Dec 13, 2021
Dietary Cholesterol Is No Longer the Enemy It Was Made Out To Be
For many years, doctors warned patients about the risks of cholesterol in their diets. Nutritionists constantly recommended foods with low cholesterol levels to encourage weight loss and improve heart health. Now, after decades of medical advice, researchers are saying that dietary cholesterol is less of a problem than genetics.
While a healthy diet is still essential to living a healthy and long life, there is no longer as much focus on high cholesterol foods, such as eggs. Researchers and physicians now believe that cholesterol-rich foods do not affect the levels in the blood.
The new insight does not mitigate the existing advice for people with specific health problems, such as diabetes. However, in general, a healthy individual can likely stop worrying about cholesterol levels in the food they eat.
The Complicated Relationship of Cholesterol and the Body
Cholesterol is a complicated topic. For many decades, nutritionists and physicians have understood that there is good and bad cholesterol. However, they didn't fully comprehend how either contributed to the waxy buildup in the arteries, the cause of heart attack and stroke-causing plaque. The misunderstanding led to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines of no more than 300 mg of cholesterol per day.
However, while low-density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol can contribute to plaque buildup and high-density lipoprotein or good cholesterol discourages plaque development, neither significantly contributes to the amount of cholesterol in the blood. Therefore, scientists and physicians conclude that genetic makeup and not diet contribute more to cholesterol in the blood. In fact, recent studies suggest the liver produces nearly 85% of the cholesterol in the body.
The Greater Concern Is Trans Fat and Saturated Fat
While cholesterol levels in foods do not appear too threatening anymore, there is still a significant concern over trans and saturated fats. Cholesterol may not significantly affect the levels of cholesterol in the blood, but trans and saturated fats do.
Before purchasing foods at the grocery store, look at the label for the amounts of saturated and trans fats. It is also best to look at the ingredients list for hydrogenated oils or hydrogenated vegetable oil.
Trans fats and saturated fats can increase the risks of heart disease. Nutritionists and physicians recommend limiting saturated fat intake and focusing on a balanced and nutritious diet.
A Healthy and Balanced Diet Matters More Than Anything
The general dietary recommendation focuses on eating lean animal and plant-based proteins in combination with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. While caloric intake will depend on age, weight, gender, and activity level, most experts agree the key to a diet is eating fewer processed foods and more whole or organic options.
Dietary cholesterol is not as much of a danger as people once thought it was, but that doesn't mean society as a whole is healthier. Overly-processed foods are still problematic, and there is a weight crisis in this country. The solution to the health crisis, as always, is education and a balanced and sustainable diet. However, the recent shifts in cholesterol guidelines are not universal, and you should speak with your doctor before making any dietary changes.