Panel OKs dietary cholesterol

FALL RIVER — After years of reading labels and agonizing over the cholesterol milligrams in your omelette, cheeseburger, or chicken dinner, a group of food scientists has decided it’s all for naught.

The advisory panel appointed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services recently released a report that will be used to create the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

In that report, the group removed its limitations on consuming dietary cholesterol, which previously recommended no more than 300 mg per day.

Simply stated in the report: “Cholesterol is not considered a nutrient for concern for overconsumption.”

So, in this age of skyrocketing obesity and diabetes, does that mean that super-sizing your bacon cheeseburger and fries is a good idea?

Not exactly.

The panel, along with a growing consensus among physicians, nutritionists and scientists, now believe that cholesterol consumed in food does not raise bad cholesterol, but it does warn against artery clogging saturated fats and trans fats.

“They’re saying the research is there,” said Marin Woods, a registered dietician and the clinical nutrition manager for St. Anne’s Hospital. “I hope people get the whole picture. We’ve been told this for so many years.”

Woods said people shouldn’t think they can now eat whatever they want with no consequence. She said saturated fats and trans fats do the most damage to blood vessels and can raise bad cholesterol.

“They’re focusing on more fruits and vegetables, less red meat and on healthier fats,” Woods said.

Eggs, for example, contain healthier fats than beef, according to online nutrition site caloriecount.com.

A large egg contains 185 mg. of cholesterol, but just 5 grams of fat including 1.5 grams of saturated fat.

A 3 ounce hamburger (just the meat with no cheese or bun) has 74 mg. of cholesterol and a whopping 15 grams of fat, including 6 grams of saturated fat.

Chicken does better than red meat when it comes to fat.

A roasted, skin-on chicken leg contains 15.3 grams of fat, 4.2 grams of saturated fat and 105 mg. of cholesterol. To make it healthier, those watching their fat intake could opt for half a roasted chicken breast with just 3 grams of fat, zero saturated fat, and 74 mg. of cholesterol.

The advisory panel made other recommendations besides cholesterol.

It recommended limiting daily consumption of added sugars to less than 10 percent of total calories, dietary sodium to under 2,300 mg. per day, and saturated fats to less than 10 percent of total calories.

Moderate alcohol intake and up to five cups of coffee per day for most adults was given a green light.

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