by Marion Nestle
Feb 12 2015

What’s up with the cholesterol guideline?

The Washington Post says that the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is about to drop the long-standing guideline about restricting dietary cholesterol.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines said “Consume less than 300 mg per day of dietary cholesterol.”

This is about the amount in one egg.

I have no idea what’s going on.  The Advisory Committee report has not yet been released so I don’t know what it says (I’ve heard rumors that it is to be released this week, which could mean late Friday afternoon on a holiday weekend).

Recall: no matter what the Advisory Committee says in its report, it does not write the Dietary Guidelines.  The agencies—USDA and HHS—do whatever they choose with the committee’s research report.

If the Committee really is dropping the guideline, I’d like to see its research rationale.

I’m wondering if research sponsored by the egg industry could have anything to do with this.

See, for example, this recent study concluding that people with coronary heart disease don’t have to worry about eating eggs.

We found no evidence of adverse effects of daily egg ingestion on any cardiac risk factors in adults with CAD over a span of 6 weeks.

You have to read the study carefully to find the funding source (these are usually at the end of articles, but this one is in the middle):

Disclosures. This study was conducted with funding from the Egg Nutrition Center/American Egg Board and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Grant
No. 5U48DP001945-05).

And you have to read the tables carefully to find out that 90.6% of the subjects in this study were taking statins, nearly 90% were taking drugs to lower blood pressure, and nearly 80% were taking aspirin.  The discussion, however, does not mention this point making this study a classic example of the problems with conflicts of interest in research.

If the Advisory Committee is dropping the cholesterol recommendation, could it be because so many people are taking statins that dietary cholesterol doesn’t appear to matter so much anymore?

This story is getting a lot of press.  Here’s one from USA Today that quotes me and changes my name as it goes along (they have now fixed that).

Can’t wait to see what the report really says.






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  • That’s not what’s happening at all but people can’t pick up the subtleties- our body creates all we need but we eat a ton of animal products which have excess protein, saturated fat and cholesterol – creating the mess we are currently in today. The problem is trying to isolate one thing from an animal product when it’s the whole thing that’s bad. I lowered fat and went high carb my cholesterol is 112 mg/dL which is incredible and heart attack proof.

  • It’s hilarious – to get vitamins and minerals we eat food. To get protein we eat it. To get water we drink it. YOu can’t pour bacon grease down the sink or it will get clogged. But for some reason people think when you consume cholesterol it doesn’t affect the body. It just disappears!

  • Gabriella Ratner

    I guess I will have to disagree. When I stared adding fats into my diet and eating more protein my mood improved and I have lost weight. My markers are all fantastic. Just depends on the type of meat and fats. Eg, I only eat grass fed etc. Please see article below-

  • Lots of studies including meta analyses show the harm of saturated fat, cholesterol and animal protein – ie animal products as a whole. People ate what they had to out of necessity. Not exactly a stellar example to follow. Our biology is not designed for animal products – intestinal length, saliva, stomach acid, teeth and more. True carnivores don’t get heart disease.'+Ancestors+Were+Frugivores.php

  • La Belle

    These “Lots of studies” you speak of are outdated. It’s the reason the Nutrition department at the Uni I work for now teaches the principles of Paleo and Primal eating. For starters, cholesterol from animal foods does not have some magical ability to set up permanent camp in your bloodstream and turn into plaque, just by sheer virtue of its animal-foodness. This was a common line of thought decades ago, but as research progressed, we figured out that the human body is very adept at regulating cholesterol production in response to what we ingest from food. If you read the medical literature in the study I linked to, the supposed link between dietary and serum cholesterol stems from studies that had fundamental design flaws, failed to separate the effects of cholesterol from different types of fat intake, or were performed on animals that are obligate herbivores.

    Yes, people ate what they had to out of necessity and evolved over millions of years of doing so; the definition of biological evolution! Thousands of anthropological studies have concluded humans evolved as omnivores; hunter gatherers. A diet of strictly fruit will leave you with numerous nutritional deficiencies, especially in the brain, which is made up of 60% fat. You can debate where is best to obtain these sources of fat (nuts come to mind), nonetheless with today’s human physiology it would be impossible to obtain a complete nutritional profile from just fruit.

  • La Belle

    Your theory is based on incorrect information and bad science, and your anecdotal evidence is most likely attributed to the fact you cut out processed junk like vegetable oils and fast food meat in favor of healthful whole foods, in this case in the form of plant foods.

  • La Belle

    Exactly. For some reason the common person has a hard time understanding this concept. Industry processed meat is terrible and not the same as organic, pasture raised, unprocessed meat. Same goes for dairy. So when they eliminate taco bell from their diets and become healthier they think it was animal products that caused all their problems. Take a look at what you’re eating people, stop eating sick animals pumped full of antibiotics and processed with nasty chemicals.

  • Thumbdriver

    Lol, what Uni teaches “Paleo(TM)” principles?

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  • Sarah Wyble

    Though, after talking with my biochemistry professor, he said that the body produces the cholesterol it needs. when dietary cholesterol is ingested it affects the production of cholesterol, but as the transport increases the presence of carriers increases too.

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  • Garry Smith

    Regarding controversy – I saw some information regarding the Cholesterol levels ratio – see here for example

    My question – is the ratio really important?