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US Government Poised to Drop Cholesterol Warnings?

By Christopher Clark
February 17, 2015
US Government Poised to Drop Cholesterol Warnings? image

The notion that dietary cholesterol, (cholesterol that occurs naturally within food), promotes cardiovascular disease has been a central tenet of the US government’s dietary recommendations for the past 50 years, including their Food Guide Pyramid (retired in 2005), MyPyramid (retired in 2011), and their current MyPlate configuration. Soon, however, the government may finally change its course, aligning itself with decades of scientific research showing that dietary cholesterol neither increases serum (blood) cholesterol levels nor increases risks for cardiovascular disease.

This surprising revelation broke when the Washington Times reported that the highly influential Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), the group responsible for providing the scientific basis for official US dietary guidelines, is poised to reverse its longstanding warnings against eggs, shrimp, various animal fats, and other foods rich in dietary cholesterol.1

Such a reversal would be highly impactful and significant considering that official dietary guidelines affect school lunch programs and other institutional menu planning, while also directly influencing the eating habits of millions of Americans.

The DGAC convenes once every five years to update and adjust, if necessary, their recommendations. According to the Washington Post, at the panel’s final meeting in December, they decided to withdraw their dietary cholesterol warnings. “A person with direct knowledge of the proceedings,” the Post reports, “said the cholesterol finding would make it to the group’s final report, which is due within weeks.”2 In the current status and trend recap following December’s meeting the DGAC notes, "Cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption." Read more here.

Members of the DGAC are not commenting publically until their report is published and submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture. Those agencies are not required to act upon the DGAC’s recommendations, but experts speaking with the Post report, “major deviations are not common.”

Let’s face it. The US government’s dietary recommendations have flown in the face of published nutritional science for far too long. It can’t, however, go on like this indefinitely. Eventually, the weight of the science coupled with shifts of thinking among scientists, nutrition experts, and consumers will nudge the government toward scientifically sound recommendations, as opposed to recommendations that serve the interests of food manufacturers and large agricultural conglomerates.

The campaign against dietary cholesterol dates back to 1961, when the American Heart Association (AHA) began warning against overconsumption. The AHA currently recommends no more than 300 mg daily. Eggs contain 185 mg of cholesterol, which means for decades past the AHA (and the US government by extension) has been taking the position that eating more than one daily egg is dangerous.

Even the infamous Dr. Ancel Keys, the progenitor of the lipid hypothesis of coronary heart disease, acknowledged as early as 1953 that dietary cholesterol doesn’t increase blood cholesterol and thus (according to his lipid hypothesis) doesn’t drive heart disease. Keys wrote in the American Journal of Public Health, “Repeated careful dietary surveys on large numbers of persons in whom blood cholesterol was measured consistently fail to disclose a relationship between the cholesterol in the diet and in the serum.”3

The Paleo Diet strongly encourages the DGAC to reverse its longstanding antagonism against healthy foods like eggs, beef, and shrimp, which contain relatively high amounts of dietary cholesterol. We further encourage the relevant governmental agencies to act upon the DGAC’s anticipated reversal, thereby definitively ending the ridiculous and entirely unscientific war against dietary cholesterol, an important and beneficial nutrient.

References

[1] Whoriskey, P. (February 10, 2015). The U.S. government is poised to withdraw longstanding warnings about cholesterol. The Washington Post. Retrieved from //www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/02/10/feds-poised-to-withdraw-longstanding-warnings-about-dietary-cholesterol/?tid=sm_fb

[2] Ibid.

[3] Keys, A. (November 1953). Prediction and Possible Prevention. American Journal of Public Health and the Nation’s Health, 43(11). Retrieved from //ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.43.11.1399

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