The Myth on Eggs and Cholesterol

If you love eggs but still feel a bit guilty when you eat them, here’s some happy news: eat your eggs with a smile, because they’re good for you.

Nutrition recommendations have lifted the cloud over eggs and the thinking now is that an egg a day is OK.

For much of the past 40 years the public has been warned away from eggs because of the risk of heart disease. Unhealthy serum cholesterol levels have, after all, been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and eggs are relatively high in dietary cholesterol.

Eggs, the new good food.

Cholesterol is made naturally in the bodies of all animals and humans. It is necessary for the production of hormones and vitamin D, and to keep cell walls healthy. The liver makes most of the cholesterol needed by the human body so you shouldn’t have to worry about getting enough from your food.

Dietary cholesterol is found in animal foods, such as meat, fish, poultry, dairy products and, of course, eggs. While the cholesterol in food can raise your blood cholesterol levels, researchers now know that consuming too much saturated fat and trans fat generally contributes more to unhealthy serum cholesterol levels.

Some research has even questioned the connection between egg consumption and cardiovascular disease. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition showed that risk of cardiovascular disease in men and women did not increase with increasing egg consumption. In fact, it showed quite the opposite. From their findings of analyzing more than 27,000 subjects, they indicated that the egg consumers actually had lower serum cholesterol levels than those subjects who abstained from eggs.

The Harvard School of Public Health’s research showed the dietary cholesterol in eggs does not have a negative effect on blood cholesterol levels of healthy people. This and numerous other studies have shown there is no link between eating eggs and a higher risk of heart disease or stroke for healthy adults. Some recent studies have even shown that HDL (good) cholesterol increased when people ate an egg-supplemented diet.

Given this research, most of us can eat eggs without guilt. However, about one quarter of the population need to limit their cholesterol consumption because they are sensitive to dietary cholesterol, which affects the amount of cholesterol in their blood.

These people include those with high cholesterol and/or high triglyceride levels.

Guidelines not to limit egg consumption have been revisited because of the latest research, but also due to a better understanding of eggs’ nutritional benefits. Eggs provide a number of heart healthy nutrients, such as folate, vitamins E and B12, omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, as well as antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important for good eye health. Eggs also contain vitamin D and A, iron, phosphorus and zinc.

We know that one egg has little total fat – just five grams, of which 1.5 grams is saturated and 3.5 grams is healthy unsaturated fat.

Eggs also are a superb source of choline. Recent research has also found choline to be an essential nutrient needed for the normal functioning of all cells. It is especially important for proper liver, brain and nerve function, memory and transporting nutrients throughout the body. Research is providing more and more details about the benefits of choline and that most people are not getting enough.

The National Academy of Sciences now recommends an increased choline intake for pregnant and breast-feeding women (450 and 550 mg).

Studies show that choline works together with folic acid in many of the pathways that involve nervous system development during pregnancy. Choline seems to prevent birth defects, and play an important role in infant brain development, mainly in memory function. Two eggs provide about 250 milligrams of choline or roughly half the recommended daily intake for men and women (550 mg and 425 mg respectively).

Choline also plays an important role in heart health. It seems to have a role in breaking down homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood that may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease. In fact, research shows that choline deficiency results in increased homocysteine levels.

If you are concerned about your blood cholesterol level, reduce the amount of saturated fat and trans fat in your diet rather than reducing your egg intake. Choose omega-3 eggs to protect your heart and enjoy the whole egg. The yolk is loaded with carotenoids, vitamin A, vitamin E and choline. One egg contains twice the choline found in a three-ounce (85 gram) beef steak.