New Cholesterol GuidelinesLast updated: Mar 19, 2015
Recent Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommendations suggest that cholesterol is no longer the cause for concern researchers once thought. Instead, current data suggest that excessive amounts of salt and sugar as well as saturated fat and trans fats are more to blame than cholesterol for cardiovascular disease as well as other chronic diseases among Americans.1
To help improve cardiovascular health,
New dietary guidelines recommend that Americans
focus on an overall Healthy diet,
comprised of vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, fish,
Nontropical vegetable oils, and moderate amounts of alcohol.1
Dietary guidelines since 1980 have promoted a low-fat diet, which researchers believe contributed to the trend for processed foods that are low in fat and high in sugar. But data show simple carbohydrates such as sugar, rice, and bread are worse for cardiovascular health compared with fat. For this reason, current guidelines recommend focusing on the type rather than the amount of fat you eat.1
To better understand the change in recommendations, it helps to know a bit about cholesterol and its role in health.
A waxy, fat-like substance, cholesterol is present in all cells in the body. It is necessary for helping make hormones, vitamin D, and enzymes that help with digestion. In addition to its important role in body processes, cholesterol is a component of plaque — a substance that can build up inside arteries and limit or prevent blood from flowing properly. Plaque can lead to artery disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Researchers previously thought cholesterol in foods contributed to plaque, but new research suggests that saturated fats and trans fats have a more important role in cardiovascular disease.2
About Saturated Fat
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), saturated fats are molecules that have a primary role in developing plaque that builds up in arteries. Saturated fats occur naturally in many foods, especially animal products such as meats and dairy products. They are easily recognizable because they are usually solid at room temperature. For example, bacon grease is a saturated fat that solidifies after it cools to room temperature. Beef, lamb, pork, poultry skin, butter, cream, cheese, and dairy products made from whole-fat or 2-percent fat milk are high in saturated fats. Many baked goods, fast foods, and fried foods also contain large amounts of saturated fats.3
About Trans Fats
Most trans fats are made when hydrogen and vegetable oils are combined in a process called hydrogenation to help solidify the fat. Food manufacturers often use partially hydrogenated oils to improve the texture, lengthen the shelf life, and stabilize the flavor of processed foods.
Trans fats are common in many baked products such as pastries, biscuits, muffins, cakes, pie crusts, doughnuts, and cookies that are made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, margarine, or vegetable shortening. Commercially fried foods such as French fries, fried chicken, chicken nuggets, and fish sticks also contain large amounts of trans fats made from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Processed foods and snack foods such as popcorn and crackers also are typically made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.4
According to the Dietary Guidelines advisory committee,
processed foods high in sugar,
foods with added sugar, and sugar-sweetened beverages
are a primary cause of obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension,
stroke, and cardiovascular disease.1
Summit Medical Group nutrition expert Susan Canonico, RD, says, "Given current evidence about cholesterol, emphasizing an overall healthy diet that is low in saturated fats, trans fats, and sugar will help Americans improve and maintain their cardiovascular health." She adds, "Sticking to a meal and snack plan that focuses on what's healthy might be easier than trying to remember lots of individual dietary dos and don'ts. Once you establish healthy eating habits, they can become second nature to you!"
As part of the shift in recommendations, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has eliminated its recommendation to restrict total fat to 35 percent of daily calories. Instead, recommendations include replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fatty acids, including healthy fat sources instead of replacing them with carbohydrates, limiting added sugars to no more than 10 percent of total calories, and limiting beverages to those with low or no sugar.1
Experts agree that a healthy lifestyle
that includes a low-sugar, low-salt, low-fat diet
along with plenty of exercise and physical activity,
can hep prevent cardiovascular disease.
To schedule an appointment
with a Summit Medical Group nutritionist,
call 908-277-8731 today.
1. United States Department of Agriculture Department of Health and Human Services. Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Food and nutrient intakes and health: current status and trends. health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report/PDFs/Scientific-Report-of-the-2015-Dietary-Guidelines-Advisory-Committee.pdf. Accessed March 19, 2015.
2. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. What is Cholesterol? nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hbc. Accessed March 19, 2015.
3. American Heart Association. Saturated fats. heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Saturated-Fats_UCM_301110_Article.jsp. Accessed 2-16-15
4. United States Food and Drug Administration. Talking about trans fat: what you need to know. fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/ucm079609.htm. Accessed March 19, 2015.
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