I am writing on behalf of the United States government to express my sincerest apologies for the years of discrimination you have suffered. For over 40 years, you have been labeled a “nutrient of concern”; a condescending title that has caused Americans to give you dirty looks in the grocery store. Your cholesterol comrades – egg yolks, shellfish, red meat – have been shamed just for containing high levels of you. The government’s Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee cut you from the team before you could even make it through training camp. It even replaced you in your beloved omelet by your arch nemesis…Egg Beaters. But after all this time and suffering, I am happy to report that reparations will be paid. The Advisory Committee has decided to reverse its previous decision on you. The jury has spoken, and they have ruled in your favor.
I realize a single apology letter cannot undo these past 40 years, but you have to understand you can be a little confusing. Total cholesterol is equal to a person’s LDL cholesterol + HDL cholesterol + 20% of his triglyceride level. What does that even mean? You are well aware that LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is considered “bad”, and it’s the type of lipoprotein that transports cholesterol from the bloodstream into the cells. When too much cholesterol builds up in the cells, it can form plaques in the arteries. HDL (high-density lipoprotein), on the other hand, actually takes cholesterol from the cells and delivers it to the liver, where it can be broken down and excreted. Unfortunately, you are better known for your role as LDL than as HDL…you always play the bad guy.
In all the government’s past attempts to slander you, it has neglected to mention how much the body needs you. People may not realize that cholesterol is made by the liver too – they don’t just get it from food. The body needs cholesterol to make hormones (necessary), vitamin D (necessary), and substances that digest foods (necessary). People can’t live without you! The blame for heart disease risk is now shifting onto the rightful culprit: consuming large portions of foods high in saturated fat, such as fried or fast foods.
So here’s the bottom line: the professionals on the Advisory Committee no longer believe eating foods with high levels of you will significantly increase total cholesterol levels OR the risk for heart disease. This is not only a victory for you; it’s also great for nutrition professionals like me! Yes, I do benefit from the end of your run with marginalization. I no longer have to caution people against egg yolks (contain vitamin D), red meat (contains iron), and cheese (contains calcium). I will continue to educate people on the risks of high LDL levels, and I’m sorry, but those with high cholesterol will still need to eat less of you. That’s just the way it is. But for the population of healthy adults, you’re officially in the clear.
I realize this is just a small step in the fight to repair your good name. Please know that there is an army of dietitians in your corner cheering you on as you reenter society without the “nutrient of concern” label. It will take time, but people will eat you again. They will stop negatively seeking you out on the nutrient facts label. And they will buy your eggs in the grocery store…and even eat the yolks.