SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine sued the United States Wednesday, claiming its 2015 dietary guidelines downplay the risks of cholesterol: part of a 20-year campaign to increase egg consumption.
The Physicians and three doctors sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services, in Federal Court.
The USDA and HHS issued the new guidelines on Jan. Thursday. In a joint statement, the Cabinet secretaries hail the new guidelines as "the nation's trusted resource for evidence-based nutrition recommendations" and said it will give health professionals and the public information they need to make healthy, informed choices.
"Protecting the health of the American public includes empowering them with the tools they need to make healthy choices in their daily lives," HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in the statement.
"By focusing on small shifts in what we eat and drink, eating healthy becomes more manageable. The Dietary Guidelines provide science-based recommendations on food and nutrition so people can make decisions that may help keep their weight under control, and prevent chronic conditions, like Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease."
The recommendations fall into five categories: establishing healthy eating patterns; choosing a variety of nutrient-dense foods; limiting calories from added sugars and saturated fats; reducing sodium intake; and shifting to healthier food and drinks.
Among other things, they suggest Americans should eat more dark green vegetables, beans, whole fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean proteins such as eggs, seafood and poultry, and healthy fats from plant-based oils such as olives and soybeans and from nuts and avocados.
"The 'Dietary Guidelines for Americans' is one of many important tools that help to support a healthier next generation of Americans," Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack said in the statement.
The plaintiff doctors dispute the findings of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) that "cholesterol is no longer 'a nutrient of concern for overconsumption." The doctors say this contradicts the positions of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, previous dietary guidelines, and "decades of unbiased scientific research."
"In a poorly considered 'analysis' consisting of only three sentences, the DGAC recommended that defendants drop from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans ('Dietary Guidelines') defendants' longstanding advice that Americans consume no more than 300 milligrams per day of dietary cholesterol, with stricter limits for individuals at heightened risk of cardiovascular disease," the complaint states. 
More than 115 million Americans have diabetes, exposing them to greater risk of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death for Americans, and scientific and medical knowledge indicates that cholesterol is a "significant contributor" to its development, according to the complaint.
Studies used to support the new guidelines were funded by the egg industry rather than conducted by independent researchers, and several committee members once worked for institutions that received funding from the USDA's egg promotion program, the complaint states.