Friday, February 26, 2016

Cholesterol in Eggs May Not Hurt Heart Health

Finnish researchers say that even carriers of a gene – called APOE4 – that increases sensitivity to dietary cholesterol don’t seem to have anything to fear when it comes to the impact of eggs, or any other dietary cholesterol on heart health.

The finding followed the 20-year plus tracking of dietary habits among more than 1,000 middle-aged Finnish men. All were heart healthy at the study’s start, and about a third carried the APOE4 gene, the researchers said.

“It is quite well known that dietary cholesterol intake has quite a modest impact on blood cholesterol levels, and cholesterol or egg intakes have not been associated with a higher risk of heart disease in most studies,” said study author Jyrki Virtanen. He is an adjunct professor in nutritional epidemiology with the University of Eastern Finland Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition in Kuopio Finland.

“However, dietary cholesterol intake has a greater impact on blood cholesterol levels among those with [APOE4],” Virtanen added. “So it was assumed that cholesterol intake might have a stronger impact on heart disease risk among those people. However, our study did not find an increased risk even among those carrying [APOE4].”

Virtanen and his colleagues report their findings in the Feb. 10 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The University of eastern Finland provided funding for the study, and Virtanen added that there was no funding from egg industry sources.

At the end of the 21-year tracking period, 230 of the men had experienced a heart attack. But, the study authors determined that neither egg habits, nor overall cholesterol consumption had any bearing on heart attack risk or the risk for hardening of the arterial walls.

Lona Sandon is a registered dietitian and assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. She said that while “everything in moderation” is the way to go, “people can feel confident about adding eggs, including the yolk, into their daily diet.”

“Eggs are a powerhouse of nutrition,” she said, “with much of that nutrition found in the yolk. The yolk has vitamin D, essential fats, choline, lutein, zeaxanthin, and more. Good for bones, good for the brain, and good for the eyes. [And] the white is a high quality protein, as well as a source of B vitamins.”

My Take:
It still amazes me that this myth about cholesterol persists. The research never supported the theory that cholesterol in the diet causes heart disease. In fact, a low cholesterol diet is a common cause of high cholesterol. It also stresses the liver to manufacture greater amounts of cholesterol when dietary sources are eliminated.

Lona Sandon is correct when she states that “eggs are a powerhouse of nutrition.” The most important aspect is that an egg is a complete protein, providing all the essential amino acids in one food source. As noted above, most of that nutrition is in the yolk. There is absolutely no viable health benefit in substituting an egg white omelet for the real thing.

The Bottom Line:
Have two whole eggs for breakfast. Make them organic and fry them in some organic butter. Add a side of uncured bacon and a piece of fruit. That gives you 15 grams of protein, some healthy fats, and an unrefined carbohydrate to start your day.

Source: February 16, 2016 National Institutes of Health

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