Nutrition

Feds May Finally Ditch Cholesterol Warning

Eggs for everybody!

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nesster/Flickr

After years of telling Americans that high-cholesterol foods would kill them, the federal government may ease up on warnings about this much-maligned nutrient. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee will no longer list cholesterol among its "nutrients of concern," according to The Washington Post

The committee is in the midst of updating federal dietary guidelines for 2015; the last update was in 2010. These guidelines are used to set school lunch standards and food labeling requirements and inform all sorts of government dietary advice. 

The move reflects updated scientific thinking on cholesterol. While high cholesterol levels in the blood can still be a bad health indicator, scientists no longer view high blood cholesterol as a direct result of eating a cholesterol-rich diet, at least not for most people. Genetics may make some individuals more vulnerable to cholesterol in food, but scientists estimate this group only includes about 25 percent of the population.

Cholesterol is the latest in a long line of dietary demons pursued vigorosly by public-health officials only to be redeemed as nutrition science advances. One of the reasons trans fats found their way into large parts of the U.S. food supply was the government's campaign against products made with lard, prompting foodmakers to instead switch to partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils. These oils turned out to be high in the types of trans fats we now know are more dangerous than animal fats. The government also urged individuals to stop cooking with animal fats and instead use vegetable oils such as corn and soybean oil—both loaded with inflammation-spiking omega-6 fatty acids, which have been much more detrimental to American health than eating butter.  

Government guidelines for optimal eating may have similarly screwed Americans over when it comes to fats in general. For years, health officials championed low-fat (and low-cholesterol) diets as optimal, pushing many to try and avoid fat in food as much as possible. But there are tons of different kinds of dietary fats, and a lot of them—particularly polyunsaturated fats of the variety found in fish, nuts, and grass-fed beef—are not just okay but incredibly beneficial for human health. Dietary fat is also necessary to help humans absorb other important nutrients, so a vegetable-filled, vitamin-rich salad actually becomes more nutritious if you add a little olive oil or egg. 

Even the story behind saturated fat, characterized for decades as having no redeeming nutritional value, is a lot more complicated than scientists previously thought. A new study published in the journal Open Heart concluded that U.S. and U.K. dietary guidelines condemning saturated fat "should not have been introduced." Research has shown some types of saturated fatty acids are terrible for human health, while others are neutral or even good. As dietary science advances, more and more of this sort of nutritional nuance become apparent, making one-size-fits-all advice of the kind supplied by federal dietary guidelines seem all the more outdated. 

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  1. You call it corn; we call it maize.

    1. You call this a tomahawk, we call it a killing implement flung at your head!

      *hurls hatchet at Pro L for making that comment first*

      1. It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.

        1. OR PUT THE MAZOLA, CORN GOODNESS song in someones head.

          OUT DAMNED EARWORM!

    2. Remember Florence Henderson frying an entire loaf of bread in Wesson Oil? That make me so hungry.

      1. “You know – you’re soaking in it….”

        Wait, that was Madge with the Palmolive…

        1. …which is named for the oils the soap came from, palm & olive. No longer, though, too expensive. Well, the olive…except for fancy soaps.

      2. She had such Wessonality.

  2. My parents always go into a tizzy when they see me eating steak, adding salt, slathering the fatty ranch dressing on the salad. But consider my good cholesterol and low bp levels as just “good luck.”

    1. Sir, may I interest you in our veal smoothie with black truffle?

    2. My parents were aghast when they visited and saw my tub of lard on the kitchen counter that I cook everything I fry with. They told me they weren’t going to eat it because it wasn’t healthy.

      So I asked them how vegetable oils were manufactured and asked how it was better than lard. They didn’t have an answer but still refused because “science says” bullshit. SO I asked them if they were following the current science tht says salt is good or the science that says salt is bad so I’d know how to season their food. They looked at me funny and ordered out.

      1. I was at KSC this weekend and saw a poster autographed by all of the Moonwalkers save one. I blame you for this omission.

        1. He attempted to mail in his autograph, but…

      2. My mother in law buys all kinds of lite food that tastes terrible because “it’s more healthy.”

        Thing is, she got to be 80 growing up on a farm and subsisting on a diet of beef and butter and lard and veggies boiled with bacon. In other words, all the stuff that could kill you.

        But she persists in her thoughts that food will kill you–that’s the power of constant bombardment of health scares.

