We've been hearing it for decades — if you want to live a long, healthy life you need to avoid foods that are high in fat, calories, sodium and cholesterol. But new guidelines may put a scratch line through that last bit of advice. A federal panel has been reviewing the effect of dietary cholesterol on human health, and they are on the verge of scrapping any warnings about limiting its consumption.
In a draft report released in December, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee — the federal panel responsible for developing the "Dietary Guidelines" released to the general public — decided to do away with longstanding advice about avoiding high-cholesterol food. In the draft, cholesterol was no longer listed as a "nutrient of concern." And though the final report has not yet been published, experts say it is rare for the final document to stray from the draft.
Cholesterol is a waxy-like substance produced by the liver and found in every cell in the body. It's also found in certain foods such as eggs, dairy products and red meat. In the early 1960s health researchers decided that limiting a person's dietary cholesterol may help to prevent high levels of cholesterol from building up in the body and leading to heart disease and other health issues. But the science to back up that has always been weak at best. In fact, most studies have shown that only 20 percent of a person's blood cholesterol levels are affected by diet. The rest is purely genetics.
Despite the lack of scientific premise, health experts have continued to warn Americans to limit their consumption of dietary cholesterol for the last 40 years. In 2010, the Dietary Guidelines warned Americans to eat no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol each day.
But that could soon change with the advisory panel's new report.
The Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture make the final call on the issuance of dietary advice — advice that affects everything from nutrition labels to school lunches. Those departments are expected to issue the revised Dietary Guidelines for Americans later this year.
Get ready to pass the eggs and bacon.
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