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Government catches up with the science on dietary cholesterol

To the editor: The scientific basis for cholesterol production has been known for a generation: Genetics along with excess calories from processed carbohydrates and saturated fat are associated with elevated cholesterol and triglycerides. In addition, cholesterol from food diminishes production by the liver as a feedback mechanism, so eating eggs daily is not an issue. ("Cholesterol is back on the menu in new federal dietary guidelines," Feb. 19)

In fact, in 1991 the New England Journal of Medicine published an article reporting that an 88-year-old man averaged 25 eggs daily for 15 years and had a normal cholesterol level.

As to the benefits of coffee, it has more antioxidants and caffeine than green tea. Caffeine benefits cognition and is an analgesic.

I am gratified to find government policy finally catching up with nutrition science.

Jerome P. Helman, MD, Venice

The writer is a gastroenterologist specializing in nutrition.

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To the editor: As a registered dietitian, I'd like to clarify that although the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee no longer labels dietary cholesterol as an element of concern, foods that contain cholesterol (all animal products) should stay off our plates for good.

According to the new dietary guidelines, diets higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes, and lower in animal-based foods are better for our health. Decades of studies confirm that the more plant foods we eat, the better off we are. In fact, those who consume no animal products at all are on average far healthier than their meat- and dairy-eating counterparts.

Even if dietary cholesterol is itself no longer cause for alarm, other components of animal-based foods, including saturated fat, carcinogens, hormones and animal-based protein —all of which have been linked to various chronic diseases — are reason enough to ditch the eggs and stick with a healthful, plant-based diet.

Julieanna Hever, Calabasas

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