The nation’s top diet panel has decided to downgrade the alarm about cholesterol in food, and its recommendation will shape the next version of the federal government’s influential “Dietary Guidelines.” Here are some questions about what this might mean for you.
Q: What did the panel actually decide?
The panel, which shapes the Dietary Guidelines, decided that consuming cholesterol-laden foods does not rise to the level of a public health concern. It's important to recognize that this panel is dealing with diet and consuming cholesterol. It is not downgrading the dangers of high levels of cholesterol in the blood.
Q: Does this mean I should eat as many eggs as I’d like?
In general, for healthy adults, nutritionists increasingly say that an egg a day is fine.
These scientists say that eating cholesterol-laden foods doesn't necessarily lead to higher levels of cholesterol in the blood. In fact, most of the cholesterol in your blood comes not from what you eat but from what your liver produces.
A group from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology who looked at the issue in 2013 said there is simply not enough evidence of danger to call for limiting cholesterol in diets.
But some scientists continue to be cautious.
One of the leaders of that group, Robert Eckel, said he still uses egg whites only for his omelettes, in order to steer clear of the cholesterol-rich yolks.
And indeed, experts warn that people with other health problems such as diabetes ought to be more cautious, too.
Q: Where does most of the cholesterol in American diets come from?
Eggs, liver, shrimp and lobster are among the foods with the highest cholesterol content. But federal figures show that Americans actually get a lot of their cholesterol intake from foods such as beef, burgers and cheese simply because they eat a lot more of those items.
Q: The experts have been warning about high-cholesterol diets for such a long time. What happened to the consensus?
Rather than cholesterol, many scientists now see the danger in foods that are laden with saturated fats, such as cheese, pizza and burgers, as well as trans fats.
In this view, those fats are the substances that lead to high levels of “bad” cholesterol in the blood, and those high levels of cholesterol in the blood have been linked to heart disease. The American Heart Association has more information.