In this section:

  1. The Basics
  2. A Historical Look at Cholesterol Guidance
  3. Current Dietary Guidance in the US and Abroad
  4. Impact of Dietary Cholesterol on Clinical Biomarkers
  5. For Healthy Adults, An Egg a Day is OK
  6. Dietary Cholesterol and Special Populations
  7. All Cholesterol ls Not Created Equal: A Review of Egg Consumption and Heart Health

The Basics

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol, a wax-like substance, belongs to the lipid family like fats and oils. Essential to all our body cells, it plays a special role in the formation of brain cells, nerve cells and certain hormones.

What is the difference between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol?

Dietary cholesterol is found in foods that come from animals, such as milk products, poultry, beef and eggs. The liver makes most of your blood cholesterol and the amount produced varies by individual.

How is cholesterol carried in the blood?

Cholesterol in the bloodstream is generally transported in a protein “package”. There are two primary proteins that carry cholesterol in the blood.

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL)

LDL cholesterol is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol and carries fat in the bloodstream throughout the body. LDL cholesterol particles are either big and fluffy or small and dense. When small and dense, LDL can get stuck to the walls of blood vessels, impeding flow. When the narrowed blood vessel is blocked, a blood clot may form that could cause a heart attack or stroke.

Although LDL cholesterol is made naturally in the body, some people make too much or it is formed by eating too much saturated fat.

HDL or “good” cholesterol scavenges for fat from the bloodstream and returns it to the liver. Having adequate HDL levels means that fatty deposits are less likely to build up in the blood vessels, reducing risk of a heart attack or stroke. Physical activity and eating healthier fats like monounsaturated fats (from olive or canola oil) are two ways to help raise your HDL cholesterol levels.

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A Historical Look at Cholesterol Guidance

The American Heart Association (AHA) first recommended a limit on dietary cholesterol consumption for individuals with elevated total blood cholesterol levels in 1968.The recommended limit was set at 300mg/day and was established by cutting the 1968 cholesterol consumption level of 600mg/day in half.1

This limit was expanded to the general population in 1977 through the Dietary Goals for the United States, the earliest nutrition recommendations established by the government and the predecessor of today’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

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Current Dietary Guidance in the US and Abroad

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee reported that research shows only moderate evidence linking dietary cholesterol to cardiovascular disease and further concluded that consumption of one egg per day is not associated with risk of coronary heart disease or stroke in healthy adults. The Committee also reported that among individuals with type 2 diabetes increased dietary cholesterol intake is associated with cardiovascular disease risk. Further research is anticipated in this area.

A number of international health promotion organizations including the Canada Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Australian Heart Foundation and the Irish Heart Foundation recommend managing serum cholesterol by focusing on saturated and trans fat consumption versus dietary cholesterol.

heart and stroke foundation logo Eat a diet that is lower in saturated and trans fats, and includes plenty of fruit, vegetables and whole grains.
heart foundation logo Too much saturated and trans fat contributes to the buildup of fatty material, called plaque, on the inside of your blood vessels.
irish heart foundation A key healthy eating message includes using fats and oils sparingly and choosing fats high in monounsaturates or polyunsaturates.

For more information on cholesterol recommendations in the US and abroad, please visit the following links:

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