You can’t eat eggs, you can eat eggs. You can’t eat meat, you can eat meat. If the nutrition recommendations for cholesterol confuse you, don’t worry, you’re not alone!

As a nutrition professional, one thing that comes up with clients again and again is the idea that nutrition recommendations are unreliable because they change so often. And while I totally understand that frustration, maybe I can shed some light on why nutrition recommendations are constantly evolving. For starters, what we have to remember is that nutrition is still a young science. It’s origins date back only a couple of hundred years with most of its biggest findings taking place only in the last hundred. To be honest, in a lot of ways nutrition science is only now hitting its stride and new discoveries are being made every day.

Another thing to keep in mind is that nutrition is largely a science of observation, not experimentation. While other sciences can setup carefully controlled conditions to isolate variables, it would be unethical to do nutritional experimentation on people. We can’t in good conscience deny people essential nutrients or ask them to eat extreme diets that we think will harm their health. Instead, we must look for correlation. Do people who tend to eat this nutrient tend not to develop this disease? You can see how this would be more difficult to isolate. Also, nutrition science relies on people’s ability to recall what they’ve eaten, which can be tricky. And nutrition is inherently multi-faceted, influenced by factors including genetics, underlying health conditions, personal eating histories, and medication interactions. Do you see where I’m going with this?

That said, the current nutritional recommendations regarding cholesterol are based on the largest study ever conducted on the topic. They are backed by both the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Heart Association. So, what exactly has changed?

Here’s the big takeaway: Dietary cholesterol is not the villain it was once made out to be, eggs are back on the menu, and medicine is no longer the first line of attack when serum cholesterol goes a bit high. Instead, we suggest focusing on adding things like soluble fiber to your diet. Good sources include oatmeal, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and veggies. To help clear up the confusion, the American Heart Association has made a risk assessment calculator to help shed light on the situation:!/baseline-risk

by Rick Elliott, Nutrition Consultant