Cracking misconceptions: eggs, cholesterol and youBy Kim Kesseler, RD
Sometimes, a little misconception can have a big effect on public perception.
Think back in time—if there was ever one controversy surrounding eggs, we can bet you’ll remember it: cholesterol.
The word itself was enough to cause panic in the health-conscious among us, yet the underlying cause of that panic turned out to be a great deal of misunderstanding about cholesterol and how it works (and how this all relates to eggs)—what Canadians may not know is why we were ever worried about it to begin with!
In part, this cholesterol concern can be traced back to the antiquated recommendations of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the American Heart Association—five decades ago, it was advised that Americans limit their dietary cholesterol.1 Over time, these recommendations did not evolve at the same pace of science, making them outdated and not reflective of the role that cholesterol does play in our diets.
And since eggs do naturally have roughly 200 mg of cholesterol,2 they were given a bad rap that lingered, since at the time it was assumed that dietary cholesterol directly impacted blood cholesterol, and therefore heart disease risk. To understand why this fear of eggs was—and is—completely unjustified, it also helps to understand how cholesterol itself works.
Cholesterol is actually a soft waxy substance in our blood, one that is naturally produced by our liver.3 Blood cholesterol exists as both low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL is the kind of cholesterol associated with an increased risk in cardiovascular disease and arterial plaque.4 It is important to note that dietary cholesterol (the kind you’ll find in eggs) actually has very little effect on blood cholesterol.5
Helping more Canadians understand egg nutrition is a core focus of Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC) and as part of these efforts, a cross-country program was designed to educate family physicians about cholesterol, nutrition and eggs, and saw EFC reps in each province reach out to doctors to present them with the latest scientific findings on cholesterol.
By 2013, we’d reached 19,500 doctors6 with the latest egg nutrition information.
Between our work and an influential, widely cited 2015 report7 that essentially vindicated eggs in the public imagination, great strides have been made in restoring the public faith in the important nutrition that eggs provide.
Based on outdated science, eggs were once vilified as being harmful for cardiovascular health. Now, however, we know that that is simply a myth—one we are most certainly happy to crack!
1 Egg Farmers of Canada
2 Egg Farmers of Canada
3 Heart and Stroke Canada
4 American Heart Association
5 Huffington Post Canada
6 Egg Farmers of Canada
7 U.S Department of Health