Is Dietary Cholesterol Still a Concern?

by Kayla Richwine

Every five years the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services updates the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. The newest version is due to be released at some point in late 2015. It is suspected that the new 2015 guidelines will no longer include a recommendation for dietary cholesterol.

heart health In 1961, the American Heart Association set the recommendation for dietary cholesterol at less than 300 milligrams per day,1 and this has continued to be the U.S. recommendation.

Recent research, however, suggests a high intake of dietary cholesterol may not necessarily affect blood cholesterol levels. While those with diabetes and other health issues likely need to continue to limit dietary cholesterol, most healthy people may not need to worry about it.

A 2010 study 2 found that individuals with hyperlipidemia (a condition of high levels of cholesterol in the blood) were not affected by daily consumption of three hard-boiled eggs. Eggs are notorious for their relatively high levels of dietary cholesterol, with just one large egg containing 200 milligrams, or two-thirds of the recommended amount for the entire day.

eggThis study’s finding is important because it showed that daily consumption of double the amount of recommended dietary cholesterol did not worsen the blood cholesterol levels of people who already have poor blood cholesterol levels. If dietary cholesterol does not affect the blood cholesterol levels of these people, is likely to affect the blood cholesterol levels of healthy people?

Although a recent review and meta-analysis had similar findings 3 – it did not find any significant association between dietary cholesterol and heart disease risk –  the authors noted there is a need for better designed studies. We’ll have to wait and see what the new Guidelines include!

How can blood cholesterol levels be improved?
When it comes to maintaining healthy blood cholesterol levels, limiting saturated and trans fats in your diet will make the most positive difference. These fats are proven to raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and trans fats also lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Replacing saturated and trans fats with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats will decrease LDL and increase HDL levels in the blood. This will lead to a decreased risk for heart-related problems in the future.3

Tips for reducing saturated and trans fats in your diet 4:

  • fruits and veggiesConsume baked, rather than fried foods
  • Use non-hydrogenated oils like canola and olive oils
  • Limit intake of products containing hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils
  • Use soft, trans fat-free margarine, rather than butter or hard stick margarine
  • Limit intake of fatty red meats
  • Increase intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Consume low-fat or fat-free dairy products 3

For more information, visit the American Heart Association website:


  1. Whoriskey P. The U.S. government is poised to withdraw longstanding warnings about cholesterol. The Washington Post. Updated 2015. Accessed September 17, 2015.
  2. Njike V et al. Daily egg consumption in hyperlipidemic adults – effects on endothelial function and cardiovascular risk. Nutrition Journal. 2010;9:28. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-9-28.
  3. Berger S et al. Dietary cholesterol and cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2015; 102(2): 276-94.
  4. Know your fats. The American Heart Association. Updated 2014. Accessed September 17, 2015.
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