Is Cholesterol Bad For You? (the government may have been wrong)

is cholesterol bad for you

Fat is bad.

Cholesterol is bad, but fat is good.

Cholesterol is...good?

Wait, what?!

If you’ve spent any time reading food labels, reading health magazines, or even watching television over the past few years, you’ve probably heard the first two of those statements. The third one, however, may have surprised you.

As you are likely aware, for decades nutritionists have suggested that for most adults, high-cholesterol foods might not actually be the culprit behind a higher risk of heart disease or even elevated cholesterol levels in the blood. It appears that the government is prepared to agree with them, as the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recently announced its proposal to remove cholesterol from its 2015 list of “nutrients of concern.”

You may be excited to add fried chicken, cheese, shrimp, eggs, or even lobster back into your diet if you’ve been avoiding them due to their high cholesterol content. Nutritionists continue to recommend limiting your consumption of fatty meats, butter, and whole milk, which are high not only in cholesterol but also in saturated fats.

But, before you run to the store to stock up on your favorite high-cholesterol foods, there are a few things you should consider:

Consider The Following:

  • The recommendations against high-cholesterol foods still apply to certain groups, such as those who have diabetes. When in doubt, it’s always wise to check with your physician.
  • Not all scientists agree with the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, despite a lack of consistent evidence to support restricting cholesterol intake. However, the United States is the last nation in the world to recommend a restriction on cholesterol in the diet, so the Committee is in agreement with other countries’ dietary suggestions with respect to this most recent suggestion.
  • Recommendations and “evidence” changes with time. As John P.A. Ioannidis, Professor of Medicine and Statistics at Stanford criticized, “Almost every single nutrient imaginable has peer reviewed publications associating it with almost any outcome. In this literature of epidemic proportions, how many results are correct?” In other words, today the science “shows” that cholesterol isn’t a villain in the nutrition wars, but what about tomorrow? Think about how many foods are on your current mental list of “good for you” and ‘bad for you” and ask yourself how many would have been on a different list five, ten, or even thirty years ago.

    The list of “nutrients of concern” still includes sodium and saturated fat, but no one knows what future research may bring to light with respect to those nutritional components as well.
  • If what you’re currently doing is working for you - you enjoy good health, you have enough energy, and so on - a drastic change may not be necessary or beneficial. That being said, adding an egg or two to your weekly diet isn’t likely to make a significant impact in either direction, so feel free to give it a try if it’s something you’ve been missing or craving.

In the end, your best bet is to make wise choices, follow the advice of your physician, and enjoy all foods - even eggs and shrimp - in moderation. You’re not likely to ever find research that tells you that is bad for you!