Eggs, Dietary Cholesterol, And Heart Disease

Dr. Greger is taking on eggs today (again):

So, do eggs and other sources of dietary cholesterol raise the risk for heart disease? Dr. Greger argues they do.

EggsScrambled2As I’ve come to understand, you have to look at the whole diet. For instance, for a given amount of saturated fat eaten, a given amount of dietary cholesterol (eggs) eaten at the same time will raise serum LDL cholesterol higher than if that dietary cholesterol was paired with a polyunsaturated fat, such as corn oil.1

Also, is any of that dietary cholesterol oxidized? Because if it is (and unless you eat it raw and very close in time to the demise of its source, some of it will be) it will contribute to the development of atherosclerosis and heart disease (and to the growth of cancer, as I just wrote). So says Fred Kummerow, a 98-year-old emeritus professor of comparative biosciences at the University of Illinois:

“Oxidized lipids contribute to heart disease both by increasing deposition of calcium on the arterial wall, a major hallmark of atherosclerosis, and by interrupting blood flow, a major contributor to heart attack and sudden death.”

And Professor Kummerow is of a mind that cholesterol is actually good for your heart! (Fortunately, our bodies manufacture all we need.)

Also, fruits and vegetables contain compounds that act as anti-oxidants, slowing further oxidation of consumed fats. You have to look at the whole diet.

You can’t judge well the effect of a single nutrient outside the context of the whole diet. It’s also risky to generalize the effects you may see of a nutrient in a small and perhaps homogeneous group. Nutrients, like dietary cholesterol, act differently in men vs. women, in old vs, young, in healthy vs. diseased (e.g. diabetes).

What is helpful, in my opinion, is to reflect upon the body of evidence. In this case, it looks like their exists a credible body of evidence to support limiting egg (and other dietary cholesterol) consumption.

1 Hypercholesterolemic Effect Of Dietary Cholesterol In Diets Enriched In Polyunsaturated And Saturated Fat, Atherosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, 1994

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