Several decades ago, when a body of research indicated that high serum (blood) cholesterol put some people in a higher risk category for cardiovascular disease, dietary cholesterol was immediately—and probably prematurely—assumed to be unhealthy, and the ensuing panic led to a shunning of all sources of cholesterol, good or bad.
Below the din, researchers were revealing two key factors: First, not only are there many more forms of blood cholesterol and other lipid compounds than realized, not all are harmful and, in fact, all have their critical functions to perform. Second, the connection between dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol is less rigid than believed, and only a portion of the population sees a cause and effect relationship between the cholesterol they eat and an abiding change in serum cholesterol. It also has been determined that certain sources of dietary cholesterol, such as eggs, rarely have deleterious effects on serum cholesterol levels in healthy persons.
A recent National Egg Product School presentation given by Mitch Kanter, Ph.D. (of the Egg Nutrition Center) introduced new research on eggs and cholesterol and summarized the benefits of eggs—an excellent source of bioavailable dietary protein—as versatile and healthful ingredients. Foremost, results of the new study, by the USDA, indicate that a large egg has 14% less cholesterol than previously thought.
Previously, and according to most USDA tables, an egg was categorized as having 215mg of cholesterol. But based on re-evaluation by the USDA, future tables will reflect the new cholesterol value for a large egg: 185mg.
Whether the new USDA cholesterol values result from changes in hens’ diets over the years, or breeding changes or changes in the rate of lay, or if refinements of the analytical methods led to the differences, is uncertain, but for the few consumers who do need to watch dietary cholesterol, as well as for manufacturers using whole eggs and egg yolks in formulation, the information could be of significant benefit.
Recapping other news about eggs, Kanter reviewed ongoing research on eggs and diabetes. A report out of Harvard University using epidemiological data suggested a positive correlation between egg consumption and diabetes risk. However, researchers at Baylor University evaluating data from the NHANES-USDA database to show that the culprit is more likely food groupings commonly containing eggs—in other words, “the company that eggs keep” when it comes to the connection between not only eggs and type 2 diabetes but eggs and CVD as well. In essence, the research suggests that eggs are “an innocent bystander.”
Furthermore, Kanter reported that ENC is presently funding research to look at the effects of overall diet quality in egg eaters vs. non egg eaters in a lower-income population, and will measure BMI and CVD markers. Another study is looking at the effects of incremental increases in dietary carbohydrate on saturated fat levels and blood-borne risk markers for cardiovascular disease. The hypothesis is that carbohydrate intake is more responsible for high serum fat levels than is saturated fat intake. Kanter noted that this study is co‐funded by Dairy Management Inc. and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
Kanter also reviewed previous studies that demonstrated eggs and the cholesterol in them do not correlate to increased CVD risk. Specifically, he cited a series of studies with normal, hypercholesterolemic and CVD subjects consuming a high egg intake (two to three eggs per day) for six to eight weeks. Results showed no change in serum cholesterol, no increase in inflammation and no impact on endothelial function—in short, Kanter noted, there were no adverse effects on health in diseased populations.
Results of a recent atherosclerosis study in Canada suggesting egg intake increases CVD risk as much as cigarette smoking received much press coverage in North America and abroad because of its sensational headline. But experts sounded off on major flaws. Elizabeth Ward, MS, wrote, “This is a single, observational study that does not prove cause and effect and does not change the fact that more than 40 years of research suggests that healthy people can eat eggs without having a significant impact on their risk for heart disease.” Elizabeth Whelan, M.D., of the American Council on Science and Health, wrote, “This study amounts to little more than data dredging, and Americans should know that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with adding eggs to a balanced diet.” More to the point, Chris Mohr, Ph.D., wrote, “With this study there were a ton of controllable factors, which all can play a role in atherosclerosis, that weren’t examined.”
One eye-opening statistic Kanter brought to light is that, while the U.S. diet has seen an overall decrease in daily cholesterol intake, from 650mg to less than 250mg, and a decrease in total fat intake, from 40% of calories to 33% (including a decrease in saturated fat from 17% of calories to 12%), there has been no decrease in the population’s CVD risk. He notes that this burgeoning research suggests an alternative hypothesis: High carbohydrates and insulin could promote inflammation, obesity and CVD, suggesting higher protein foods could replace carbs in a healthier balanced diet.
As a great natural source of high-quality protein, and a vehicle for 12 important vitamins and minerals, research indicates that eggs can promote satiety and reduced caloric intake. Moreover, very few foods naturally have vitamin D, an important vitamin that is deficient in a large number of diets. The functionality of eggs in the diet and in formulation makes eggs a key health ingredient bearing close consideration.
HIGH Newsworthiness & HIGH Motivation
Protein: Starting the day with a high-quality protein breakfast like eggs, helps provide sustained mental and physical energy throughout the day.
Weight: The high-quality protein in eggs helps you to feel fuller longer and stay energized, which contributes to maintaining a healthy weight.
Vitamin D: Eggs are one of the few foods that are a naturally good source of vitamin D, which helps to form and maintain strong bones.
Lower Cholesterol: The USDA recently announced that cholesterol levels in eggs are lower than previously thought. The average amount of cholesterol in one large egg is 185mg, 14% lower than previously recorded.
Eye Health: Eggs contain lutein, which can help maintain eye health.