clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The US is about to drop its decades-old warning against cholesterol

New, 67 comments

'Cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.'

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Every five years, the United States government updates a set of Dietary Guidelines intended to help its citizens make healthier food choices. These guidelines also help inform how companies package and market their products. The 2015 edition, as noted by The Washington Post, will mark perhaps the biggest change since the original 1977 advice by dropping the warning about cholesterol consumption. One of the six core goals since the 1970s has been to limit the intake of cholesterol to less than 300mg per day, however the present Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) does not believe that cholesterol consumption is something we need to be worried about.

Foods high in cholesterol — such as eggs, offal, and seafood — have long been considered contributors to the risk of heart disease, however research seeking to establish any causative link between them and undesirable health outcomes has been equivocal. In the absence of a proper scientific consensus and given that the human body produces a lot more cholesterol than it takes in via the diet, the DGAC has decided that "cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption." That's not to say that cholesterol is completely innocuous, and having it clog up your arteries is still a threat to heart health, but the amount of it that you consume is no longer thought to be important enough to restrict.

Nobody's really sure about what the healthiest diet is; or if such a thing exists

The DGAC is more concerned about the chronic under-consumption of good nutrients, noting that Vitamin D, Vitamin E, potassium, calcium, and fiber are under-consumed across the entire US population. Placing a greater emphasis on pushing people toward healthy choices like nutrient-dense vegetables and away from the villainous duo of sugar and sodium (which are universally over-consumed) is set to be the big focus for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines.

The change in thinking about cholesterol consumption is just part of an evolving body of opinion about the healthiest diet choices. Just this week, a new study of the data available in 1977 concluded that the original Dietary Guidelines were based on inadequate evidence and should never have been issued. The report, authored by an international team of academics led by Zoe Harcombe, was critical of the advice against the consumption of fat, which could, with time, be another area where the DGAC seeks to modify its recommendations. For now, the big change is the removal of the cholesterol warning, which the US departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services are expected to endorse in the final publication of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines later this year.

Verge Video: What is the future of food? (The Big Future, Ep. 4)