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New dietary guidelines for Americans remove limits on dietary cholesterol and recommend eggs in healthy eating patterns

The new 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) no longer include a limit for dietary cholesterol and recommend eggs for healthy eating.1 In fact, eggs are included in each of the three healthy eating patterns recommended by the Guidelines released by the U.S. government on January 7, 2016.

This long-awaited shift in the U.S. government’s position on dietary cholesterol is in line with decades of research. Now official, the removal of the longstanding daily limit on dietary cholesterol from the Guidelines follows last year’s Scientific Report of the 2015 DGA Advisory Committee, which stated:2 “Previously, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended that cholesterol intake be limited to no more than 300 mg/day. The 2015 DGAC will not bring forward this recommendation because available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum (blood) cholesterol, consistent with the AHA/ACC (American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology) report. Cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”

Interestingly, Health Canada has long recognized the scientific evidence showing that dietary cholesterol has little impact on blood cholesterol in the general population.4-6 In fact, for many years experts in Canada, the U.S. and U.K. have challenged the scientific basis for the U.S. recommendations to limit dietary cholesterol that were originally introduced by the AHA in the 1960s.5-8

The latest AHA/ACC Guidelines on Lifestyle Management to Reduce Cardiovascular Risk, released in 2013, also acknowledge the lack of evidence to support previous recommendations to limit dietary cholesterol.3

The new U.S. Dietary Guidelines emphasize that individuals should aim to meet their nutritional needs through healthy eating patterns that include nutrient-dense foods. The Guidelines note that healthy eating patterns support a healthy body weight and can help prevent and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer throughout life. They encourage people to eat a variety of wholesome, naturally nutritious foods, including protein-rich foods such as eggs.

Most of the cholesterol found in our blood is made by the liver—in fact, research has revealed that dietary cholesterol found in food has relatively little impact on blood cholesterol. This builds on evidence that there is no significant relationship between heart disease and egg consumption. As the changes in the U.S. indicate, this science is now being reflected in dietary guideline changes around the world.

Eggs stand out as a naturally nutrient-dense and highly versatile choice to suit different healthy eating patterns. They’re an excellent source of high quality protein packed with a host of essential vitamins and minerals including iron, zinc and choline, vitamins A, D and E, and B vitamins such as folate, B6 and B12.

With 14 essential nutrients, eggs are one of nature’s most nutritious foods.

Plus, with only 70 calories per large egg, they’re also a smart choice to help keep your weight in check.

Valerie Johnson is a Registered Dietitian and nutrition writer driven by a passion for inspiring people to eat well. She is a member of the College of Dietitians of Ontario, Canadian Nutrition Society and Dietitians of Canada.

¹ S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015.
² Available at Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.
³ AHA/ACC. 2013 AHA/ACC Guideline on Lifestyle Management to Reduce Cardiovascular Risk.
⁴ Health Canada. Scientific Summary on the U. S. Health Claim Regarding Dietary Fat, Saturated Fat, Cholesterol, Trans Fatty Acids and Coronary Heart Disease. May 2000.
⁵ McDonald BE. The Canadian Experience: Why Canada Decided Against an Upper Limit for Cholesterol. J Am Coll Nutr 2004; 23(6):S616–20.
⁶ National Institute of Nutrition. Dietary Fat and Cholesterol: Lessons from the Past Decade. NIN Review 2004; Ottawa, Canada.
⁷ Fernandez ML and Calle M. Revisiting dietary cholesterol recommendations: does the evidence support a limit of 300 mg/d? Curr Atheroscler Rep 2010; 12(6):377-83.
⁸ Gray J and Griffin B. Eggs and dietary cholesterol – dispelling the myth 2009 British Nutrition Foundation Nutrition Bulletin 2009; 34:66–70.