A while back I wrote about lowering my cholesterol without statins. One thing I wasn’t sure about was my habit of eating eggs almost every day. My first meal (usually around noon or so) usually consists only of one or two eggs–all protein/fat and no carbohydrates. This is part of the Renegade Diet strategy for optimizing fat burning hormones and energy levels throughout the day.
Here’s the concern I had: a large egg has around 185 milligrams of cholesterol or more, which is about 2/3 the recommended daily intake of cholesterol. Whole eggs were once considered unhealthy because of this, but there’s also a significant number of studies showing no real connection between egg consumption and heart disease.
The consumption of whole eggs is controversial to say the least. Researchers from the Canadian Journal of Cardiology (2010) have expressed concerns that the public has been lulled into a false sense of safety regarding dietary cholesterol: “The evidence presented in the current review suggests that the widespread perception among the public and health care professionals that dietary cholesterol is benign is misplaced, and that improved education is needed to correct this misconception.”1
But a recent study suggests consuming whole eggs can be beneficial when other aspects of one’s diet are in order. Researchers took participants with metabolic syndrome and asked them to follow a moderately carbohydrate restricted diet (25-20% of calories coming from carbs). Half of them consumed three whole eggs a day while the other half consumed the equivalent in yolk-free egg substitutes. Both groups experienced improvements in blood lipid profiles (triglycerides and cholesterol levels). But those who ate whole eggs had greater improvement in both the increase of HDL levels (the “good” cholesterol) and the decrease of VLDL levels (the most dangerous type of “bad” cholesterol). The group that consumed whole eggs also experienced improvements in insulin levels.
Here’s something else I find fascinating in this study: I mentioned the importance of particle size when I first wrote about cholesterol (bigger, “fluffier” particles are safer than smaller ones). The subjects who ate eggs daily also experienced an increase in particle size in both their HDL and LDL cholesterol.2
It seems consuming whole eggs is beneficial if it is part of a dietary strategy that restricts carbohydrates.
1. Can J Cardiol. 2010 Nov;26(9):e336-9. Dietary cholesterol and egg yolks: not for patients at risk of vascular disease.
2. Metabolism. 2013 Mar;62(3):400-10. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2012.08.014. Epub 2012 Sep 27. Whole egg consumption improves lipoprotein profiles and insulin sensitivity to a greater extent than yolk-free egg substitute in individuals with metabolic syndrome.