Heart disease research shows eggs unfairly blamed for clogged arteries in cardiovascular disorders

Clogged Arteries Are Not Due to Eggs

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!

Controversy over eating too many eggs continues with recent study

Is Eating Too Many Eggs Bad For You?

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, so the post has been reproduced here.

CONTROVERSY OVER EATING TOO MANY EGGS CONTINUES WITH RECENT STUDY

If your neck got sore last week after hearing the report that eating too many eggs might be bad for your arteries, blame it on whiplash. The reemergence of bad news about good foods always leaves me feeling like I’ve been hit from behind, too.

Fortunately, there’s relief in the facts.

The Hard Boiled Truth

First, I want to disclose that I’m a big fan of eggs. Chicken eggs in the shell are a 100% natural, nutrient-dense, low cost food that are widely available and highly versatile in the culinary world. I cannot think of another food that delivers so much value for just $0.20 apiece.

I will come to the defense of eggs whenever they are under attack because I know we have a lot to lose if we let this fragile but mighty food get knocked out of our diets without good cause.

Headlines Scramble the Details

The latest study linking eggs to clogged arteries was done at Western University in Ontario, Canada and published online Monday in the journal Atherosclerosis. The headlines covering the research said eating too many egg yolks was as bad for your heart as smoking cigarettes. That really got me riled because I really don’t like tobacco products.

So I looked into the details of the study, not just the news coverage about it. Here are the facts that once again back up my defense of eggs.

  • The study was observational, not designed to prove cause and effect.
  • The subjects were people at risk for heart disease and smokers, not a random, healthy population.
  • Subjects answered questions about how many eggs they ate, smoking history, and some other lifestyle factors, but none about the rest of their diet, exercise habits, or alcohol use.
  • Plaque build-up was similar between those who ate the most egg yolks and those who smoked the most, but the egg eaters did not have higher total cholesterol and bad (LDL) cholesterol or lower good (HDL) cholesterol levels compared to those who ate fewer eggs.

Sunny Side of the Story

What this means is that the researchers did not ask enough questions to be able to explain why the people who enjoyed eggs the most had more plaque in their carotid arteries. It could be they ate their eggs with other foods high in saturated fat, like bacon and sausage, which do clog arteries. Maybe they did not eat many fruits and vegetables rich in protective antioxidants. Or it’s possible they did a poor job of estimating the number of eggs they actually ate in their lifetime. Do you know how many eggs you’ve ever eaten?

What the research did show is that eating eggs improves the overall blood cholesterol profile, but that was nowhere to be found in the headline.

My take-away is this retrospective study of 1262 people based on survey data does not outweigh the results of a prospective study done at Harvard with more than 100,000 subjects. It found no significant difference in cardiovascular risk between those consuming one egg per week and those eating an egg a day.

That means eggs will remain a regular part of my diet, how about yours?

New research shows good results when diet drinks are part of overall healthy diet

Can Diet Drinks Be Part of Healthy Diet?

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 read the blog here.

NEW RESEARCH SHOWS GOOD RESULTS WHEN DIET DRINKS ARE PART OF OVERALL HEALTHY DIET

Links between the consumption of diet drinks and health problems have been reported in the past, but no smoking gun has ever been found. Now researchers have uncovered the secret weapon. Eating a healthy diet, with or without diet drinks, lowers the risk for chronic disease.

Does this come as a surprise to you? It certainly doesn’t to me. I have always professed that no single food or ingredient, including diet beverages, is responsible for obesity or the diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and cancer that go with it.

Here’s what the latest study found.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill looked at the dietary patterns of more than 4000 Americans who were between the ages of 18 and 30 when the study began in the mid-1980s. Subjects were classified as having a “Prudent” diet made up of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, milk, fish, nuts and seeds or a “Western” diet with higher intakes of fast food, processed food, meat, poultry, pizza, sugar, and snacks.

Over the course of 20 years, 827 participants in the study developed metabolic syndrome. After considering other risk factors, such as body weight and level of exercise, the researchers evaluated the relationship between the use of diet beverages and the two dietary patterns and the risk of metabolic syndrome. This is what they found.