      3. They looked at me funny and ordered out.

        Ask any chef why restaurant food tastes better, and they’ll give you a one word answer: salt.

        1. Plus butter. Lots of butter. Every range has a large saucepan of clarified butter beside it.

          1. You are wise in the ways of cooking, albo.

        2. That’s a damned lie. Really. It’s a three-word answer: salt and butter.

  3. Egg-cellent!

    1. Seriously. It’s ridiculous how many people avoid eating egg yolks, nearly a perfect food, because they are scared of the cholesterol.

      1. Nearly? When you consider the egg contains every vitamin, mineral, amino acid and macro/micronutrient necessary to create a living breathing animal, it’s hard not to view it as a perfect food.

        1. Lacking in zinc, Im sure.

          Which is one of the reasons, in the days before multivitamins, Brit doctors recommended a Guinness per day.

          Iron too, but there are easy other sources of it.

          1. That’s why you serve them on a porterhouse steak like albo does.

          2. Iron too, but there are easy other sources of it.

            I think we all catch your implied meaning there, robc…or should I say DRACULA!?

          3. How come they never mention zinc on the bottle? Shouldn’t beer have nutrional information listed?

            1. The nutritional information is listed on the case, not the bottle/can

  4. “Where nutrition government has some trouble is all the confidence and vitriol and moralism that goes along with our recommendations,”

    No charge for the repair.

  5. The thing that people need to realize is that food is not magical. Too many people want to believe, stupidly, that if you just eat the right way you will live forever and never be sick and feel wonderful all the time. I call it the Magic Bullet food fallacy. But HOLY SHIT is it pervasive. And it leads to every wacky diet you’ve ever seen, it leads to this government bullshit with nutrition, and it’s actually just amazingly fucking dumb.

    Food is complex. It’s also something we’ve evolved to eat all different kinds of. Much of what we eat is probably neither bad nor particularly good (outside of providing energy). We probably do better eating all kinds and varieties of stuff. And looking for the “perfect diet” to solve all your problems is basically animism.

    1. That, and people like to look at a certain culture and/or period of time and point it out as the “ideal” diet. But I think a person’s diet needs to consider a lot of individual things such as activity level and their genetic disposition toward health issues. There isn’t one ideal way to eat, any more than there is an ideal amount of sleep or ideal way to exercise.

      1. No, there isn’t, which is what makes things like “paleo” so stupid. And the thing is, “paleo” probably has some not-too-bad ideas buried in the whole “cavemen ate it” shit, but the fact that it has to be turned into a philosophy is fucking idiotic. Food is not a philosophy, it’s a necessity that we also enjoy.

        That’s the thing about almost every “food movement”. Some of them start out with ideas that aren’t too bad, but they always proceed to grow into cults. It’s amazing, it happens every time. Like the people who still think salt and fat are bad for you; they joined the government cult 40 years ago and are still in it. I know, because my mother is one of them.

        1. Like the people who still think salt and fat are bad for you

          Lot’s wife ate too much salt and look what happened to HER!

          /cautionary tale

        2. Paleo gets the general principles right . It’s a cult, but a cult that emphasizes REAL food – steak, meat in general, fruit, vegetables and avoiding highly processed foods, and especially emphasising game meats and free range grass fed beef isn’t an awful thing

          Their grain and legume phobia us a wee bit silly but there are only EFA’s and EAA’s not essential grains

          I’ve seen way too many phenomenal body comp CHanges to throw too much shade at Paleo jedis , especially if they aren’t anti dairy

          1. Cops are also a cult, you worthless, cowardly cunt.

        3. That’s the problem us paleo advocates struggle with: the caveman image and the bearded, barefooted morons who perpetuate it. Like you said, there are some solid ideas (and science) in the paleo diet, but the most common strawman used by it’s critics is ‘cavemen did this’ or ‘cavemen did that’. It’s not a freakin historical reenactment…or philosophy. Human evolution is a framework to view the impacts of various foods on the human body and that’s about it.

          1. It’s a decent enough heuristic because it automatically makes you unable to eat almost all junk food, but the “cavemen ate it” shit is extremely silly.

        4. The trick to paleo isn’t the diet. It’s the caveman lifestyle. Chase game for days, then binge eat.

          1. Vegas, baby!

    2. I think there is one thing all of us here can agree on:

      Alcohol is nature’s perfect food.

