Cholesterol is a fatty substance produced by the liver. It takes part in all sorts of bodily functions, including building cell membranes, conducting nerve impulses, and facilitating brain activity.
It is also important for hormone production and the metabolizing of vitamins like A, D, E, and K. Without it we would not survive, yet for years we have been told to be careful about our cholesterol intake.
Now the alarm bells are no longer ringing. Experts say, it could be time to stop worrying about cholesterol.
People worldwide are used to being told that cholesterol kills. Too much cholesterol can clog our arteries and lead to heart disease and stroke. The last time dietary guidelines for cholesterol were reviewed and adjusted was back in 2010. At that time, the recommended daily limit for cholesterol was set at 300 mg.
Fast-forward to today: A review by an expert panel that advises the USDA says cholesterol is “not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.” This means the cholesterol you consume from meats, eggs, and dairy isn’t likely to increase your risk of heart disease or stroke.
Since cholesterol doesn’t dissolve in water and does not mix well with blood, the liver packages it with protein and other compounds, creating what is called lipoprotein, and then releases it into the blood stream.
There are three types of lipoproteins created by the liver: high-density (HDL), low-density (LDL), and very-low density (VLDL).
The type of lipoprotein depends on how much protein there is in relation to fat content. LDL is considered “bad” cholesterol. It can cause hardening and narrowing of the arteries, thus leading to heart problems. HDL is “good” cholesterol because it transports the LDLs back to the liver for disposal. HDL makes up b of the cholesterol in our body. The rest of our cholesterol comes from what we eat.
Recommended changes in cholesterol guidelines
The change in cholesterol guidelines is brought on by evidence from years of research and is in line with recommendations from the American Heart Association, as well as the American College of Cardiology. Reports published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology point to lack of evidence supporting a limit on cholesterol consumption.
Eggs were once thought to be one of the worst foods due to increasing cholesterol levels, but countless studies show no relation of blood cholesterol levels with bad dietary habits. For example, consumption of more than six eggs per week doesn’t seem to increase the risk of stroke.
Food that used to be off limits
Over the years, people who worried about their heart health may have been told to pay close attention to the foods below.
- Red meat
- Mashed potatoes
The advisory panel says, although you don’t have to worry about cholesterol in every single pastry, you do have to beware other harmful ingredients like sugar, trans fats, and saturated fats. High quality meats, low-sugar dairy products, and eggs are all part of a healthy diet. Health officials don’t want people to think that the new cholesterol guidelines are a license to just eat without thinking. They still strongly suggest everything in moderation.
What might happen if you have high ‘LDL’ cholesterol
If your doctor is concerned about your “bad” cholesterol, they may recommend a diet that includes reducing trans fat intake and consuming lots of fruits, vegetables, and wholegrain products. Low-fat dairy, low-fat poultry, fish, and legumes will also be on the menu. Sugar-sweetened drinks and red meat will be limited, along with sweet treats, like cakes and cookies.
Cholesterol is vital to human survival, but since our bodies manufacture it, we can’t just turn a blind eye to what we eat. While under the new recommendations we may not have to worry as much, we still have to remember that many factors can impact high blood cholesterol levels, including diet, obesity, age, and inactivity.