3 reasons to still avoid cholesterol (even though it’s not bad for you)

More than 50 years have gone by since it was first discovered that too much LDL cholesterol in the blood is linked to heart disease, and, in response, healthcare professionals of all kinds have provided a simple message: “cholesterol is bad”.(1)

More recent research, however, tells a different story — that eggs, liver, shrimp and lobster are not the demons they were once thought to be.(1) Most people who eat these cholesterol-rich foods will find they have little or no impact on blood cholesterol levels.(1) This is good news for the average man who eats 337 milligrams and average woman who eats 217 milligrams daily.(2)

Why then do the American Heart Association and many informed healthcare professionals still recommend intake of cholesterol be no more than 300 milligrams?(2)

Reason 1: Dietary cholesterol comes from animal foods usually along with saturated fat.(2) Both saturated fat and trans fat have a significant impact on higher amounts of LDL cholesterol in the blood.(2)

Reason 2: The body produces about a gram of cholesterol a day, all it needs.(2) Extra cholesterol from the diet is unnecessary and must be removed from the body via the liver.(2)

Reason 3: Cholesterol intake can have an impact on blood LDL cholesterol levels in certain individuals.(2) Thus, those with high blood cholesterol should be conscious of this fact.(2)

1. Harvard School of Public Health. The bottom line: Choose healthy fats, limit saturated fat, and avoid trans fat. Nutrition Source: Fats and Cholesterol [online]. Available at: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-full-story/index.html. Accessed on Nov. 1, 2008.
2. American Heart Association. Cholesterol. Available at: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4488. Accessed on Nov. 1, 2008.

Published by David Despain, MS, CFS

David is a science and health writer living on Long Island, New York. He's written for a variety of publications including Scientific American, Outside Online, the American Society for Nutrition's (ASN) Nutrition Notes Daily, and Institute of Food Technologists' (IFT) Food Technology magazine and Live! blog. He's also covered new findings reported at scientific meetings including Experimental Biology, AAAS, AOCS, CASW, Sigma Xi, IFT, and others on his personal blog "Evolving Health." David is also an active member of organizations including the National Association of Science Writers (NASW), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Society for Nutrition, the Institute of Food Technologists, and the National Audubon Society. David has a master's degree in human nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, and a bachelor's degree in English from University of Illinois at Springfield. He also earned his Certified Food Scientist credential from the Institute of Food Technologists.

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