I just received a flier from a major doughnut chain saying it has now taken egg yolks out of the mixes and replaced them with cholesterol-free ingredients to create doughnuts with no cholesterol. It also says that 90 percent of the fat is unsaturated. Does this change their nutritional profile significantly?

ANSWER - Not in our book. The problem with dough-nuts isn't a matter of eggs contributing a few milligrams of cholesterol. Actually, dietary cholesterol isn't regarded as the main factor linked to increased blood cholesterol. Most doughnuts are fried in oil, so they all are likely to be low in saturated fat, the type associated with higher serum-cholesterol levels. The real drawback is that doughnuts themselves are high in fat and therefore packed with calories. Forty-three percent of the calories in a typical doughnut come from fat.It's recommended that we limit the fat in our daily diets to no more than 30 percent of the total calories we consume. Obviously, the more high-fat foods we eat, the harder it is to achieve this goal. Starting off the day with doughnuts (breakfast and midmorning snack are the most popular time to eat them) instead of with traditional low-fat or fat-free breakfast foods such as cereals with low-fat or skim milk and toast adds to the challenge.

We have nothing against enjoying an occasional doughnut, if your weight will allow. But when you eat one, do it because you like it, not because it's free of cholesterol and low in saturated fat.

QUESTION - My father-in-law has a drink of hard liquor before every lunch and dinner. He's been doing that for 60 years. I believe this burns up the vitamins he takes in and explains why he can barely walk even with crutches. Am I right?

ANSWER - Assuming your father-in-law began the practice when he was 20, he'd be at least 80 by now. At his age, there could be many reasons why he has difficulty walking. And without knowing the size of the drinks he pours and whether he drinks at other times during the day as well, it's impossible to make any firm statements about the relationship between his alcohol and his health.

It's true that alcohol raises the requirement for certain nutrients. For example, in this country thiamin deficiency is seen most frequently among alcoholics, in whom both decreased nutrient intake and absorption are thought to contribute. In other words, they don't eat enough, and nutrients from the foods they do eat aren't absorbed well. Alcohol also affects many of the body's metabolic processes.

Certainly it's reasonable for you to be concerned about whether he's drinking to excess and whether alcohol contributes to his health problems. As you describe it, the fact that he's drinking before meals, rather than instead of them, suggests he isn't replacing food with alcohol, which is all to the good. A nutritionally sound diet doesn't provide absolute protection against the ill effects of excessive alcohol, but it is crucial to good health.

Given his age and his long-standing habit, it's unlikely you'll be able to convince him to stop drinking completely. We suggest you discuss your concern with his physician. If the doctor considers the drinking excessive, a word from him or her may motivate your elderly relative to cut down.

1991, Washington Post Writers Group