Why You Should No Longer Worry About Cholesterol in Food
Food contains cholesterol, yes. But here is why you no longer need to worry about high-cholesterol foods.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
A top nutrition advisory committee says people no longer have to be concerned about eating foods that are high in cholesterol. The committee’s report, which was released today, will help shape the next version of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, set to be released later this year.
High levels of “bad” cholesterol in the blood, which have been linked to heart disease, are still a health concern. What’s changed is that many researchers and physicians now believe that eating cholesterol-rich foods such as eggs may not affect the cholesterol that is in your blood.
However, people with certain health problems, such as diabetes, should continue to avoid cholesterol-rich foods, the report says.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that ultimately ends up in the walls of arteries. It causes the plaques that lead to heart attacks and strokes. The current U.S. Dietary Guidelines call for a daily cholesterol limit of 300 milligrams.
Researchers are beginning to understand in greater depth that the relationship between cholesterol and the body is extremely complicated.
Research is beginning to show that your genetic makeup – not diet – is the driving force behind cholesterol levels, says cardiologist Steven Nissen, MD.
The body creates cholesterol in amounts much larger than what you can eat, Dr. Nissen says. So avoiding foods that are high in cholesterol won’t affect your blood cholesterol levels very much.
“About 85 percent of the cholesterol in the circulation is manufactured by the body in the liver,” he says. “It isn’t coming directly from the cholesterol that you eat.”
The greater danger for everyone is in foods that are high in trans fats, Dr. Nissen says.
“Those often appear on food labels as hydrogenated oils or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,” Dr. Nissen says. “Those types of fats do tend to raise cholesterol and do tend to increase the risk of heart disease.”
The new U.S. Dietary Guidelines are expected to be announced later this year.