Is It Time to ?Eggsonerate? Eggs?

Dietary cholesterol has been shown to elevate LDL-cholesterol levels and has been associated with an increased risk of developing atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease (CHD). This has led the American Heart Association, the National Cholesterol Education Program, and the US Dietary Guidelines to all recommend that Americans should limit their intake of dietary cholesterol and eggs. With eggs being the single greatest source of dietary cholesterol in the American diet, such advise is obviously not conducive to the sale of more eggs. Not surprisingly the commercial egg industry is less than thrilled with recommendations to limit dietary cholesterol and/or eggs. In a long running propaganda campaign led by the Egg Nutrition Center there has been a steady stream of media reports for decades mostly orchestrated by the Egg Nutrition Center proclaiming that dietary cholesterol and eggs have little impact on serum cholesterol levels and are not responsible for CHD. For example, the Fall 2011 issue of the Nutrition Close-Up newsletter from the Egg Nutrition Center has a blurb titled “Rethinking Dietary Cholesterol” in which they sum up an opinion article published in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care by Dr. Fernandez, stating “... the lack of a relationship between dietary cholesterol and CHD should be sufficient to support the policy of no upper limit for dietary cholesterol.” Already based on the flawed arguments of apologists for the egg industry have seen several European countries, Korea, India, Australia, and Canada have removed the limits of dietary cholesterol from their dietary guidelines. Could pseudoscientific arguments espoused by Dr. Fernandez and propaganda from the American Egg Board result in the “eggsoneration” of dietary cholesterol and eggs from the limits placed on their intake by the AHA and public health agen- cies in the US? Perhaps but should it happen and Americans started eat- ing more eggs and cholesterol there is little doubt that this would raise total and LDL-cholesterol levels.1 Indeed, a study of vegetarian college students showed in a double-blind controlled clinical trial that increasing their dietary cholesterol with more eggs from 97mg to 418mg per day raised LDL-cholesterol levels by an average of 12% in 3 weeks.2 In addition to elevated fasting cholesterol levels there is growing data showing that eating more eggs and cholesterol damages arteries by altering postprandial blood lipids, increasing inflammation, and impairing endothelial function.3

By James Kenney, PhD, FACN

1 AJCN 1981;34:2092-9

2 Lancet, March 1984:647-9

3 Can J Cardiol 2010;26:e336-e339

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