The persistent myth that cholesterol causes heart disease has scared many of us away from eating eggs on a regular basis. But there is absolutely no research that links egg consumption to heart disease.
A recent review of the scientific literature published in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care clearly indicates that egg consumption has no discernible impact on blood cholesterol levels in 70% of the population. In the other 30% of the population (termed “hyperresponders”), eggs do increase both circulating LDL and HDL cholesterol.
You’ve probably been conditioned to believe that anything that raises LDL cholesterol (so-called “bad” cholesterol) should be avoided like the plague. But even the medical mainstream has come to recognize that all LDL cholesterol is not the same. It’s true that small, dense LDL particles have been linked to heart disease. This is primarily due to the fact that they are much more susceptible to oxidative damage than normal LDL cholesterol particles.
However, egg consumption increases the proportion of large, buoyant LDL particles that have been shown to be protective against heart disease. Egg consumption also shifts individuals from the LDL pattern B to pattern A. Pattern B indicates a preponderance of small, dense LDL particles (risk factors for heart disease), while pattern A indicates a preponderance of large, buoyant LDL particles (which protect us from heart disease). This is a good thing.
Eggs one of the most nutrient-dense foods available. One egg provides 13 essential nutrients, all in the yolk (contrary to popular belief, the yolk is far higher in nutrients than the white).
Eggs are an excellent source of B vitamins, which are needed for vital functions in the body, and also provide good quantities of vitamin A, essential for normal growth and development.
The vitamin E in eggs protects against heart disease and some cancers; eggs also contain vitamin D, which promotes mineral absorption and good bone health.
Eggs are rich in iodine, for making thyroid hormones, and phosphorus, essential for healthy bones and teeth.
Eggs are also good sources of antioxidants known to protect the eye. Therefore, increased plasma concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin in individuals consuming eggs are also of interest, especially in those populations susceptible to developing macular degeneration and eye cataracts.
There’s absolutely no reason to limit your consumption of eggs to three to four per week, as recommended by “heart-healthy” nutritional guidelines. In fact, consuming two to three eggs per day would provide a better boost to your health and protection against disease than a multivitamin supplement. Eggs truly are one of nature’s superfoods.
It’s important, however, to make sure that you buy organic, pasture-raised eggs. Studies show that commercially-raised eggs are up to 19 times higher in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. Unfortunately, almost all eggs sold in supermarkets - even the organic eggs sold at chains such as Whole Foods and Wild Oats - are not truly pasture-raised. To find these eggs, check your local farmer’s market or visit the Eat Wild website to locate a source in your area.
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May 24, 2008 at 12:13 pm
Eggs only have about 0.7g of PUFA, give or take. They are not where people are getting the overload of omega-6 fatty aicds. Soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil, rapeseed oil, cottonseed oil, safflower oil, and sunflower oil oil are vastly more dangerous. The amount of omega-6 in half a dozen eggs is less than a serving of potato chips or other junk food or an ounce of peanuts. Those are the foods people should be told to avoid, not the eggs.
The high-carb and high-PUFA diet most people eat today causes cancer and many other diseases, including heart disease. I don’t understand this article completely. You start by saying “there is absolutely no research” linking egg consumption with heart disease. Then you say that 99% of the eggs people are eating are pro-inflammatory. This is speculation, IMO.
May 24, 2008 at 1:14 pm
I completely agree with you about the harmful effects of PUFA and the lack of awareness on this issue in the mainstream health and medical world. The research is clear that PUFA are far more dangerous than saturated fat and cholesterol - which actually turn out to be innocent.
Regarding eggs: while it’s true that there’s no evidence linking egg consumption specifically to heart disease, I do believe that supermarket eggs (which contain up to 19x more omega-6 fatty acids than pasture-raised eggs) should be avoided for numerous reasons. While the amount of PUFA in an egg is relatively low, most of it will be the pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid in a commercial egg. Eggs from pasture-raised chickens have 2/3 more vitamin A and 7 times the amount of beta-carotene than battery-raised eggs. They are also higher in B12, folic acid and vitamin E.
Then of course there are the more obvious health risks that come with battery-raised eggs, such as exposure to the antibiotics and hormones the animals are treated with and increased chances of salmonella and other diseases due to overcrowding.
October 15, 2008 at 3:08 pm
I wanted to bring up this study. Scientists found that normal eggs caused increased LDL oxidation, as did eggs enriched with omega-3 and Vitamin E. But when they developed a low-PUFA egg with a higher ratio of MUFAs to PUFAs, the LDL oxidation did not increase at all.
Chris Masterjohn mentioned a similar study, which is what led me to this. The study he mentioned is a different one, however. Making eggs with a higher MUFA:PUFA ratio gave a strong protection against LDL oxidation, whereas making eggs with more anti-oxidants or omega-3 fats had no benefits. I believe that a high ratio of MUFA:PUFA and SFA:PUFA is ideal.
The regular eggs had a 2:1 MUFA:PUFA ratio, while the high MUFA:PUFA eggs had a 4:1 ratio of oleic acid (18:1 n-9) to linoleic acid (18:2 n-6). I use eggs with a 4:1 MUFA-PUFA ratio (2g of MUFA, 0.5g of PUFA). They have a 3:1 ratio of SFA to PUFA (1.5g of SFA). A lot of eggs have twice as much PUFAs, based on nutritional data (accurate to 0.5g of fat). I would look for eggs with the least PUFAs (pref 0.5g).
The push for omega-3 eggs is dangerous. Even Mercola stopped advising people to eat omega-3 eggs, because they spoil faster and the sources of omega-3 fats are frequently toxic. People would be a lot healthier if farms focused on minimizing the PUFA content of meat, eggs, dairy, etc. Rather than feeding foods like soy that increase it vastly.
October 15, 2008 at 3:51 pm
I agree completely. Thanks again for your comment.
October 15, 2008 at 4:35 pm
Here’s the study Chris M told me about, I think. He wasn’t sure it was the right one. However, it’s by the same key author and university. They found that the low-PUFA eggs were practically identical to a low-egg diet in their effect on LDL oxidation, while high-PUFA eggs increased oxidation of LDL particles. I’ve seen a lot of other studies like this that show anti-oxidants are over-rated and it’s better to simply minimize the consumption of foods that cause (per)oxidation.