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Eggs & Cholesterol

Posted on April 15, 2017 at 5:40 PM

For decades we heard that eating eggs would raise our cholesterol levels. This was based on an assumption that if you ate an egg yolk containing 300mg of cholesterol, then your body would send that directly to your bloodstream to clog up your arteries. We now know that what affects cholesterol levels isn't quite as simple as this. Since we are in a weekend where eggs are traditionally consumed I am sharing exerpts from a blog post from Precision Nutrition coach Helen Kolias. Check it out. It is an interesting read. 

Research review: Eggs and Cholesterol By Helen Kollias

Oh sure, he looks cute. But is the Easter Bunny carrying a basket of cholesterol-laden artery bombs? Or has he gotten a bad rap along with Humpty Dumpty? When you talk to most people about eggs, here’s the first thing they’ll say: Eggs are full of cholesterol. The second thing they’ll say is: That’s why I don’t eat them, or that’s why I only eat the whites. The message is clear: If you don’t want high cholesterol, don’t eat whole eggs.

Back in 1972, the American Heart Association recommended that people limit their egg intake to less than 3 a week -– yes, a week, not a day. If you wanted to eat eggs daily, according to the recommendation, you could safely have 0.43 of one. Interestingly, eggs were the only food-specific dietary restriction ever suggested by the American Heart Association. Think about that. Of all the crappy food you could possibly eat, eggs end up being restricted!

Do eggs raise blood cholesterol?

In this case, the American Heart Association made the same assumption as the people you talk to on the street: eggs are high in cholesterol; I don’t want high cholesterol; so I don’t eat eggs. At first glance, that does seem kind of logical. Eggs are indeed high in cholesterol. They have about 235 mg per egg, which makes them one of the most abundant per-serving sources of cholesterol. (Unless you’re a fan of eating brains; 3 ounces of cow brain provides 2635 mg of cholesterol — about ten times one egg. Probably not a huge issue if you’re not a zombie, and they’re already dead anyway.)

But does that dietary cholesterol in the egg translate to higher cholesterol — and by extension, arterial plaque buildup — in your body? I guess it would be similar to saying that spinach is green and I don’t want to be green so I don’t eat spinach. Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch, but eggs being high in cholesterol doesn’t necessarily mean that eating eggs will increase your cholesterol. It seems that a few proteins in eggs block the cholesterol in eggs from being completely absorbed.

How cholesterol works in the body

Here’s the current model of how cholesterol works in the body. First of all, it’s a bit of a misnomer to talk about “cholesterol levels”. In fact, what doctors usually mean by that is the levels of the transport proteins that carry cholesterol around. You see, cholesterol is a lipid (aka fat-based), which means it’s not soluble in water. Your bloodstream is water-based. Just like a vinaigrette, the oil-based and water-based components separate without something to either emulsify them or grab the oily bits and hang on to them.

Since injecting Dijon mustard or dish soap are both bad ideas, the body has evolved transport proteins instead. These proteins can carry lipid-based substances around the bloodstream, getting them where they need to go. In this case, we’re usually talking about three kinds of transport proteins: high-density lipoprotein (HDL, aka “good cholesterol”;); low-density lipoprotein (LDL, aka one of the “bad cholesterols”;); and very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL, the second so-called baddie).

When we say “high cholesterol” we usually mean high levels of the bad stuff, and often low levels of the good stuff. Recently, researchers have discovered that the bigger culprits in raising “bad” cholesterol levels are trans fats (of which eggs have nearly 0g/egg) and saturated fats (of which eggs have 1.5g/egg).

In other words, eggs are actually low in the substances that do cause problems. Meanwhile, eggs are a relatively cheap and good source of protein and eggs may help you lose weight. In a recent study, eggs have also been shown to enhance weight loss when used with a calorie restricted diet — meaning that people who both reduced their calories and ate 2 eggs a day lost more weight (65% more weight loss & 16% more bodyfat lost [1]) than people who just reduced calories.

Learn More:  Precision Nutrition Coaching is available at Blue Bicycle Health & Fitness. Send an email to [email protected] to learn more about our program options.

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