Should You Be Eating More Eggs?

Everyday the list of things we should or should not consume changes at lightning speed. What you should eat one day, may kill you the next!  However, there have been two things that has been a constant on the list of things to limit: eggs and butter.

It has been more than 50 years since Americans have been told that cholesterol causes heart disease.  For this reason, nutrition experts, cardiologists and family practice physicians have advised their patients to limit egg consumption and to avoid butter. It’s also why statin-type cholesterol-lowering drugs have been billion-dollar bonanzas for the pharmaceutical industry.

Even today, after 5 decades, many people still think of eggs as a sinful indulgence.  The dairy section of our grocery stores are filled with low-fat or no fat yogurts, skim milk, and cheese and egg substitutes.  And a lot of health professionals are still telling their patients to ration foods containing cholesterol.

A new study from Finland American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, just might rock the boat enough to change our eating habits. The researchers in Kuopio have followed more than 1000 healthy middle-aged men for over 20 years.  At the beginning of the study in the 1980s the men filled out detailed records of their eating habits.

After reviewing the results from this study, eggs and cholesterol both have been exonerated.  The investigators found no connection between egg consumption and heart disease.  There was also no link between cholesterol in the diet and atherosclerosis in the carotid arteries. It was found that as much as an egg day or moderate-to-high cholesterol consumption did not appear to increase the likelihood of heart attack or stroke among those studied.

What is even more surprising is now there are studies surfacing suggesting that people who eat more eggs have larger, less dense artery-clogging LDL cholesterol particles, Metabolism, March 2013.  Other research demonstrates that egg consumption raises good HDL cholesterol, lowers inflammation and improves blood sugar control, Lipids, June 2013.

It takes the nutrition world a long time to reconsider such long-established policies.  This is because “experts” are just like you and me.  They do not want to look foolish or look as if they flip flop on long-held beliefs and recommendations. But American policy markers are finally beginning to catch up with science.  After years of strict prohibitions on high-cholesterol foods, especially eggs, the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans no longer limit cholesterol intake to 300 mg per day.  They still recommend that we should eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible.

Many health professionals will find it challenging to accept the new data from the Finnish Heart Study. However, the writing has been on the wall for quite a few years that evidence supporting dietary cholesterol as the source of heart disease is weak.
Despite eggs and dietary cholesterol being seen differently in the community, saturated fat remains forbidden.  The cardiology community is still convinced that this fat will clog arteries and the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines frown upon “sat fat”.

A Canadian meta-analysis (BMJ, online, August 12,2015) of the data on saturated fat intake and its link to heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and death found:

“In this synthesis of observational evidence we found no clear association between higher intake of saturated fats and all caused mortality, CHD [coronary heart disease], CHD morality, ischemic stroke, or type 2 diabetes among apparently healthy adults”

Converstly, trans fats that were found in margarine and so many so-called heart healthy foods produced decidedly disastrous results:

“Consumption of trans unsaturated fatty acids, however, was associated with a 34% increase in all cause mortality, a 28% increased risk of CHD mortality, and a 21% increase in the risk of CDD.”

So, the very foods we have been told over and over to eat for decades to protect our hears have actually been causing coronary heart disease.

As if the Canadian analysis weren’t enough, there is now a study polished from the Netherlands Cohort in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  In this study, over 35,000 Dutch men and women were recruited between 1993 and 1997 and followed for 12 years.

The more saturated fat that these people consumed, especially from dairy products, the less coronary artery disease they experienced.  Highly processed carbohydrates found in bread, pizza, pasta, cookies and cakes were linked to a higher risk of heart disease.

The bottom line is, the advice we have all been given for the past 50+ years has been turned upside down.

Dr. Jeff Kraichely – March 22, 2016

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