DGAC: Cholesterol no longer considered a ‘nutrient of concern’

Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com – @BednarChuck

The top nutrition advisory panel in the US is reportedly preparing to drop warnings against eating cholesterol-rich foods such as eggs and seafood – warnings that have been in place for nearly four decades, but may no longer be considered necessary by experts.

A preliminary document released by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) in December and reported on this week by the Boston Globe said that cholesterol was no longer considered a “nutrient of concern.” That’s a huge about-face for the panel, who just five years ago deemed that “excess dietary cholesterol” was a threat to public health, the newspaper added.

While the revised guidelines do not do away with warnings over the high levels of LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol, which has been linked to cardiovascular disease, the document appears to echo the sentiments of nutritionists who now believe that cholesterol consumption is less of a threat than foods heavy in saturated fats or trans fats when it comes to the risk of heart disease.

Other concerns are more concern-worthy

According to The Verge, the new dietary guidelines suggest that the DGAC is more concerned that people are not getting enough good nutrients. Vitamin D, vitamin E, calcium, potassium and fiber are all being under-consumed across the entire US population, the website said, and putting a greater emphasis on encouraging people to eat more healthy foods (such as vegetables that are rich in nutrients) is said to be the primary focus of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines.

Those guidelines, the Washington Post said, are used to help determine the content of school lunches, and also are often cited as the main source of dietary advice. Cholesterol has been included in dietary advisories since first appearing in American Heart Association guidelines in 1961, and it was later adopted by the federal government 16 years later, in 1977.

Currently, the DGAC has listed limiting cholesterol intake to less than 300mg per day as one of its six core goals, but a new study of the data available in 1977 concluded that it was inadequate and that the original guidelines should never have been issued. That report was also critical of the advice against fat consumption, which could also eventually be addressed by the DGAC.

Experts argue that the shift in policy would mean that the dietary guidelines were catching up with an increasing amount of scientific evidence suggesting that an individual’s cholesterol intake has little impact on heart disease risk, and has no significant impact on blood cholesterol.

“There have been multiple analyses and meta-analyses now looking at intake of dietary cholesterol and the risk of heart disease,” Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, told Time. “In the general population, there’s really not any strong evidence for a link,” though he added that some studies have discovered that there may be an increased risk in people with type-2 diabetes.

Don’t go crazy on that cruise buffet yet, though

However, Yale University Prevention Research Center director Dr. David Katz added that even if the cholesterol warnings are stricken, it does not give people carte blanch to consume massive amounts of eggs and bacon. While there is no evidence that people who eat more eggs have less heart disease, he said there is evidence linking whole grains with reduced risk of heart disease.

“From my perspective, our dietary guidelines should be based on where we have strong evidence for good and where we have strong evidence for harm, and everything else should be kind of left out until we get strong evidence,” added Dr. Mozaffarian. “Dietary cholesterol is not in a place, I think, where there’s strong evidence for harm.”

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