Cholesterol, Sugar Guidelines May Change

US dietary guidelines may change to reflect new cholesterol, sugar recommendations, as well as findings on environmental impact of diet

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) No cholesterol, yes cholesterol. No coffee, yes coffee. What to eat can get pretty confusing for the average eater. New recommendations may clear up some of that confusion.

A report prepared for the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services contained several new dietary recommendations. These recommendations are expected to be incorporated into the Dietary Guidelines for Americans later this year.

The new recommendations include advice about cholesterol, coffee and sugar. The report also makes a connection between US eating habits and the environment.

Scientific findings often change over time as the result of new research. The same sometimes applies to dietary guidelines, which can require massive research over many years to change.

The Dietary Guidelines Committee develops nutrition advice for the federal government.

Past research has suggested that caffeine may be unhealthy. However, the advisory panel noted that moderate coffee consumption of 3 to 5 cups per day may decrease the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The evidence suggests coffee may also protect against Parkinson’s disease, a disorder of the nervous system.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin. Insulin is the hormone that helps regulate blood sugar.

Sugar, said the advisory panel, should be limited.

Most problematic were sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, according to the report. Both may contribute to obesity and dental cavities.

When it comes to cholesterol, many scientists now believe the problem is not high-cholesterol foods like eggs and shellfish. The advisory report recommended no limitation on cholesterol — mostly due to the fact that research couldn't prove a relationship between dietary cholesterol and cholesterol in the blood.

The advisory report also made a distinction between “healthy” fats like olive oil and solid fats.

Solid fats are often combined with added sugars to make foods more appealing. If people eat such foods, they may be taking in too many calories, the report notes.

The report said solid fats and added sugars should make up not more than 120 calories a day for children aged 2 to 8.

Adult women should eat no more than 120 to 250 calories a day of solid fats and added sugars, according to the report. Adult men should eat no more than 160 to 330 calories a day from these foods.

Another change in this year’s report was a focus on the environmental impact of US eating habits.

The report noted that if Americans ate fewer animal foods and more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes, it might mean fewer greenhouse gas emissions. A change in eating patterns could also use less land, water and energy.

The advisory panel’s recommendations have not yet become part of the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These recommendations may be modified when the guidelines are finally published.

Diet guidelines do not always apply equally to all patients. People with questions about diet and health should consult a doctor.

Review Date: 
February 20, 2015
Last Updated:
February 24, 2015