Cholesterol-Rich Foods Won’t Put Your Heart At Risk

| June 18, 2015

We’ve said this many times before: cholesterol and saturated fat consumption has been unfairly condemned for decades as being bad for our hearts and overall health. In fact, there never has been any solid evidence that cholesterol-rich foods and those containing saturated fats contribute to cardiovascular disease. We only believe this to be true because nutrition policy was derailed over the past half-century by personal ambition, bad science, politics, and bias.

Of course, there are many mainstream naysayers who will argue against this statement. However, mounting evidence suggests that here at The Cholesterol Truth we have not been far off the mark all along. For instance, in 2010, Ronald M Krauss — a top nutrition expert in the US, director of atherosclerosis research at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute and adjunct professor of nutritional studies at the University of San Francisco at Berkley — concluded, after reviewing all the scientific literature, that saturated fats don’t cause heart disease.

On any given day, we have between 1,100 and 1,700 milligrams of cholesterol in our bodies — 25 per cent of that comes from our diet, and 75 per cent is produced inside our bodies by the liver.

Much of the cholesterol that’s found in food can’t be absorbed by our bodies, and most of the cholesterol in our gut was first synthesised in body cells and ended up in the gut via the liver and gall bladder. The body tightly regulates the amount of cholesterol in the blood by controlling internal production; when cholesterol intake in the diet goes down, the body makes more. When cholesterol intake in the diet goes up, the body makes less.

This explains why well-designed cholesterol feeding studies (where they feed volunteers 2-4 eggs a day and measure their cholesterol) show that dietary cholesterol has very little impact on blood cholesterol levels in about 75 per cent of the population.

The remaining 25 per cent of the population are referred to as “hyper-responders”. In this group, dietary cholesterol does modestly increase both LDL bad cholesterol and HDL good cholesterol, but it does not affect the ratio of LDL to HDL or increase the risk of heart disease.

In other words, eating cholesterol isn’t going to give you a heart attack.

Ditch those egg-white omelettes and start eating yolks again. Egg yolks are an especially good source of choline, a B-vitamin that plays important roles in everything from neurotransmitter production to detoxification to maintenance of healthy cells. Studies show that up to 90 per cent of Americans don’t get enough choline, which can lead to fatigue, insomnia, poor kidney function, memory problems and nerve-muscle imbalances.

What about saturated fat?

Yes, some studies have shown that saturated fat intake raises blood cholesterol levels. However, these studies were all short-term studies and lasted at most only a few weeks. Longer-term studies have not shown an association between saturated fat intake and blood cholesterol levels.

In fact, out of all of the long-term studies examining this issue, only one of them showed a clear association between saturated fat intake and cholesterol levels, and even that association was weak.

On the other hand, studies on low-carbohydrate diets (which tend to be high in saturated fat) suggest that they not only don’t raise blood cholesterol, but these low-carb diets also have a positive impact on cardiovascular disease risk factors.

For example, a meta-analysis of 17 low-carb diet trials covering 1,140 obese patients, published in the journal Obesity Reviews found that low-carb diets neither increased nor decreased LDL cholesterol.

However, the researchers did find that low-carb diets were associated with significant decreases in body weight as well as improvements in several cardiovascular disease risk factors, including decreases in triglycerides, fasting glucose, blood pressure, body mass index, abdominal circumference, plasma insulin and c-reactive protein (an inflammation marker), as well as an increase in HDL cholesterol.

If this is still not enough to convince those naysayers that our current dietary guidelines need a serious review, then perhaps they need to look at visiting Japan… Earlier this week, Japan’s health ministry has eliminated a recommended limit on cholesterol consumption in its latest dietary guidelines, saying there isn’t enough scientific evidence to justify a limitation on the consumption of cholesterol-rich foods like cheese, eggs, avocados, salmon and whole milk — all also rich in saturated fat.

The decision follows a draft document by the US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee made available in February, which stated that cholesterol is “not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”

The Japanese ministry publishes dietary guidelines every five years. It introduced cholesterol limits in 2005 and kept them in 2010, saying men should keep daily intake below 750 milligrams and women below 600 milligrams.

An official at the Japan’s health ministry said, this time around, it chose to remove the recommendation, although it still believes that on the whole it’s better to maintain some control over intake of dietary cholesterol.

Despite the fact that mainstreamers like The American Heart Association still advocate that excess cholesterol can cause blood clots, leading to strokes, the Japanese health ministry seems to have been swayed by the mounting evidence in favour of consuming saturated fat and cholesterol-rich foods.

Japan’s new guidelines echo what we already know about simple biology: the liver adjusts its cholesterol production depending on the amount of cholesterol taken from food. Therefore consuming cholesterol-rich foods doesn’t directly impact the overall level of blood cholesterol.

Here's to keeping your heart strong and healthy

Francois Lubbe
Editor
for The Cholesterol Truth



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Bear in mind we are not addressing anyone’s personal situation and you should rely on this for informational purposes only. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.


Sources:

Dietary cholesterol and coronary artery disease: a systematic review, Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2009 Nov;11(6):418-22.

Choline: an essential nutrient for public health, Nutr Rev. 2009 Nov;67(11):615-23. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00246.x.

Dietary Requirements and Role in Brain Development, Nutr Today. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2008 Aug 20, Published in final edited form as: Nutr Today. 2007; 42(4): 181–186.

Effects of dietary fatty acids and carbohydrates on the ratio of serum total to HDL cholesterol and on serum lipids and apolipoproteins: a meta-analysis of 60 controlled trials, Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 May;77(5):1146-55.

Does Dietary Saturated Fat Increase Blood Cholesterol? An Informal Review of Observational Studies, published online 01.13.11, wholehealthsource.blogspot.co.uk

Systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials of the effects of low carbohydrate diets on cardiovascular risk factors, Obes Rev. 2012 Nov;13(11):1048-66. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2012.01021.x. Epub 2012 Aug 21.

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