Modern medicine has suggested for over two decades that those at risk for heart attacks should reduce or eliminate eggs from their diet. The thinking was that the cholesterol in eggs was a contributing factor in arterial plaques, increasing atherosclerosis and heart disease. Further research is showing that egg consumption, and cholesterol consumption overall, does not correlate with these negative effects, even in clients with a genetic predisposition to these problems.
The University of Eastern Finland assessed 1032 men between 42 and 60 years old, who had no diagnosis of cardiovascular disease at the onset of the study. 32.5% of the participants were carriers of the APOE4 gene variant, which increases the amount of circulating cholesterol in the bloodstream and alters cholesterol metabolism. This variant has been implicated in atherosclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease.
In this Finnish study, the participants were followed for 21 years. What the researchers found was that diets high in cholesterol and diets which included frequent consumption of eggs did not raise the risk of coronary heart disease. There was also no correlation seen with high cholesterol diets or frequent egg consumption in the thickening of arterial walls. Both of these conclusions are true for populations with and without the high-risk APOE-4 gene variant.
On average, the study participants consumed one egg per day, and had an average daily cholesterol intake of 520mg. The USDA currently recommends no more than 300mg of cholesterol be consumed per day, so these new findings may spur changes to future intake suggestions.
This is encouraging news for those clients who enjoy eggs, since eggs are a versatile source of nutrition. The protein and healthy fats, along with fat-soluble vitamins can now be consumed without fear of heart disease. Detailed research into the link between dietary cholesterol and heart disease hasn’t been available until recently, but more and more studies are being done on food-sources of cholesterol versus that which is produced endogenously.
We’re beginning to see more detailed data on how our bodies produce and absorb cholesterol, and evidence is mounting to indicate dietary cholesterol intake isn’t a significant contributing factor to cholesterol that is circulating in the bloodstream. In addition, this paper published by the American Heart Association shows that an increase in dietary cholesterol suppresses endogenous cholesterol production, making the cholesterol we consume even less of a concern.
This new information might help your clients make sense of cholesterol’s health-promoting roles in the body. Since cholesterol is vital for the structure of cell membranes and acts as the backbone for all hormones in the body, they no longer need to think of cholesterol as a double edged sword.