Those who ate a:

  • Prudent diet with no diet drinks had the lowest risk of metabolic syndrome
  • Prudent diet with diet drinks had a slightly higher risk (2%) of metabolic syndrome
  • Western diet with diet soda had the highest risk of metabolic syndrome

The researchers concluded that their study was observational and does not prove diet drinks have a negative effect on health. But there’s another way to look at the results. Those eating a Prudent diet were more likely to consume diet drinks than those eating a Western diet, which suggests a strong link between diet drinks and healthier diets.

How would you rate your diet over the past 20 years?

Sitting less can reduce the risk for many diseases and dying prematurely.

Sitting Too Much Raises the Risk for Dying Sooner

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the original blog here.

STUDY SHOWS THE MORE HOURS SPENT SITTING THE GREATER THE CHANCE OF DYING

If you sit more than you sleep, you may have Sitting Disease. That’s the term used to describe a sedentary lifestyle. And even if you exercise for an hour a day – which very few people do -you’re not off the hook. Sedentary is defined as a lack of whole body muscle movement for extended periods of time. So if you spend most of your day in a chair or a bed after that daily workout, you’re sedentary!

Sitting, or long periods of inactivity, have been shown to raise your risk of developing obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. The increased risk for disease associated with sitting is not the same thing as the recommendation to exercise more. Sitting for many hours a day is the problem. Exercise or other forms of physical activity are also important to good health, but for different reasons.

Even your life expectancy is impacted by sitting according to a study done by the American Cancer Society in 2010. Researchers looked at the amount of time spent sitting and being active in 123,216 individuals. They found women who sat the most and were the least physically active had a 94% higher likelihood of dying compared to women who sat less and moved more. For men the increased likelihood of dying was 48% higher.

The extended hours spent sitting have accumulated as jobs moved from field to office and walking was replaced by riding. Modern conveniences in our homes eliminate the need to chop wood, haul water and scrub clothes, so we have more time to sit and watch television. The very presence of so many “screens” in our lives – whether TV, computer or handheld – and the endless programs, movies, games and connections we can see on them keep us sitting even longer.

The problem is our bodies weren’t designed for all this inactivity. Throughout human history survival required that we remain active and alert. The only time our ancestors weren’t in motion was when they were sleeping.

The obesity epidemic has been blamed on too many calories and not enough exercise, but sitting is another contributor to the problem. Once you sit down the rate at which you burn calories drops to about 1 calorie per minute, regardless of how hard you are thinking. Standing increases the rate at which we burn calories by 10% while walking increases it by 150%!

Sitting has been described by some as the new smoking it’s so damaging to our health. It‘s time to stand up and fight back against the Sitting Disease!

To put this information to use, all you need to do is stand up right now while reading the rest of this blog. Then build regular time-outs for standing into your day by doing things standing that you once did sitting. You can stand:

  • Every time the phone rings and remain standing for all calls
  • During all commercials when watching TV
  • In line inside the bank instead of sitting in the car in the drive-through
  • When reading at your desk for 10 minutes out of every hour
  • On subways, in waiting rooms, at the boarding gate in the airport
  • To change the channel on the TV or simply “lose” the remote

Check Just Stand! for more tips and information

See related post on Exercise Can be Fun!

Metabolic Syndrome Causes Greater Disease Risk Than Obesity Alone

Metabolic Syndrome is Worse than Obesity

RISK FACTORS FOR HEART DISEASE, STROKE AND DIABETES INCREASE WITH METABOLIC SYNDROME

Metabolic Syndrome is what you have when you are overweight, and most of your excess weight is around your middle. Along with that apple shape you also have to have any two of these other conditions: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides and too little HDL, the good cholesterol.

The American Heart Association estimates that nearly 35% of American adults meet these criteria. This means only about half as many people have Metabolic Syndrome as those who are just overweight. But Metabolic Syndrome is far worse. It doubles your risk for heart disease and stroke and increases your risk for diabetes by five times.

