Cholesterol to Receive Pardon as Heart Health Culprit?

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Cholesterol may soon receive a pardon from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) if the 2015 guidelines discontinue the long-standing warning against high cholesterol foods as a culprit in heart health, as expected. Early drafts of the guidelines leave cholesterol off the list as a “nutrient of concern,” overturning more than four decades of caution and alarm by government nutrition experts. Foods that have been drilled into people’s heads as the enemies to avoid, may soon be able to make a comeback into the good graces of the average eater without increasing the risk of heart disease.

After careful analysis of the decades old results from key clinical trials that informed the recommendations, which labeled cholesterol as the culprit, researchers are rethinking the evidence of its impact on heart health. The pardon would welcome lobster, shrimp, butter, eggs, and steak among other foods back to the menu. Nutritional Weight and Wellness dietitian, Katie Vigessa believes she is not alone in her assessment that the strict limits that have been in place for so long are really unnecessary according to several research studies over the years.

The public has been thoroughly indoctrinated that cholesterol is a bad word. Scientists first discovered that the waxy substance was a significant ingredient in clogged arteries back in the 1800s, making it entirely plausible that avoiding foods highly laden with the fatty substance would keep levels under control. Experiments in the 1940s linked high cholesterol with heart disease leading to official warnings and a limit of 300 miligrams per day in the early 1960s. The public education campaign has been so successful that food marketers have found it beneficial to label their products as “no cholesterol.”

The science tells the dietary specialists that it is not the cholesterol in the food that contributes to heart disease as much as it is refined oils and trans fats found in crackers, chips, muffins, doughnuts, flavored coffee creamers and more. The restrictions brought about a migration in eating habits to high sugar, high carbohydrate foods which are actually worse for heart health in the long run it turns out. Overconsumption of these types of food contributes to inflammation, obesity and heart disease.

Vigessa is happy to pardon the long-demonized egg and assure the egg-eating public that it is in fact not detrimental to their hearts to eat egg the egg yolk along with the whites. In fact, Vigessa explains that the egg yolk is full of beneficial nutrients, including a memory enhancing chemical called choline. Since the liver produces most of the waxy, fatty substance naturally, researchers now believe food sources have a smaller impact than the body’s natural production. Medical professionals still warn diabetic patients and those with other chronic health conditions against overdoing the cholesterol and trans fat intake. The healthiest diet choices are lean meats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. However, the days of blaming cholesterol as the culprit in heart disease may soon be over.

By Tamara Christine Van Hooser


Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

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Image courtesy of Eric Molina – Flickr License