HOS Professor Andrew Brown featured in The Australian Higher Ed article 21 February 2015

Date: 
21/02/2015

Dietary cholesterol no longer a worry: blood levels the main culprit
The Australian February 21, 2015
John Ross, Higher Education Reporter

IT is one of the main risk factors for heart disease, but cholesterol should no longer be avoided in the diet, a key US report has found.

Draft dietary guidelines issued by the US Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion have removed a warning that people should limit the amount of cholesterol they eat. Previously, the guidelines had recommended that Americans limit their cholesterol intake to 300mg a day — the equivalent of four pieces of fried chicken, a couple of cheeseburgers, a lobster tail or 1¼ egg yolks. A 14-member scientific committee said the evidence indicated “no appreciable relationship” between diet and cholesterol levels in the bloodstream. “Cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption,” the committee’s report says.

Elevated cholesterol is considered one of five key risk factors for heart attack and stroke, along with smoking, high blood pressure, obesity and lack of exercise. Statins to reduce bloodstream cholesterol levels are the most prescribed medications in the world. University of NSW biochemist Andrew Brown said the committee’s findings were unlikely to change this, because cholesterol is mainly produced by the body. “We have very elegant and elaborate mechanisms for keeping our body cholesterol pretty constant,” said Professor Brown, head of the UNSW School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences. “If we eat too much dietary cholesterol from eggs, for example, generally we would make less cholesterol in our livers.” He said most scientists would not be surprised by the committee’s findings. “In most cases, dietary cholesterol doesn’t have much of an impact on blood cholesterol levels.” But Professor Brown said saturated fats — a primary contributor of dietary cholesterol — should still be avoided because of other health impacts. The US committee agreed, flagging a reduction in the recommended maximum intake of 10 per cent of calories from saturated fat.

A spokesman for the National Health and Medical Research Council said it was important not to confuse dietary cholesterol with blood cholesterol, which is implicated in heart health. “Eating foods which are rich in cholesterol, such as brains and egg yolks, does not necessarily increase cholesterol in human blood plasma,” he said. US dietary guidelines are issued every five years.