      1. Not quite perfect, it needs flavors added to it. Straight, its pretty bland.

    3. Epi is, as he sometimes does … Making sense

      In general I tell people there are few bad foods

      Bad diets otoh exist and in large part replace chemicals for food, highly processed crap for real food and just eating REAL food prepared sensibly is a huge first step, you don’t need to micromanage as much as you need to employ basic principles

      There is no magic food item
      No magic diet
      No magic exercise
      No magic workout routine

      However – eggs and red meat are awesome foods, squats and clean and jerks are awesome movements, and great effort on a mediocre routine is better than decent effort on the best routine … To paraphrase John McCalkum

      1. You really are abjectly terrible at pretending to be dunphy. But, if you want to keep looking pathetic and stupid, go for it! Because you have that down pat.

      2. I generally agree with the sentiments in this thread, but the constant stream of “highly processed crap” statements is not very different from the stuff that the paleo and vegan and lo-fat people say.

        What does “highly processed” mean? Is bread “highly processed”? Wheat berries are harvested and separated from the chaff, then cleaned and milled (to various degrees of particle size), and the parts are separated. Then it is mixed with water, salt, yeast, and maybe other things like nuts and whole seeds, and maybe even tiny amounts of stabilizers and preservatives, before it is baked.

        All of this, except maybe some of the preservatives, is what goes on when you bake bread at home. It does happen in large bakeries, with larger quantities of materials in large mixers, and long parallel lines in the ovens, but the processes are exactly the same as what you do at home.

        Snack food, for the most part, is grain mash that is extruded under pressure, baked/fried, and then it has flavoring added. It is not something people would make at home, but no one is saying that you should live on Cheetos. The materials do not come from coal mines or oil wells, but someone figured out how to change their physical form to get something that is tasty. Just like your grandmother figured out how to take tomatoes and onions and garlic and spices, etc, and cook them to make a tasty sauce to eat with boiled wheat mash (i.e., pasta).

        1. It’s vitalism and/or animism. The intact thing is given a higher value than its separated parts. That, plus the idea that expensive, not mass produced stuff is better than cheap, mass produced stuff.

  6. And yet, people still thing government should be more involved in your health care choices. Because THIS time they got it right.

    1. After years of telling Americans that high-cholesterol foods AGW would kill them, the federal government may ease up on warnings about this much-maligned nutrient farce.

      /said some Reason writer in 40 years

      1. Look top men agree that global cooling is going to kill us all if we don’t repent our evil capitalist ways.

        /Tony’s son in 40 years
        /Tony’s dad 40 years ago

        1. /Tony’s son in 40 years

          Adopted, or created in a test time from his and his bf’s sperm and some random chick’s egg?

          1. *tube

  7. Now, when are they gonna back off on salt?

    I’m lucky to have naturally low cholestorol. I can eat a porterhouse topped with a couple fried eggs, and what a good idea!, and my level doesn’t go above 125. It’s usually about 110.

    1. when are they gonna back off on salt?

      They’ve started to.

      I can eat a porterhouse topped with a couple fried eggs, and what a good idea!, and my level doesn’t go above 125

      ‘Cause one thing’s got nothing to do with the other…

      1. Well, yeah, that’s the point of the article, that dietary cholesterol isn’t something to fear like we though.

        1. Yeah, but it still pussyfoots around with the warning not to eat cholesterol containing foods for folks with heart disease, when there is essentially no link between cholesterol you put in your mouth and cholesterol levels in your blood.

    2. Sorry, but a total cholesterol level of 110 is not a good thing. Anything below about 160 is of concern. It is not a lower is better kind of thing. Cholesterol is what makes up the myelin sheath and every cell membrane. Your brain is dependent upon cholesterol to function.

  8. I eat all my eggs in the form of waffles and pancakes, the way all good, patriotic Americans should.

    1. Wait a second. Is it possible that scrambled waffles could be a thing?

      1. Scrambled waffles with pure, delicious Michigan Maple syrup? Yes please!

        1. I’ll have a waffle omelet, please.

  9. But, I thought the science was settled?

    1. Science H. Logic!

    2. You mean the consensus was… wrong?

    3. We knew the food models were wrong when they got fat.

      1. We just need NOAA to work up a better computer model!

        Wait….no…

    4. But, I thought the science was settled?

      It’s not settled until we find my car keys under this street lamp.

