Unscrambling the egg and cholesterol connection

Eggs are, in some ways, the perfect food – they are a power house of nutrition. In addition to their antioxidants, eggs supply a tremendous amount of protein and nutrients including vitamin D, essential fats, B vitamins, choline, lutein, zeaxanthin – all great for eyes, brain and bones. And, all in a low-calorie, low-carbohydrate and cheap little package.

But what about the cholesterol link and the bad rap eggs get? If your cholesterol numbers are high, can you still eat your favorite breakfast food?

The answer is maybe. Enjoying eggs in moderation (fewer than 4–6 per week) may still be an option for patients with high cholesterol. A 2012 study in the journal Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care covers several studies that found that individuals who consume moderate amounts of eggs are not observed to have increases in cholesterol when compared to individuals who cut eggs out of their diets entirely.

Another study in 2011 in the journal Food Chemistry found that regular egg consumption may be associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer because of their high levels of antioxidants. And several studies, including one in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, have found that eggs may help lower blood pressure as well.

Dietary cholesterol doesn’t have as much of an impact on blood cholesterol levels as was previously thought. Instead, saturated fat and sugars are a more likely culprit in terms of heart disease risk, alongside insufficient exercise.

In the majority of population, dietary cholesterol affects serum cholesterol levels only a little, and few studies have linked the intake of dietary cholesterol to an elevated risk of cardiovascular diseases. Globally, many nutrition recommendations no longer set limitations to the intake of dietary cholesterol.

The findings of these many studies suggest that a high-cholesterol diet or frequent consumption of eggs do not increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases even in persons who are genetically predisposed to a greater effect of dietary cholesterol on serum cholesterol levels.


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