Scientists Say Cholesterol No Longer a “Nutrient of Concern”

After more than 50 years, American cholesterol recommendations are changing. Time to load up on eggs, lobster, and caviar!

Eggs florentine on brioche. Photo by Dani Lurie via Flickr

Throw that pale, flavorless egg white omelet in the garbage, because cholesterol, a former dietary bogeyman and component of many delicious foods, is coming off the blacklist. A U.S. government advisory panel that helps shape official federal nutrition guidelines is altering their future recommendations for dietary cholesterol intake, a break from what has been considered conventional medical wisdom for more than 50 years. The Washington Post reports:

…Many have viewed the evidence against cholesterol as weak, at best. As late as 2013, a task force arranged by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association looked at the dietary cholesterol studies. The group found that there was “insufficient evidence” to make a recommendation. Many of the studies that had been done, the task force said, were too broad to single out cholesterol.

“Looking back at the literature, we just couldn’t see the kind of science that would support dietary restrictions,” said Robert Eckel, the co-chair of the task force and a medical professor at the University of Colorado.

Panelists note that while the level of “bad” cholesterol in one’s bloodstream is still an issue of concern, simply eating high-cholesterol foods doesn’t actually raise the amount of cholesterol in the blood. Instead, they recommend that those looking to maintain a heart-healthy diet avoid foods with high levels of saturated fats.

Previous recommendations advised an intake of less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol a day, roughly the amount found in a single egg. While you can now have a couple of guilt-free fried eggs with your toast, the panel’s clarifications about fats and cholesterol don’t mean it’s time to go on a cheeseburger spree. But lovers of certain high-cholesterol, low-saturated fat foods—eggs, lobster, liver, and oysters, for example—should no longer be worried about negatively impacting their cardiovascular health.

Sam-I-Am's dietary advice, finally vindicated

The panel will send an official report on their findings and recommendations to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services within the next couple of weeks. That information will be incorporated into the federal government’s next Dietary Guidelines publication, a document with broad policy implications that impacts food-advertising regulations, school lunch programs, and public health campaigns all over the country. The Post hints that aside from the cholesterol bombshell, there may be some other fun surprises in the report as well:

The forthcoming version of the Dietary Guidelines—the document is revised every five years—is expected to navigate myriad similar controversies. Among them: salt, red meat, sugar, saturated fats, and the latest darling of food-makers, Omega-3s.

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