Past President Of AHA Says Not Having Enough Information About Cholesterol Doesn’t Mean We Shouldn’t Restrict It

CholesterolGraphicDr. Robert Eckel, an endocrinologist and president of the American Heart Association (AHA) in 2005, is being cautious about that statement in the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee document that says, “Cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”

New Federal Guidelines May Lift Dietary Cholesterol Limits, AHA blog, 12 February 2015

Robert Eckel, M.D., who served on the panel that wrote the cholesterol guidelines and co-chaired the panel that wrote the AHA/ACC lifestyle guidelines, said more studies are needed before a definitive recommendation about dietary cholesterol can be made.

We don’t have enough information to put a limit on cholesterol,” said Eckel, a past president of the AHA and a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t restrict it — it means we don’t have enough information to make a strong statement.”

One difficulty in arriving at a limit for dietary cholesterol is that some studies show dietary cholesterol increases serum cholesterol, some studies don’t. That may be because beyond a certain amount, cholesterol in the diet doesn’t have an appreciable effect. If someone is already eating eggs, chicken, hamburgers, cheese, yogurt and other high cholesterol foods every day then eating another egg won’t raise blood cholesterol that much. Likewise, eating fewer eggs against the backdrop of a high-cholesterol diet won’t necessarily lower cholesterol.

In this study, when all dietary cholesterol was removed and then added it back in, there was a marked increase in serum cholesterol:

Each 100 mg cholesterol in 1,000 kcal of diet resulted in approximately a 12 mg/100-ml increase in serum cholesterol.

I wrote about this in When Cholesterol In Diet Is Already High, Effect Of Adding Eggs Is Muted.

Eckel also said:

People with diabetes should still be careful about consuming too much cholesterol, which may increase their heart risks.

By the way, the USDA advisory panel that started this whole eggs-are-fine fracas also said we eat too much saturated fat and we should eat less:

“Saturated fat is overconsumed and may pose the greatest risk to those greater than 50 years old.”

Below is a great interview with Dr. Eckel and Dr. Lundberg at MedPageToday. I loved the bit in the end where Lundberg confronted Eckel about doctors modeling a healthy body weight for their patients. Lundberg: “I’d like to see data on American physicians and their median BMIs. Do you have data like that?” Eckel squirmed.


This makes me wonder…

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