Possibly overturning nearly 40 years of government policy, the United States top nutrition advisory board has dropped the warning against the dietary cholesterol. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee concluded that there is no evidence that supports the connection between heart disease and dietary cholesterol.
Even 5 years ago, this committee was supporting the warning that was first introduced in 1961 by the American Heart Association.
Walter Willett, who is the chair of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health, said that there has been a shift of thinking, and he called the decision of the committee to drop the cholesterol warning a “reasonable move”.
New Scientific consensus
The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee gives recommendations that are science-based to the federal government, in a publication named “Dietary Guidelines.” The government uses the publication to make conclusion about everything, including the dietary advice, food labeling policy and school lunch content.
The committee in its new advices has embraced the scientific consensus that consuming cholesterol in foods like shrimp, eggs or lobster doesn’t importantly increase blood levels of cholesterol, doesn’t increase the risk of some heart disease. The reason of that is because the body makes its own cholesterol, in levels much higher than those from the food.
The new consensus warns us against a diet that is very high in saturated fat, which is the nutrient the body uses to make the cholesterol. High levels of LDL or bad cholesterol in our blood are still a risk factor for a heart disease.
The change in procedure is an example of the way that nutrition guidelines persist to change as scientific understanding evolves – usually greatly confusing consumers along the way. The cholesterol debate very soon might be settled, but the nutrition researches persist to speak about the relative merits and the risk of other nutrients and foods like salt, saturated fat, red meat, omega 3s and sugar.
John P.A. Ioannidis, the Stanford University professor and the nutrition science critic, wrote that almost every nutrient has peer reviewed publications connecting it with almost any outcome, and he asks how many results are correct in that literature of epidemic proportions.
Based on incorrect science
The concept that the cholesterol can cause heart disease is common in the United States culture. Actually, the approval of cholesterol warnings led to a drop in per capita egg consumption of around 30%. But the scientific case for that warning was never strong enough.
The experiment that was organized by Niokolai Anitschkov and colleagues at the Czar’s Military Medicine Institute located in St. Petersburg in 1913, started it all. The researchers fed rabbits with cholesterol and saw that the animal promoted heart disease.
Another research provided later showed that the rabbits are one of those few animals in the world that react in this way to dietary cholesterol. But the concept had seized hold of the scientific founding, and other additional studies at first appeared to support a link between the heart disease and cholesterol.
But there were always people who treated the evidence against dietary cholesterol to be not strong. A task force assembled in 2013 by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology concluded that there was lacking evidence to support the warning against the nutrient. It said that many of these studies were too broad in scope to be useful.
Robert Eckel, the task-force co-chair of the University of Colorado said that if we look back at the literature, we can’t see the type of science that would support restrictions in the diet.
Actually, all other countries in the world have long since stopped warning against the cholesterol.
David Klurfeld, the nutrition scientist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture said that the United States is the last country on the planet to set a special limit on dietary cholesterol, and that some of it is scientific inertia.