Eggs and Health

From Berkeley Wellness Letter:

Eggs have a bad reputation because of their high cholesterol content: 210 milligrams in the yolk of a large egg. But, in fact, they do not raise blood cholesterol in most people—and they may even be good for your heart in some ways. Here’s the latest on eggs.

Eggs and your heart

You may be surprised to learn that dietary cholesterol, found in animal foods, raises blood cholesterol in only about one-third of people. And, as shown in some egg studies, dietary cholesterol causes the body to produce HDL (“good”) cholesterol along with LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in these “hyper-responders,” thus helping offset potential adverse effects. Moreover, the LDL particles that form are larger in size—and larger LDL particles are thought to be less dangerous than small ones. In studies at the University of Connecticut, for example, eating three eggs a day for 30 days increased cholesterol in susceptible people, but their LDL particles were larger, and there was no change in the ratio between LDL and HDL, which suggests no major change in coronary risk.

More significantly, eggs do not appear to contribute to heart disease in most people. A pivotal study from Harvard in 1999, of nearly 120,000 men and women, found no association between eggs—up to one a day—and heart disease, except in people with diabetes. Nor did it find a link between eggs and strokes. Studies since then have similarly vindicated eggs, including a Japanese study of more than 90,000 middle-aged people in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2006, and a study in 2007 from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, which both found no link between frequent egg consumption and heart disease. In light of these findings, recommendations about eggs have changed over the years, and cholesterol guidelines, in general, are being rethought.

The unsaturated fats and other nutrients, including B vitamins, in eggs may even be beneficial to heart health. It’s the saturated-fat-rich foods that typically accompany eggs (bacon, sausage, cheese, and biscuits) and how eggs are often prepared (fried in lots of butter) that can raise blood cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. A large egg has only 1.5 grams of saturated fat and about 70 calories. A Bacon, Egg & Cheese Biscuit from McDonald’s, on the other hand, has 11 grams of saturated fat and 1,360 milligrams of sodium (more than half the daily limit for these nutrients) and 450 calories.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Kenny Johnson

    Great news.. because I love eggs and the yolk is the best part! :)

  • Mike M

    The best thing we could do for hunger and health care in this country is to make a law requiring all households to have at least one chicken.

  • scotmcknight

    Now I gotta say, Mike, that’s one interesting claim… proposal. Care to explain?

  • Mike M

    Dr. M: I’m being partially facetious (not sarcastic!). Because of the expanding Hmong populations, several cities in Wisconsin like Fond Du Lac have now reversed their chicken bans. Heart attack rates have NOT risen since.
    Unfortunately, “fats” got a bad rap starting in the hippie era and were officially stigmatized, along with eggs, with the creation of the food pyramid by the US government in the early 80′s. We started seeing children with skin and neurological problems because their parents avoided fats at all cost. Now we know better. There are “good fats” like omega 3′s, medium-chain triglycerides, and monounsaturated fats. And there are “bad fats” like the trans fats. Our bodies are used to handling the lipids such as cholesterol, having evolved (er, having been created) to metabolize them. Eggs also contain lecithin which truly is heart healthy. While it’s too legalistic for me, a good start on how God wants us to eat is “The Maker’s Diet” by Jordan Rubin. Finishing details can be found in “Wheat Belly” by William Davis, MD, a cardiologist up here in Milwaukee.
    Anyway, that’s the reasoning behind my comment. Thanks.

  • http://bookwi.se Adam Shields

    Up to one egg a day? Eggs are in all kinds of things we eat. So how would you know one egg a day? I am not anti egg. I love eggs. They are some of the few food my nieces, who I feed breakfast and take to school every day, will conistently eat. But the 3 and 5 year olds usually eat at least 2 eggs a day, along with some hash browns, milk and/or juice and occationally a bit of oat meal. They don’t always finish the food, but when they are hungry they demolish it.

  • Mike M

    Adam: if you’re not squeamish, read “The 4-Hour Body” by Timothy Ferriss. He did the kind of research I like: on himself. On an extended egg-only diet, his lipid profile dramatically improved. I think the “one egg a day” thing is only CVYA.


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