Cholesterol Officially Declared Harmless

U. S. Government Removes Limits on Cholesterol Consumption. Cholesterol is now Officially Harmlessfdsfsd

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are recommending that limitations on dietary cholesterol be removed from the upcoming 2015 edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  Apparently, cholesterol is now harmless. This is a huge turnabout, as a low cholesterol diet has been the lynchpin of government nutritional recommendations, and the American Heart Association, for the past 50 years.

From USA Today, we have: “It’s the right decision,” said Steven Nissen, chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the famed Cleveland Clinic. “We got the dietary guidelines wrong. They’ve been wrong for decades.”

Decades? If this doesn’t scare you, we don’t know what would. Who’s minding the store? There is nothing more fundamental to health than diet. So what is going on here?

And please, Dr. Nissen, don’t throw the word “we” around too loosely. Quantitative Medicine has never recommended limiting foods with cholesterol. We always considered cholesterol harmless (but tasty!).

ghjghThe U. S. Government health recommendations are ostensibly based solely on science. Of course, the food industry, drug industry, agricultural interests, not to mention congress, frequently have a say in the matter. Frequently quite a large say. The notion that cholesterol is bad for you is sometimes called the cholesterol–heart disease hypothesis. Cholesterol became implicated as a possible culprit in the early 50’s when it was discovered that cholesterol, along with various fats (scientific term: schmutz), were found in arterial plaque. Therefore get rid of cholesterol.

Sounds good, but cholesterol isn’t some toxin. It is an essential body building block. Cells make their own, but it is so critical that the body has a back-up supply, manufactured by the liver, and distributed in the blood.dfsdf

Furthermore, and here’s the key point, the liver is going to make a certain fixed amount no matter what you eat. If you eat no cholesterol, it will manufacture the full amount. If you eat cholesterol containing food, the liver will use that, and make the rest. Eating has little relationship to circulating cholesterol.

Therefore, it doesn’t matter how much cholesterol you eat. It will have little effect on your circulating cholesterol. This has been a cornerstone of Quantitative Medicine dietary advice since inception. And ditto on saturated fat.

But how long has it been known that dietary cholesterol was harmless? Oh, 60 years – give or take. Original research results from the famous Framingham study proved very early on that dietary cholesterol had no effect on circulating cholesterol. However, this well established truth did not make it into policy.



One very influential policy maker of the time was Ancel Keys, for whom the (in)famous K-rations of World War II were named. Dr. Keys was also known for his Seven Countries Study, wherein he found that diets higher in cholesterol had higher rates of heart disease. However, this study has been largely debunked. Among other things, Keys had data from 22 countries, not 7, and threw out data that did not match his hypotheses.

In fact, Keys himself was to do a 180º on this one, declaring in 1997: “There’s no connection whatsoever between the cholesterol in food and cholesterol in the blood. And we’ve known that all along. Cholesterol in the diet doesn’t matter at all unless you happen to be a chicken or a rabbit.”

Most of us aren’t. And one would think that once Keys left the heart disease-cholesterol boat, it would immediately founder and sink.

But the U. S. Government doesn’t rush into things, at least when it comes to health matters. Exploding airplane batteries and faulty ignition switches are another story. People could get hurt.

But for health, all factors need to be considered. After all there could be considerable economic interest in promoting low cholesterol foods. There is a strong vegan/vegetarian contingent in many of the recommending bodies as well. It seems these assorted interests have managed to outweigh health considerations that have been known for – again – 60 years.

I wish this strange delay in connecting policy with the underlying science were an isolated example. Of  course, artificial trans-fats, which may cause up to 30,000 premature deaths a year, are still plentiful in manufactured foods. Saturated fats, anyone?

  7 comments for “Cholesterol Officially Declared Harmless

  1. Jim
    February 18, 2015 at 6:45 am

    Some good news regarding cholesterol. It is disappointing that it’s taken 60 years. I wish the gov would stay out of the nutrition business – or at least treat these issues with less bias. Thanks for your efforts to educate – an educated population at least has a chance!

  2. Sri
    February 18, 2015 at 8:15 am

    Thanks for another great Post Doc.
    The website is loading really slow, you might want to check on that

  3. Jen
    April 4, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    Thank you for this news.
    What now?
    A healthier more nourished society?
    Hope so!
    Go well 🙂

  4. March 5, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    There have been ZERO randomized duolbe blinded clinical dietary intervention studies that can attribute saturated fat restriction or cholesterol lowering to reduced CAD mortality, CAD incidence or all cause mortality. Saturated fat restriction, and cholesterol lowering has NEVER saved even a single life. ( Only statin drugs have a bit, but they have 11 other effects independent of cholesterol lowering. It is THESE anti inflmmatory , anti clotting effects that are responsible for any reduction in coronary mortality) There have been ONLY 4 out of 26 prospective studies that even show the SLIGHTEST association between saturated fat intake and CAD mortality ( and one of those 4 was a PROTECTIVE effect) but remember these prospective studies , not a tightly controlled clinical dietary intervention study like mentioned above.And the lowest of the low, epidemiological research, shows numerous populations who eat a diet rich in saturated fat and have VERY low CAD rates- The Maasai, Dinkas, Samburu, French , Tokeleaus and Inuits to name a few ..So to answer your question:Make sure you have a background diet rich in saturated fat ( for better nutrient absorption) , include a good dose of EPA/DHA to your diet from fatty fish, DO eat red meat, DO have butter and coconut oil, get plenty of nutrient dense plant matter, get plenty of magnesium, keep blood sugar stable, and avoid all low fat nonsense like the plague it is. Low fat diets are very, VERY bad for you.This is the actual truth scientifically speaking. I know what I am talking about unlike some of the answerers here ..

    • March 7, 2016 at 4:19 pm

      Hi Sandra, when I give my talks I tell them “healthy protein is a stealth, fat-delivery system.” A good diet does not include worrying about or even measuring sat. fat content. Butter! Yum. My co-author on the nutrition manual/cookbook – “Eat Real Food or Else… – was born and raised in France so she had a headstart on this at an innate level. Thank you for your post, Dr. Mike

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