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Ask Tufts Experts December 2018 Issue

Q. I just heard that the latest recommendations say we don’t have to worry about how much cholesterol we eat. Is that true? Why the big change?

eggs

Image © domin_domin | Getty Images

Dietary cholesterol from foods such as eggs impacts individualís blood cholesterol levels differently.

A. According to Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSc, executive editor of Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter and vice chair of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) do not include a recommendation to limit intake of dietary cholesterol. “Previous guidelines had recommended limiting intake of dietary cholesterol to 300 milligrams or less per day,” says Lichtenstein “This meant cutting back on meat, eggs, full-fat dairy, and shellfish like shrimp, and checking Nutrition Facts labels on processed foods. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Committee removed the limit on cholesterol because, within the context of amounts currently consumed in the U.S., there is a lack of consistent, quantifiable evidence isolating dietary cholesterol as a main culprit in chronic disease.”

“Cholesterol is tasked with many important functions in our bodies, such as producing hormones and forming cell membranes. The human body can produce all the cholesterol it needs on its own, so it’s not essential that we get cholesterol from our diet. Blood levels of cholesterol remain a strong risk factor for heart disease, but dietary cholesterol affects blood cholesterol inconsistently among individuals. If someone is told by their doctor that they are at high risk of heart disease, they should eat a generally healthy diet pattern, rather than focus on dietary cholesterol.”

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