This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can view it here.
HEART DISEASE RESEARCH SHOWS EGGS UNFAIRLY BLAMED FOR CLOGGED ARTERIES IN CARDIOVASCULAR DISORDERS
One of the first things I remember learning about cardiovascular disorders as a student dietitian was that clogged arteries was the common cause. I vividly recall the illustration in my textbook of a heart attack triggered by a blockage in the flow of blood. The heart disease research available at the time hinted that it was the cholesterol in eggs that was responsible for that blockage.
I’d like to revisit the subject of eggs, cholesterol and heart disease as we celebrate American Heart Month.
Eggs were first linked to the rising rates of cardiovascular disorders in this country back in the 1970s. As a result, dietary guidelines started recommending that we limit our consumption of egg yolks to no more than 3 per week.
That triggered a lot of diners to add egg white omelets to their menus, but it didn’t slow down the rates of heart disease. It is the number one cause of death for men and women alike, and has held that distinction for over 60 years. More Americans will die of heart disease this year than all forms of cancer combined.
600,000 deaths a year can’t possibly be due to eggs.
What’s Do You Like With Your Eggs?
Some of the earliest evidence used to blame eggs for heart disease was based on research that showed the people who ate the most eggs had a greater incidence of heart attacks than those who ate few eggs. But as we should all know by now, that kind of data does not prove causation.
A closer look on the plates of the egg eaters revealed they liked their eggs with bacon or sausage, fried potatoes, buttered toast and cream in their coffee, followed by a cigarette. When more diligent researchers took a look at what else the big breakfast crowd was eating, they found plenty of other incriminating evidence. Their diets were filled with meats high in saturated fats and low in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, yet eggs took all the blame for their chest pain.
Then there was the research that showed heart disease was caused by clogged arteries, and the plaque clogging our arteries was formed by cholesterol, and eggs were high in cholesterol. The advice that followed was to eat fewer eggs to stop plaque formation. But the dots hadn’t been connected yet that could prove the cholesterol in eggs was the same cholesterol that found in heart-stopping plaque.
As it turned out, those dots didn’t connect. The dietary cholesterol we get from egg yolks, liver and lobster is not the same cholesterol that ends up causing clogged arteries. Instead, we make our own custom cholesterol, mostly from saturated fat, and eggs are low in saturated fat.
Vindication of the Egg
A large scale study published this month in the British Medical Journal provides a much-needed defense of the egg. Scientists did a meta-analysis of 17 previously published reports on egg consumption and the incidence of heart disease or stroke. The analysis included over 12,000 cases of either heart disease or stroke and follow up that covered more than 7 million “person years.” The conclusion was that consuming up to an egg a day was not associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease or stroke among non-diabetic people.
Getting to The Heart Truth About Heart Disease
Just like eating eggs does not cause heart disease, wearing red doesn’t stop it. The Heart Truth campaign uses the red dress to promote awareness of the risk factors for heart disease in women so we will take action to lower our risk. The first step is to know these numbers:
- Blood pressure
- Blood cholesterol
- Blood glucose
- Body Mass Index (based on height and weight)
- Waist circumference
If your numbers are too high, work with your health care team to lower them. At least you won’t have to worry about giving up eggs to do it!