Eggs, fats, and the new dietary guidelines

A new recommendation that people don’t need to worry how much cholesterol is in their diet, from a panel that recently issued new dietary guidelines, corrects previous advice based on guesswork, according to nutrition expert Walter Willett of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Given that the artery-clogging plaques that cause heart disease are made mostly from cholesterol, and that eggs contain a lot of cholesterol, “people sort of connected those dots,” said Willett, Fredrick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition and chair of the Department of Nutrition, in a February 27, 2015 interview with Ira Flatow on NPR’s Science Friday. But, he added, “There was never any data that showed that people who ate more eggs had higher risk of heart attacks.”

Willett thinks the panel’s most important recommendation is that people don’t need to restrict the total amount of fat in their diets. “If you’re going to restrict total fat, it means you’re going to eat more carbohydrates. In our society, and with our food supply, that means more refined starch and sugar—and that’s in fact exactly what happened over the last two decades,” said Willett. But “there was never any real data that showed that low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets were beneficial—it was really guesses.”

Listen to Walter Willett on Science Friday: After Decades of Dietary Warnings, Eggs Make a Comeback

Learn more

The entire egg (Harvard Gazette)

Eggs and Heart Disease (Harvard Chan Nutrition Source)

Fats and Cholesterol: Out with the Bad, In with the Good (Harvard Chan Nutrition Source)

The science behind the new dietary guidelines report (Harvard Chan feature)