FoodFit Round Table

Welcome to the FoodFit Round Table—where experts speak out on food and health news.

THE TOPIC: The National Cholesterol Education Program of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recently released new recommendations for lowering cholesterol levels. What implications do the new cholesterol guidelines have for the consumer?


"The media picked up on the recommendation for physicians to be more aggressive with medical therapy in treating elevated plasma cholesterol levels. Hence, many came away with the notion that the report was 'pushing' medication therapy."

"A closer read of the executive summary published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on May 16, sheds a brighter light on the new guidelines. Since risk for heart disease increases with advancing years, all members of the population will benefit by the recommended 'therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC)' to lower LDL levels. This approach includes reducing saturated fatty acid and dietary cholesterol intake to 7% of calories and 200 mg/day respectively. Increasing dietary fiber to a level of 10-25 g/day and possibly adding plant sterols or stanols at a level of 2 g/day. Weight reduction and attention to physical activity round out the TLC approach. These recommendations go a long way in meeting the needs to reduce heart disease risk for many in the population," said Ann M. Coulston, MS, RD.


"Probably the greatest dietary impact for consumers is the decrease in the amount of acceptable calories from saturated fat. The level has been lowered from 10% of calories from saturated fat to only 7%. Cutting back on high-fat cuts of meat, whole milk dairy products and rich baked goods are a great way to reduce intake of saturated fat," suggested Ellen Haas, founder and CEO of

"Diet and exercise remain the first line of defense in lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and increasing HDL (good) cholesterol. As always, a low fat diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains combined with moderate exercise is the lifestyle choice that makes sense not only for healthy cholesterol levels, but also for general wellness."


"While being mindful of the importance of aggressively reducing saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet, the new guidelines are more liberal relative to the amount of total fat in the diet (25 to 35% of total calories) provided that healthy fats (i.e. unsaturated fats) are the primary fat source. What is new is that the upper fat limit exceeds the previous guidance and, importantly, a lower limit has been set thereby recognizing the health benefits of unsaturated fats as well as communicating that very low fat diets are not advisable, both from the standpoint of adherence and health. ... consumers will need advice about how to implement the recommended dietary changes," advised Penny M. Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD, Distinguished Professor of Nutrition at The Pennsylvania State University.


"This report re-affirms three important steps consumers can take to reduce their risk of heart disease—lower their saturated fat and cholesterol intake, maintain desirable body weight and increase physical activity," said Susan Borra, RD, president of the American Dietetic Association. "Dietitians are uniquely qualified to help Americans make the long term dietary and lifestyle changes to achieve good health. For solutions to nutrition related problems, patients can ask their physician for a referral to a registered dietitian."

What steps have you taken to lower your cholesterol?
cutting out saturated fat
taking prescription medications
getting more exercise
eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains
using cholesterol lowering spreads

see results


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