“I eat eggs most mornings,” writes UK bestselling author and science journalist Dr. Michael Mosley.
“Not so long ago,” he continues, “this was considered nutritional suicide.”
The prevailing medical view for decades was that foods high in cholesterol would inevitably lead to clogged arteries. And eggs are VERY high in cholesterol.
Today this fear, Mosley states, is totally misplaced, and we shouldn’t hesitate to tuck into such a great source of high-quality protein, vitamins, minerals, phospholipids and carotenoids.
This is established science. Many studies exist to back up his words. In fact, cholesterol in your food – found in animal products like meat and milk as well as eggs – has nothing to do with your blood cholesterol levels.
And now a new human trial demonstrates that eggs not only do no harm to the heart, they may even lower the risk of heart attack and stroke!
Early Studies Were Flawed
The original idea linking cholesterol with heart disease goes back to 1913, when rabbits fed huge amounts of cholesterol developed lesions in the arteries. This was repeated with the same results in other animals.
However, the experiments were mostly conducted on herbivores. These animals live on a plant diet. They don’t eat cholesterol-containing animal products, so their bodies are not adapted to eating such foods. It’s hard to conceive of a stupider study.
When later repeated on dogs, which eat meat, the extra cholesterol was regulated and excreted, and did not cause harm.
Because of these herbivore studies, and because it seemed intuitively reasonable that eating cholesterol raised yours, “scientists” told everyone that consuming less cholesterol would improve your HDL and LDL scores on those annoying, ubiquitous blood tests.
This became widely accepted – as you probably know.
Top Scientist Performs U-Turn
Biologist and pathologist Dr. Ancel Keys, who developed the saturated fat/heart disease theory, believed back in 1952 that there was “overwhelming evidence” for cholesterol as the culprit.
Yet three years later he changed his mind after finding that no matter how much cholesterol he added to the daily diet of volunteers (up to 3000 mg, the equivalent of eating 15 large eggs), blood cholesterol remained stubbornly unchanged.
Somehow the news never penetrated the skulls of the overpaid “geniuses” in white coats.
In 1992 a comprehensive and vigorous analysis of the evidence found that the body regulates cholesterol to keep internal conditions constant no matter how much you eat.
A review of 17 previous studies published in the British Medical Journal in 2013 concluded that “higher consumption of eggs (up to one per day) is not associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease or stroke.”
It’s Official: You Can Eat Eggs
The heyday for eggs was back in the 1940s, when consumption peaked at 380 eggs per person each year – more than one egg a day. This fell to a low of 230 in the mid-1990s, but the public finally seems to be learning the truth, as consumption has now grown to 279.
Even the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015 – 2020 Eighth Edition has dropped the daily 300 mg limit for dietary cholesterol found in the previous edition. (Weirdly, they still advise that we “should eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible.”)
The health authorities seem more concerned with saturated fats, but since a few foods like eggs, they state, “are higher in dietary cholesterol but not saturated fats,” they are now willing to put eggs back on the menu.
About 20 years ago, when it was becoming evident that cholesterol in the diet did not raise a human’s blood cholesterol, “scientists” proclaimed that it was saturated fats that did this. Another case of bad science, but I’m not going to go into it here. . .
Eggs are Heart-Healthy
In the most recent study published in the May edition of Heart, 175 collaborators from the UK and China examined data from 416,213 Chinese adults aged 30 to 79 who were free of cardiovascular disease, diabetes or cancer. They were followed up nine years later
Turns out that men and women who ate an average of 5.32 eggs a week compared to those eating just two eggs a week enjoyed a 26% reduced risk of hemorrhagic stroke and a 28% lower risk of dying from this form of stroke. They also had a 12% reduced risk of developing heart disease and an 18% reduced risk of death caused by cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Wow. Not only are eggs not bad for your heart, they’re good for your heart. Bad medical advice probably contributed to the deaths of thousands.
The authors’ conclusion: “[M]oderate level of egg consumption (up to <1 egg/day) was significantly associated with lower risk of CVD, largely independent of other risk factors.”
Now, are Chinese different from other nationalities? Could be. The study population differed from Americans in many respects. They experience higher rates of hemorrhagic stroke, and mostly had a healthy weight and blood pressure, so we can’t say for sure the results would apply here.
But the evidence we’ve got is good enough. Previous studies show eggs do no harm. This one suggests they’re probably more effective than statin drugs at reducing heart problems.
My conclusion: I eat eggs, and have for many years.
Dr. Luc Djousse, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, agrees: “The take home message from this [study], is that when consumed in moderation there does not appear to be an elevated risk of developing heart disease or stroke.”
This sentiment is also backed up by Tim Chico, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Sheffield, UK:
“People who eat eggs can be reassured that they do not seem to pose a risk to their heart.”