U.S. to Drop Warning on Cholesterol Guidelines After 40 Years

U.S. to Drop Cholesterol Warning After 40 Years

The U.S. is moving away from requiring caution warnings on foods high in cholesterol in its next version of the Dietary Guidelines report due to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture in a few weeks.

Cholesterol guidelines have been in place for nearly 40 years, but the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee says it’s no longer “a nutrient of concern” for most Americans even though at its last meeting five years ago, the panel agreed that cholesterol was still considered a public health concern.

“The finding follows an evolution of thinking among many nutritionists who now believe that, for healthy adults, eating foods high in cholesterol may not significantly affect the level of cholesterol in the blood or increase the risk of heart disease,” reports the Washington Post.

“The greater danger in this regard, these experts believe, lies not in products such as eggs, shrimp or lobster, which are high in cholesterol, but in too many servings of foods heavy with saturated fats, such as fatty meats, whole milk, and butter.”

The American Heart Association developed cholesterol guidelines for the U.S. back in 1961, which shaped American eating habits, leading to a decrease in egg consumption and other foods believed to be responsible for high cholesterol and increasing the risk of heart disease and strokes.

But scientists are divided on the issue, reports the Post, even though there’s a century’s worth of research on cholesterol.

“Some nutritionists said lifting the cholesterol warning is long overdue, noting that the United States is out-of-step with other countries, where diet guidelines do not single out cholesterol. Others support maintaining a warning.”

Since 1994, food manufacturers were required to report the cholesterol values on nutrition labels. But according to the Post, 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.”

The approaching dietary guidelines, which are only revised every five years, will also include updates on other controversial foods including salt, red meat, sugar, saturated fats and specifically, Omega-3s.

Current guidelines suggest restricting cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams a day.

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.