The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a federal panel run by the Department of Health and Human Services and the United States Department of Agriculture, recently changed its 40-year guidelines related to the consumption of cholesterol.
More specifically, the government is no longer warning people that consuming food with too much cholesterol – excess dietary cholesterol – is a bad idea. Previously, this was thought to increase the amount of cholesterol in blood.
The folks in Washington are finally listening to doctors who understand the human body.
The panel now sees no direct relationship between dietary cholesterol consumption and blood cholesterol. Of course, evidence that has existed since the 1950s contradicts the claim that cholesterol found in food has a significant effect on blood cholesterol levels.
Dietary cholesterol comes from animal-based foods, like meat, eggs, dairy and seafood. Plant-based food has no cholesterol. However, the human body produces all of the cholesterol it needs.
As I’ve discussed in a previous post, cholesterol sits at the top of the hormonal cascade as the building block of all hormones. Cholesterol is essential for good health.
We have good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL), but the body needs both. Low cholesterol levels can be just as dangerous as high cholesterol levels. The key is to maintain the proper balance in order to avoid potentially serious health issues, including heart disease, stroke, depression and obesity.
One word of caution. This announcement doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want.
Just because the federal government is lifting its recommended limit on cholesterol, that doesn’t mean it’s okay to load up on cheeseburgers, French fries, and potato skins covered with bacon, butter and sour cream.
Saturated fat, processed foods, and sweetened foods and beverages are still bad. They have been scientifically linked to chronic illness.
Plant-based food is still best.
This is how the panel summarized its new guidelines:
“The U.S. population should be encouraged and guided to consume dietary patterns that are rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in low- and non-fat dairy products and alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meat; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and beverages and refined grains. These dietary patterns can be achieved in many ways and should be tailored to the individual’s biological and medical needs as well as socio-cultural preferences.”
Also, it’s important to keep in mind that balancing cholesterol goes far beyond the foods we eat. Exercise, stress, lifestyle and other factors come into play. The problem is that most doctors see a high cholesterol level and prescribe medication without digging deeper. A comprehensive history and exam are necessary to evaluate cholesterol and hormonal levels.
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