  10. federal dietary guidelines for 2015

    ^^THIS IS THE PROBLEM RIGHT HERE^^

  11. Sports scientists and strength scientists specifically haven’t bought into this govt sponsored mythology

    Testosterone IS a cholesterol Bre and I’ve seen plenty of trainees boost T and improve in the gym when it was revealed they had been on some kind of rubbish low dat diet

    God knows anti science vegans (usually a redundancy) are holding out in promoting the animal fat is awful and high carb is good junk science but you’ll be hard pressed to find an elite strength athlete who eats low fat

    1. anti science vegans (usually a redundancy)

      Hey, Gale Boetticher was a vegan!

      1. You know who else was a vegan…

          1. You don’t mess with him.

        1. The aliens that sent the signal in Contact?

          1. Not Vegans. They were just tourists.

          2. “First rule of government spending: why have one when you can have two at twice the price?”

    2. I think Arian Foster is vegan.

      1. Or, apparently he was and it shockingly didn’t work so well for him.

  12. Yeah – I eat a terrible diet, always have (except when my mom comes over and cooks, cause she’s the definition of “balanced diet”…and a really good cook).

    Cholesterol’s been at 150 my whole life, no matter what.

    I gained weight after I quit smoking. I knew damned well what I needed to do to lose it, but didn’t start for a couple years cause lazy American.

    Finally started – drink tons of water, reduced my intake of pop about in half, only eat when I’m hungry. BAM. 20 lbs down and dropping.

    YMMV, cause everyone’s different…which to me is kind of why these “guidelnes” are so fucking stupid in the first place. What I do doesn’t work for my wife (which pisses her off to no end) – sa da tay. Your body’s different, do something that works for you.

    Also, fuck the government.

    1. One huge variance is artificial sweeteners

      Some people get massive carb cravings on them and find it almost impossible to do well until they cut them down a lot

      Others can drink 128 ounces of nutrasweet drinks per day and do great

    2. What I do doesn’t work for my wife (which pisses her off to no end) – sa da tay. Your body’s different, do something that works for you.

      Mrs. casual has familial hypercholesterolemia.

      Even with statins destroying her muscles, her CHO levels rarely drop below 400 mg/dL. As you can imagine, my CHO levels are scrutinized equally.

      She was pissed when I showed her the (not so recent) data indicating the mortality v. cholesterol levels ‘J-curve’.

  13. I’m always amazed when I encounter idiots who still believe in the old saturated fat and cholesterol being bad nonsense.

    1. I’m amazed at the pervasiveness of its various progressions/resurgences.

      There are people who (actual consumption aside) recognize bacon and/or sausage as the root of all evil but tolerate most else.

      Some who shun (outwardly) bacon and sausage *and* trim the meat from their steaks and skin from their foul. Others who refuse only the saturated fat from dairy.

      Still others who shun all of the above and then some.

      All following the same guidance from the same cult.

      1. Paraphrasing:

        Bacon is proof that there is a god, and that he loves us.

  14. People don’t realize that the fat and cholesterol in your body are manufactured by your body, and are not what you eat.

    Thus, ignorant people fall for the “Don’t want to be fat? Don’t eat fat!” superstition.

    Sadly, many of these people are working for the government developing dietary guidelines.

    1. Or work in the pharmaceutical industry. High blood cholesterol is a symptom of heart disease not a cause.

  15. True story: I made french toast for my family today. I fried the eggs and bread in bacon fat. Yummmy.

    1. I generally don’t eat bread much any more, but the last time I house sat for my parents, I took a slice of good bread and fried it in the bacon fat. Mmmmmmmm.

      I always do my eggs in bacon fat, and that bread was good.

  16. It’s interesting to me how H&R regulars (besides me) are so gung-ho on consuming fats. I declined a double bypass, and advice to take it physically easy, 2+ years ago in favor of whole-foods plant based nutrition, climbing 100 StairMaster flights before breakfast, and lifting heavy in the gym. My nutrition decision was influenced primarily by this research. (But I’ve spent hundreds of hours on health- and nutrition-related research.) So I guess I’m the only libertarian who’s a dietary vegan.

    BTW, I’m not one of those whose serum LDL levels are independent of diet; quite the opposite. Neither, I suppose, was my father, who died of an acute M.I. at age 59.

    We can all agree that Feds telling us what to eat is not condoned in the U.S. Constitution.

    1. Hmm, it looks like a link, but doesn’t work like one. Here it is unadorned:

      http://dresselstyn.com/JFP_06307_Article1.pdf

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