Cholesterol consumption poised to disappear from US diet guide

Cholesterol consumption poised to disappear from US diet guide

Consumption of eggs declined from 309 per person per year in 1970 to between 234 and 238 eggs a year in the 1990s in the US, according to the Agriculture Department. It has slowly rebounded since, to about 259 last year, according to the American Egg Board. (Bangkok Post file photo)
Consumption of eggs declined from 309 per person per year in 1970 to between 234 and 238 eggs a year in the 1990s in the US, according to the Agriculture Department. It has slowly rebounded since, to about 259 last year, according to the American Egg Board. (Bangkok Post file photo)

NEW YORK — Warnings against consuming too much cholesterol would be eliminated from US dietary guidelines if the federal government follows the recommendations an advisory panel has been planning.

The panel, which met in December to discuss its recommendations and plans to issue a report in the coming weeks, would exclude cholesterol from its list of “nutrients of concern”. If the panel maintains its views and the government adopts them as it normally does, cholesterol would be left off the list for the first time since the government began publishing dietary guidelines in 1980.

The panel’s conclusions reflect growing evidence that eating foods high in cholesterol, such as eggs and shrimp, has only a small effect on the level of cholesterol in the blood and an insignificant relationship with heart disease. The Washington Post reported on the panel’s recommendations on Tuesday and said they were unlikely to change in the report, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Dietary guidelines can have broad implications for the agriculture and food industries as well as public health. The panellists continued to recommend that Americans consume less sodium and saturated fat to avoid health problems. Consumption of eggs declined from 309 per person per year in 1970 to between 234 and 238 eggs a year in the 1990s in the US, according to the Agriculture Department. It has slowly rebounded since, to about 259 last year, according to the American Egg Board.

Nutrient of concern

The dietary panel, composed of scientists appointed by the Department of Health and Human Services and Agriculture Department, recommends updates to the guidelines every five years. The 2010 report said people should consume less than 300 milligrammes a day of cholesterol.

A presentation from the panel’s December meeting said, “Cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption”.

In a videotaped discussion, the panellists briefly touched on the issue. Miriam Nelson, a nutrition science professor at Tufts University, questioned whether any cholesterol recommendation would be included. When she was told no, she said, "OK. Bummer." In an e-mail Wednesday, she said she fully supports the committee’s report.

“I wanted to make sure we were being explicit,” she said. “Based on the draft conclusions from the advisory committee meeting in December, the committee believes cholesterol is no longer a nutrient of concern.”

Solely advisory

Fellow panellist Frank Hu, a Harvard School of Public Health professor who is an expert on diet and nutrition, declined to comment on the report before it’s published. “You really have to see the official report,” he said. The other panellists either declined to comment on the report’s contents or didn’t immediately respond to requests seeking comment.

“The committee’s activities are solely advisory in nature,” Brooke Hardison, an Agriculture Department spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. “We look forward to reviewing the recommendations from the advisory committee, as well as public comments and the views of other experts, as we formulate the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans over the course of the next year.”

Tait Sye, a spokesman for the health department, confirmed the advisory report will be public in the coming weeks and declined to comment further.


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