Egg Nutrition Center Blog

Tackling the Myths Surrounding Cholesterol

rebecca-teal-150x150Today’s post is the start of a series of blogs from our friend Rebecca Scritchfield MA, RD, ACSM HFS. She’s giving us health professionals some tips and tools to be able to discuss cholesterol myths and misinformation with our clients.Disclosure from Rebecca Scritchfield MA, RD, ACSM HFS: I was compensated by Egg Nutrition Center for my time in writing this blog post.

With so much focus on food and healthy eating these days, your patients are probably asking you about what they should eat. Chances are they’re confused because of conflicting information out there. Your poor patients aren’t sure who to believe. An example is with eating whole eggs. One day consumers hear “eggs are good,” only to find out another day “eggs are bad.” So what does the science say? In this blog I’m going to tackle some of the most common cholesterol egg myths your patients are most likely to come across. You, as a health professional, can help them sort fact from fiction.

Top 3 Myths About Eggs and Cholesterol

Myth:  Eating whole eggs will raise your “bad” blood cholesterol levels.

Fact:  Healthy people can enjoy whole eggs daily without negatively impacting their blood cholesterol levels.(1) Current Dietary Guidelines for Americans mention enjoying one egg each day.(2) Dietary cholesterol intake, while once thought to be the culprit in elevated LDL levels, doesn’t usually contribute to blood cholesterol levels. Research has shown that it may actually be saturated fat and trans fats in foods that is correlated with higher LDL cholesterol.(3)

Additionally, egg consumption does not significantly impact the LDL:HDL ratio – one of the best known and scientifically established indicators of heart disease risk. A 2008 review of more than 30 studies published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition argued that the LDL:HDL ratio is a much better indicator of heart disease risk than either indicator alone. Some research has even shown that egg intake actually decreases levels of LDL.(1)

Finally, it’s important to remember that food is only one of the potential contributors to high blood cholesterol, including genetics, age, gender, and physical activity.

Myth: Egg whites are healthier than egg yolks. If you are watching your cholesterol or weight you should throw out the yolks and eat only the whites.

Fact: Don’t trash the yolks – egg yolks are nutrient goldmines. Yolks have a variety of important vitamins and minerals, including choline and Vitamin D, which are nutrients that tend to be inadequate in the American diet. Yolks also have high-quality protein and antioxidants, and only contain 50 calories each.

Many of the nutrients found in egg yolks, such as choline and folate, are known to support healthy fetal development. When I was pregnant with my daughter I regularly ate 2 whole eggs with a half an avocado and spinach for breakfast. I wanted to be sure I wasn’t missing out on all those vital nutrients to keep her healthy.

Myth: Eating eggs increases your risk for cardiovascular disease.

Fact:  More than 40 years of research have shown that healthy adults can enjoy one egg daily without significantly impacting their risk of heart disease.(4) A prospective cohort study out of Harvard that included more than a hundred thousand subjects found no significant difference in cardiovascular disease risk between those consuming less than one egg per week and those consuming one egg per day.(5)

There is a history of heart disease in my family, so I’m definitely concerned about keeping my heart as healthy as possible. I take good care of myself. I exercise, meditate, sleep well, and eat right. It’s all about balancing good, sensible habits. I consume eggs regularly because they are delicious, healthy, and easy to prepare. I am confident they aren’t contributing to my risk of cardiovascular disease based on the science.

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Get more scientific evidence, including data from a meta-analysis of the research relating to the effects of eggs on cardiovascular health in this article by Dr. Tia Rains. The message about the relationship between eggs and heart-health has been murky for a long time. It’s not surprising patients are confused. I’m sure you have heard at least one of these “egg myths” before and I hope this information helps make it easier for you to update your patients.

Feel free to share information from this blog in your patient communication programs and social media to clear up the myths once and for all.

Here are some “take aways” you can have on hand for your patients:

  • “An egg a day is OK!” You can eat the whole egg. Most important is following an overall heart healthy diet, being physically active, and monitoring your lab values as you age.
  • Go ahead and eat whole eggs if you like them as part of a balanced eating plan.
  • For breakfast think about pairing eggs “your way” with fruit. At lunch, eggs can be delicious on a salad. For dinner, try a veggie stir fry with scrambled egg.
  • Don’t trash the yolks. Egg yolks have a variety of important vitamins and minerals people need for health and wellness.
  • Healthy adults can enjoy one egg daily without significantly impacting their risk of heart disease.

If you’re interested in more information about eggs and cholesterol, along with the latest research, check out this handout from the Egg Nutrition Center. There’s also one developed for patients to clear up the cholesterol myth once and for all.

hp_cholesterol_brochure

References:
1Hu FB, Stampfer MJ, Rimm EB et al. A prospective study of egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease in men and women. JAMA. 1999; 281:1387-94.
2 U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. 7th Edition, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, December 2010.
3 Harman NL, et al. Increased dietary cholesterol does not increase plasma low density lipoprotein when accompanied by an energy-restricted diet and weight loss. European Journal of Nutrition2008;47:287-293.
4 Fernandez ML and Webb D. The LDL to HDL Cholesterol Ratio as a Valuable Tool to Evaluate Coronary Heart Disease Risk. JACN 2008;27 (1):1-5.
5 Hu FB, Stampfer MJ, Rimm EB et al. A prospective study of egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease in men and women. JAMA.1999; 281:1387-94.

Author: Guest Blogger