The Egg Nutrition Center recently published an article in the journal Advances in Nutrition entitled, Exploring the Factors that Affect Blood Cholesterol and Heart Disease Risk: Is Dietary Cholesterol as Bad for you as History Leads us to Believe? The article is a review of a symposium that ENC sponsored at the Experimental Biology meetings last year. Symposium participants included Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton from Penn State University; Dr. David Katz from Yale University; Dr. Maria Luz-Fernandez from the University of Connecticut, and Dr. Kasey Vickers from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
Among other things, the article addresses much of the newer clinical and epidemiological research which indicates that dietary cholesterol is not the “boogeyman” it once was thought to be. Some of the symposium presenters pointed out the difficulty in trying to tease out other dietary factors from dietary cholesterol when analyzing study results suggesting, in essence, that the presence of food components such as saturated fat, sodium, simple sugars, and calories may well be the culprits in elevated disease risk and that dietary cholesterol may have been unfairly indicted by “the company it keeps.”
The article also briefly delves into the paleoanthropological argument that our prehistoric ancestors subsisted on a diet that was rich in cholesterol sources such as eggs, bone marrow, and organ meat, and so it makes sense that we would have evolved and adapted to thrive on cholesterol-containing diets.
A discussion of the current global view of dietary cholesterol is also addressed in the paper. One of the symposium presenters points out the fact that many countries in the European Union, as well as Korea, India, Canada, New Zealand and others no longer have a daily dietary recommendation for cholesterol, indicating their belief that other dietary factors are more culpable in the development of heart disease.
Finally, the paper addresses the implications of removing otherwise healthy foods from the diet in an effort to lower dietary cholesterol intake. It points out that eggs, for example, are a key source of high quality protein, carotenoids, essential fatty acids, various vitamins and minerals and are one of the few dietary sources of choline, a key nutrient in fetal brain development. Removal of a nutrient-rich food such as eggs from the diet can make it harder to attain optimal intakes of any or all of these nutrients.
Overall, the paper represents a somewhat new and growing development in the nutrition science literature—a re-assessment of long standing beliefs about the foods we eat and the diets we prefer. With the troublesome and growing obesity epidemic in the US and abroad, as well as alarming rates of Type II diabetes and other related conditions, this re-assessment is long overdue. We think this paper can add to the debate.
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