The Sticky Truth About Eggs And Cholesterol

The truth about eggs and cholesterol
The truth about eggs and cholesterol

I often tell my kids, “Don’t believe everything you read on Google.” Google’s ranking system is a webpage popularity contest. Too often, its highest ranking search result bears little resemblance to the truth. 

As a case in point, my search on “truth about eggs and cholesterol” returned a Healthline article as its top-ranked result.

 Truth About Eggs And Cholesterol search result

The article’s first sentence proclaims, “The science is clear that up to 3 whole eggs per day are perfectly safe.”   

But as we saw yesterday, the science is anything but clear. Northwestern University researchers investigating whether eating a single egg were bad for cholesterol concluded: 

“Therefore, at present, there is no unanimous agreement on this subject, and the controversy will continue until new confirmatory evidence becomes available.”

In my opinion, the Healthline author’s apparent “nothing to see here” attitude projects a need to hide something. He belabors the point by referencing 45 studies. Perhaps it’s an attempt to appear “evidence-based,” as the website purports.

One small problem? The cherry-picked references are a minuscule fraction of the available research on this very contentious topic: 

  • Running a search for eggs and cholesterol on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) PubMed website turns up over 1,800 results. 
  • Narrowing the search to “eggs cholesterol diet” still returns more than 800 results.

Finding the Truth about Eggs and Cholesterol: Dietary Guidelines 

Our bodies do need small amounts of cholesterol, but they’re capable of manufacturing it without any help from our diet. Consuming more of this waxy substance than we need is considered a genuinely sticky problem.

The Sticky Truth About Eggs And Cholesterol
Sticky cholesterol builds up over time.

Cholesterol building up in our arteries over decades can lead to heart disease. That’s why nearly all experts or official dietary recommendations call for consuming as little cholesterol as possible:  

  • Europe Society of Cardiology and European Atherosclerosis Society: “lowering LDL [cholesterol]… as much as possible.” (2019) 
  • USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, “… individuals should eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible.” 
  • USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, “… dietary cholesterol consumption to be as low as possible.

 The Problem is Clear and the Solution Is Simple 

What’s the best way to lower LDL cholesterol “as much as possible,” as the ESC/EAS recommends? Stop eating high-cholesterol foods! And ounce for ounce, what widely available food is highest in cholesterol?

Egg yolks, with a heart-stopping 1,085 mg of cholesterol per 100gThat is the shocking truth about eggs and cholesterol! No other widely consumed food comes close.

Cholesterol-loaded beef brain tacos are heart attacks waiting to happen The Sticky Truth About Eggs And Cholesterol
Cholesterol-loaded beef brain tacos are heart attacks waiting to happen.  Yuki cat CC BY-NC 2.0

Among less-known foods, beef brain alone has more cholesterol (3,010mg/ per 100g).  But for the standard fare? Butter has 214 mg per 100 grams.

Oyster and lobster are at 206 and 200, respectively. The highest land animal is beef, with “only” 90mg per 100g.  So it’s not surprising that the most recent large study shedding light on the truth about eggs and cholesterol found that:  

“… intakes of eggs and cholesterol were associated with higher all-cause, CVD, and cancer mortality. The increased mortality associated with egg consumption was largely influenced by cholesterol intake. 

The team of researchers from China’s Zhejiang University had this final recommendation: 

“Our findings suggest limiting cholesterol intake and replacing whole eggs with egg whites/substitutes or other alternative protein sources for facilitating cardiovascular health and long-term survival.” 

So I’ll repeat the advice I give to my kids:  Please don’t believe everything you read on Google! The science underlying the truth about eggs and cholesterol isn’t clear that up to three whole eggs a day are perfectly safe,” despite Healthline’s claim. 

What is clear? 

  • Egg yolks are extraordinarily high in cholesterol.
  • High cholesterol is consistently linked to higher death rates by all causes.
  • Your body naturally makes all the cholesterol you’ll ever need.

So please be smart. Choose foods with no cholesterol – like all plant-based foods

 

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