol levels in our blood. Other organizations seem to have also come to the same conclusions. The American College of Cardiology in collaboration with the American Heart Association published the 2013 AHA-ACC Prevention Guidelines: Guideline of Lifestyle Management to Reduce Cardiovascular Risk, which led the Dietary Advisory committee to label dietary cholesterol as “not a nutritional component of concern for overconsumption.”

With the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans expected to be hitting America within the next few months, only time will tell whether the advice of the Dietary Advisory Committee on dietary cholesterol will make it into the publication.

So does this mean we should go wild consuming cholesterol-containing foods? Should we forget everything we heard in the past about moderation? The answer is NO.

In reality, we do not know if dietary cholesterol will become a dietary restriction of the past. What we do know is that, for the most part, foods high in dietary cholesterol are also often high in saturated fat. Saturated fat has been shown to increase LDL cholesterol within the body, posing a risk for cardiovascular disease, and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans will likely not change the recommendations regarding saturated fat. Recommendations to limit saturated fat intake to less than 10 percent of daily calories remain in place for the general public.

So, do not go abandoning all of the heart-healthy eating habits in light of these recent proposals. A heart-healthy diet is still the recommended way to eat!

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