Cholesterol: Friend or Foe?

For years, physicians and health care officials have warned us against consuming foods that are high in cholesterol, such as eggs and red meat: that doing so can lead to heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular diseases.

Cholesterol, however, is vital to attaining and maintaining optimal health. A Harvard Health Publication describes cholesterol best as:

“An essential building block for cell membranes and other crucial structures. It is needed to form the protective sheath that surrounds nerve fibers. The body uses cholesterol to make hormones such as testosterone and estrogen, the bile acids we need to digest and absorb fats, and vitamin D.

Cholesterol is so important that your liver and intestines make it day and night from fats, sugars, and proteins. In the average person, the body’s production of cholesterol far outstrips any contribution from cholesterol in food.”

Cholesterol is such a vital part of our health, and we are now beginning to see the scientific community recognize that consuming it is not harmful as originally believed.

In a summary of their meeting in December of 2014, the scientific advisory panel for the 2015 iteration of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans states that “Cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.” In fact, many nutritionists also now believe that cholesterol-rich foods have little effect on blood cholesterol levels.

This change in view about cholesterol is important, not only because it allows us to enjoy the health benefits of cholesterol-rich foods like free range eggs and grass fed beef (such as iron, protein and omega 3s), but also because it lets us focus our attention on addressing a truer cause of cardiovascular disease: inflammation in the body brought on by the consumption of trans fats, sugars and processed carbohydrates.


Harvard Health Publication

2015 DGAC: Meeting 7, December 15, 2014. Science Base Chapter. Food and Nutrient Intakes, and Health: Current Status and Trends- Subcommittee 1

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