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Unscrambling the Myths Around Eggs & Cholesterol

Many people are still of the belief that eggs are bad for their cholesterol & should be avoided at all costs if they want to keep their heart healthy. This theory is a few decades out of date now as research has since repositioned the egg as a healthy food that is not only good for heart health but also can help with weight loss. These benefits are now well established in the scientific community. Bruce Griffin, of the University of Surrey, a professor of nutritional metabolism, has recently analysed 30 egg studies carried out over 30 years & has found that eggs ‘have no clinically significant impact’ on cholesterol levels1.

At the beginning of August a Canadian study2 was published that attempted to smash eggs reputation as a health giving food. The unfortunate thing is that alarmistic news makes the front page & sells regardless of the quality of the research. This was the case for this study leading to confusion once again amongst the health conscious.

The study involved 1,200 subjects with an average age of 61. Researchers conclude that a build-up of arterial plaque (linked to cardiovascular disease) was greater in people who ate at least 2 eggs per week. The researchers then went on to blame egg yolks for this effect.

On closer inspection what we see is that this study is flawed in a number of ways. Although it is a nutritional exploration, the researchers did not take the diet or lifestyle of subjects into account at all. The other key point is that arterial plaque will rise in anyone over the age of 40.

The Department of Health still says that we can eat as many eggs as we like, as long as they form part of a balanced, healthy diet. The only exception to this rule would be in a person with inherited high cholesterol.

 

There are plenty of other studies that demonstrate that adults can enjoy one or two eggs a day and that there are benefits to be had…

…decrease in blood pressure

A 2007 study showed that eating one or two eggs a day may actually be associated with a decrease in blood pressure3.

…no impact on blood cholesterol

A 2005 study showed that adding two eggs a day to a healthful diet did not significantly increase blood cholesterol levels in those with normal or even moderately elevated blood cholesterol levels4.

…no impact on heart disease risk

A 1999 Harvard University study on 100,000 men and women found no significant difference in heart disease risk between healthy adults who ate less than one egg a week and those who ate more than one egg a day5.

…full of potent antioxidants

In 2011 scientists noted that 2 raw egg yolks have almost twice as many antioxidants as an apple. Frying or boiling reduced antioxidant levels by about half6.

…assists with weight loss

In one study, overweight women had eggs or a bagel for breakfast. Those that consumed eggs for breakfast consumed fewer calories in the following 24 hours. Researchers put the positive effects down to the satiating effects of egg protein on appetite7.

 

The main message to take from all this is that some foods do contain a component called ‘dietary cholesterol’ including liver, kidneys, eggs & prawns. For this reason these foods have got a bad rap over the last few decades with the assumption being that these ‘dietary cholesterol’ molecules must directly go into the blood stream. What research shows is that this ‘dietary cholesterol’ has NO EFFECT on the level of cholesterol in our blood. This cholesterol is completely unrelated. What we really want to watch out for is SATURATED & TRANS FATS (from margarine, fatty meat, hard cheese, cakes & biscuits) as this is what will lead to high blood cholesterol levels indicating that our cardiovascular system is in a state of stress.

Let’s change the old adage to ‘an egg a day keeps the doctor away’.

 

References:

  1. Gray J and Griffin B. Eggs and dietary cholesterol – dispelling the myth. Nutrition Bulletin. 2009; 34: 66-70.
  2. Spence D et al. Egg yolk consumption and carotid plaque. Atheroslerosis. 2012; 224 (2): 469-473.
  3. Qureshi A, et al. Regular egg consumption does not increase the risk of stroke or cardiovascular diseases. Medical Science Monitor. 2007; 13(1): CR1-8.
  4. Katz DL, et al. Egg consumption and endothelial function: a randomized controlled crossover trial. Int J Cardiol. 2005; 99: 65-70.
  5. Hu FB, et al. A prospective study of egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease in men and women. JAMA. 1999; 281: 1387-94.
  6. Nimalaratne C et al. Free aromatic amino acids in egg yolk show antioxidant properties. Food Chemistry. 2011; 129 (1): 155–161.
  7. Vander Wall JS et al. Egg breakfast enhances weight loss. Int J Obes (Lond). 2008; 32(10): 1545-51.

 

If you are concerned about your cholesterol & would like a consultation to put together a personalised nutrition programme to meet your needs, please call us now on 0845 0502442

 

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