How to tell if you have Metabolic Syndrome?

The quickest way to tell if you have Metabolic Syndrome is to use a cloth tape measure to take an honest reading of your waist measurement. Place the beginning of the tape on top of one hip bone and bring it around your back, over the other hip bone, on top of your navel, then reconnect it at the hip bone. The tape should make a circle around you that is the same distance from the floor all the way around. Do this without pulling too tight or holding your breath. Now compare your reading to the values below to see if you are at risk.

Waist circumference: Women greater than 35 inches, Men greater than 40 inches

Medications: You use prescription drugs to lower cholesterol and to lower blood pressure

If your waist circumference is too large but you aren’t on two prescriptions, here are the numbers you need to have to avoid starting on medications and qualifying for Metabolic Syndrome.

  • Triglycerides: less than 150mg
  • HDL Cholesterol: over 50mg for women, 40mg for men
  • Blood Pressure: less than 130/85
  • Fasting Blood Sugar: less than 100mg

How do you treat Metabolic Syndrome?

There is no single treatment regimen for Metabolic Syndrome. Each risk factor – your weight, waist circumference, cholesterol and blood sugar levels and blood pressure – must each be managed in the best way possible to bring them back into a normal range.

The one common denominator to treating all of the risk factors, other than to quit smoking, is a healthier diet and more physical activity. Even if only a small amount of your excess weight is lost, a better diet and more exercise will improve your other numbers, and that’s important.

A study published this month in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that increasing the fiber content of the diet did more to lower the risk for Metabolic Syndrome than reducing the intake of saturated fat and cholesterol. Of course, controlling fat intake is important, but if you want to focus on foods you can add to your diet in place of some other foods you’re now eating, go for more high fiber whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. They belong in your daily diet for lots of other reasons that are good for your health, anyway, so why not get started?

Is your muffin top putting you at risk for Metabolic Syndrome?

): Investing in childhood nutrition saves money in healthcare costs

Good Pediatric Care Offers Solution to Healthcare Crisis

Cost of healthcare can be reduced if children learn to eat right

While the nation continues to search for a way to resolve the healthcare crisis, I am convinced the answer lies in making sure every child in the country has good pediatric care. Other than selecting your own grandparents for their longevity genes, getting goo healthcare in the first two decades of life is the best way to improve your odds of beating your actuarial table.

Let me explain.

The growth and development of a healthy child require fresh air and water, a balanced diet, time to play, plenty of sleep and a safe environment. Adequate immunization and education seal the deal.

Accidents are the only leading cause of death in the U.S. (at number 5) that are not completely preventable, but virtually all of the others are.

Diet plays a major role in each of the top three causes of death while smoking controls the fourth:

  1. Heart disease
  2. Cancer
  3. Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases)
  4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases

So as I see it, the single best way to topple this country’s runaway healthcare costs is to make sure every child has an adequate diet throughout their childhood and adolescence. Establishing healthy eating habits at an early age is the best way to insure those habits will continue for the rest of one’s life and continue to protect one’s health. Trying to change poor eating habits in adulthood is far more difficult.

Pediatric healthcare providers have a distinct advantage when it comes to promoting good nutrition to their patients because the nutritional needs of children are remarkably the same around the world. They need foods of the right consistency, variety and quantity to thrive, yet no single food other than breast milk is universally found in the diets of children. Their undeveloped palates leave them open to experience and enjoy many new tastes and textures if regularly introduced, so there is no need to create special foods and menus just for kids.

To prevent overeating children should not receive external pressures to consume more than they want. Instead be allowed to respond to their internal cues of hunger and satiety. The same is true about eating for other external reasons, such as when food is used as a reward or to meet emotional needs. When these inappropriate relationships with food are not encouraged, children learn to eat for the right reasons and avoid the “food issues” that lead so many people to overeat today.

It almost sounds too simple to be true, but “you are what you eat.” The sooner in life we get that right, the better off we’ll all be.

Related articles:

Research on Mindless Eating Offers New Insight into Obesity

Guess What? There Are No Junk Foods!