U. S. Government To Remove Cholesterol Warnings From Food Packaging

Jennifer Deutschmann

The United States government is set to remove cholesterol warnings from food packaging. The decision was prompted by the The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which advised that cholesterol is no longer a "nutrient of concern."

The findings will likely draw controversy, as the same committee has supported the warnings for nearly four decades.

The committee's recommendation is included in the latest edition of "Dietary Guidelines for Americans." The report, which is published every five years, provides advice to help Americans "maintain a healthy weight, promote health, and prevent disease."

As reported by National Post, the committee refused to comment until after the report is published. However, Harvard School of Public Health Chairman Walter Willett said the committee's decision is "reasonable" as "there's been a shift of thinking" about the dangers of excess dietary cholesterol.

In 1961, the American Heart Association identified excess dietary cholesterol as a health concern. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. government began issuing cholesterol warnings. In 1994, cholesterol values were added to nutritional labels on food packaging.

In 2013, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association joined forces to examine prior studies concerning dietary cholesterol. The task force concluded that there is "insufficient evidence" to suggest excess dietary cholesterol is a public health concern.

University of Colorado Professor Robert Eckel, who co-chaired the task force, said the studies simply do not contain "the kind of science that would support dietary restrictions."

One of the most popular cholesterol studies was conducted in 1913 using rabbits. Researchers with the Czar's Military Medicine Institute in St. Petersburg fed rabbits a cholesterol-rich diet for a period of four to eight weeks.

The researchers noted a sharp decline in the rabbits' health after they consumed a diet high in cholesterol. Therefore, they suggested that humans would have a similar response.

It was later determined that rabbits are specifically sensitive to a high-cholesterol diet. The same study, when performed on white rats, produced completely different results.

As reported by the American Heart Association, excess cholesterol in the blood is a serious health risk. However, high blood cholesterol is not necessarily caused by eating cholesterol-rich foods.

Inside the body, cholesterol is produced naturally by the liver. However, a diet high in saturated and trans fats can increase the liver's natural cholesterol production.

Dietary cholesterol is found in meats and dairy products. Although consuming dietary cholesterol may increase blood cholesterol, the actual impact is unclear.

To improve cholesterol, the American Heart Association recommends limiting the consumption of saturated and trans fats. The organization also recommends increasing exercise.

Although the government is set to remove cholesterol warnings from food labels, consumers with existing health issues, including diabetes, are encouraged to avoid cholesterol-rich foods.

[Image via Getty Images Europe]