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New Guidelines on Cholesterol: Eggs Are Ok, Butter’s Still Bad

Experts have long pushed for the change since for most, cholesterol isn’t the demon we thought it was

Don't hate eggs because of the cholesterol in their yolks (Lew Robertson/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

The story of cholesterol isn’t as cut-and-dried as advice originally proffered in the 1970s might make it seem. And, after years of experts developing a more complicated understanding of how eating habits lead to high levels of blood cholesterol, the official U.S. Dietary Guidelines are finally getting a revamp that includes dropping the warnings over high-cholesterol foods.

This doesn’t mean that heaps of bacon and gobs of fried foods are back on the table. Eggs, organ meats, lobster and other seafood don’t deserve the scorn they’ve gotten for being high-cholesterol. But foods high in saturated fats remain on the list of things to limit.

Peter Whoriskey for The Washington Post writes:

The finding follows an evolution of thinking among many nutritionists who now believe that, for healthy adults, eating foods high in cholesterol may not significantly affect the level of cholesterol in the blood or increase the risk of heart disease.

But doctors will still be concerned if you have high cholesterol levels in your blood—cholesterol does still clogs arteries.

The new guidelines aren’t out yet, but some changes, including the cholesterol revision, were previewed at the December meeting of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, the group that assesses scientific knowledge and makes recommendations to the Agriculture and Health and Human Services Department about changing the official guidelines.

Mary Clare Jalonick for the Associated Press reports that the draft recommendations include less emphasis on eating lean meats, an adjustment to their limits on salt (2010’s guidelines said less than 2,300 milligrams a day, the new guidelines could be less stringent) and for the first time a limit on sugar consumption.

The final guidelines will be out later this year for everyone to chew on. They influence the nutritional advice handed down from the government and the shape of MyPlate, the successor to the Food Pyramid. Expect "down-to-the-milligram" prescriptions that, as the Post points out, "can mask sometimes tumultuous debates about nutrition"—and push back from some companies. (Already the meat industry has protested.) And finally, expect more changes — even the story of fat is more complicated that we’d like, and you never know what the future holds.

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