Fact or Myth: Does Dietary Cholesterol Cause Heart Disease?

This is a MYTH.

It’s actually a two-part myth. Part one is the misconception that eating cholesterol leads to high cholesterol levels in the blood. Part two is the debatable link between high cholesterol levels in the blood and heart disease. This myth has been part of the U.S. Dietary Recommendations for half a century, but it looks like things are changing and dietary cholesterol is being vindicated once and for all.

What’s So Great About Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is one of the body’s most essential molecules. The body can’t generate cells without cholesterol. Cholesterol plays a critical role in the production of stress and sex hormones, as well as vitamin D. Your brain depends on cholesterol to help form memories, and research has shown that low levels of HDL cholesterol are associated with an increased risk for memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, stroke, and suicide.

Dietary Cholesterol Doesn’t Raise Cholesterol Levels in the Blood 

Sixty years of research has yet to substantiate a link between dietary cholesterol and increased cholesterol levels in the blood. The longest-running heart disease study, the Framingham Heart Study, showed no correlation between cholesterol intake in the diet and heart disease. Even the “father” of the cholesterol-heart disease hypothesis, Ancel Keys, reneged on his erroneous conclusions, admitting:

 “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.” 

According to research from the Open Heart journal, there’s also no reason to cut fat from our diets, especially when low-fat diets are often high-sugar diets and trend toward obesity, diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease which not even children are immune to!

2015 Edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans

It looks like limitations for cholesterol will be removed from the 2015 Edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s new position on cholesterol is that “cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”

That being said, not all dietary cholesterol is created equal. The cholesterol in an egg is not a concern and is part of a healthy diet, but when saturated fat and cholesterol are processed or heated by frying, harmful by-products that can increase your risk for cardiovascular disease are created. So add back in that fat and cholesterol, but be sure to do it healthfully!

low cholesterol levels