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.
- Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2006 Jan;9(1):8-12.