Why Eggs Prevent Heart Disease

Filed under: Nutrition

I know that I have often written about the greatness of eggs, and many of my more enlightened readers actually take this information to heart and consume the whole thing on a regular basis.

Unfortunately I know that there are still many people who are resistant to make that leap of faith, still believing that the cholesterol in the eggs is going to give them heart disease, and failing to realize that not only does our body have a negative feedback system where when you consume cholesterol you simply produce less, but whole eggs actually contain substances that substantially decrease your risk of heart disease.

I actually showed just a snippet of data that disproved the idea that dietary cholesterol contributes to blood cholesterol right here.

Eggs are a good source of tons of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They contain the cancer-fighting selenium, thyroid-regulating iodine, perfect protein, energy-boosting B vitamins, antioxidants lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamin A for eye health, iron, as well as being one of the few food sources of the incredible vitamin D. The well-produced kind also contain significant amounts of heart-healthy omega-3′s.

Even with that impressive list, one of the best components of eggs is a compound called choline. It is similar to the B vitamins, and has some absolutely amazing benefits.

Our bodies can make some choline, but not nearly enough to make up for an insufficient dietary intake, and choline deficiency can also cause a deficiency in the vital B vitamin folic acid. Since more than 90% of Americans are deficient in choline, this is a problem.

Choline is a key component to cell membranes, as their flexibility and integrity depend on it. In fact there are two molecules that make up a large percentage of the brain called phosphatidylcholine and sphingomyelin. These two molecules are down-stream by-products of choline, and without a sufficient supply of choline they are markedly less abundant, and our brain health and function is diminished.

Phosphatidylcholine also increases the solubility of cholesterol, lowers cholesterol levels by removing it and excess fat from tissue deposits, especially from the liver, and it also inhibits platelet aggregation.

Another down-stream by-product of choline is acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that is the body’s primary chemical messenger to send messages between nerves and muscles.

That sounds like some good stuff right? Well there is a lot more. The choline in eggs has been specifically shown to reduce inflammation, and as we know inflammation plays an enormous role in the development of heart disease and many other diseases such as osteoporosis, cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s, as well as type-2 diabetes.

A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that people whose diet had the highest intake of choline (>310mg/day) had inflammatory marker levels at least 20% lower than people whose diets had the lowest intakes (<250mg/day).

  • 22% lower concentrations of C-reactive protein
  • 26% lower concentrations of interleukin-6
  • 6% lower concentrations of tumor necrosis factor alpha

Now do we see why eggs do not cause heart disease? To add even more, choline has also been shown to convert the inflammatory and blood vessel-damaging homocysteine into more benign substances.

Another worrisome issue is the fact that pregnant women do not get nearly enough choline, and pre-natal vitamins are too low in this critical component (though that is changing). Choline is essential for proper brain and memory development in the fetus.

Each egg yolk contains an average of 125mg of choline, and 315mg of phosphatidylcholine. Now I have shown before how pastured eggs are much more nutrient dense than their conventionally raised counterparts, so in my mind it stands to reason that pastured eggs will also contain significantly more choline as well.

Before we wrap this up, and just in case you weren’t yet convinced, there was another article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition where researchers had 54 children aged 8-12 years consume 2 whole eggs daily for a month. Not only did their ratio of total LDL to HDL not change (so the cholesterol in the eggs had no effect on the amount of their blood cholesterol), but the size of their LDL particles did change.

15% of these children shifted from the atherogenic pattern B to the benign pattern A, meaning the LDL particles shifted from the small and dense type, to the large and fluffy type after just one month of eating eggs, and all of the subjects actually saw an increase in large, fluffy LDL and a decrease in small, dense LDL. This is a big deal, as egg consumption significantly decreased their heart disease risk from a cholesterol standpoint, not too mention most likely decreased their inflammatory markers, as noted above.

I hope I have made clear how incredibly nutritious whole eggs are for you, so go ahead and enjoy a few every morning, as your eyes, brain, heart, liver and more will thank you. This also means you can stop the non-sense of those egg white omelets, which are ridiculous.

More reading on the greatness of whole eggs

The Incredible Edible Pastured Egg

Eggs: I am so confused ?!?

Monday’s New Take


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Posted on September 22nd, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre

28 Comments

  1. Johan Says:

    About how much cholin should one consume optimally?

  2. Brian St. Pierre Says:

    Johan,

    The Adequate Intake for adult men is 550mg/day, and for women 425mg/day (though up to 550mg/day for pregnant or lactating women).

    The Tolerable Upper Limit has been set at 3500mg/day, so you definitely do not want to go that high, though that would never happen from whole food consumption, only supplementation. That would require 28 whole eggs per day!

    If you consume 3-5 whole eggs every morning that is 375-625mg right there (at least, probably a little more if they are pastured eggs), and there are other food sources that contribute to your daily intake (like beef liver, beef, pork chops, cauliflower, navy beans, almonds and peanut butter).

  3. Johan Says:

    Thanks a lot for the reply, and for the blog in general :)

    Been a while since I had eggs as a part of my diet, for no particular reason. One more reason to throw in 4-5 eggs a day again!

  4. Clement Says:

    Hi Brian,

    I know that many people recommend whole eggs and I’ve been taking them since I was a kid (I’m only 19 years old, so that’s not a long time). However, I’ve found it tough to convince my parents and aunt that eating whole eggs will actually help reduce blood cholesterol as dietary cholesterol has no effect whatsoever on it! I’ve also read numerous articles by Mike Geary, Dr Lonnie Lowry and many other experts and trawled through many of the studies in the AJCN and shown it to them, but they either do not understand it or don’t tryst me as I’m just a teenager and they think I’m talking bro-science! However, their doctors aside them against eating the yolk because they have high cholesterol. Despite their recommendations, it’s beneficial for one to eat the yolk EVEN IF their blood cholesterol is high, right?

  5. Clement Says:

    My apologies, it was “trust” and “advise”.

  6. Brian St. Pierre Says:

    Clement,

    It is an uphill battle that is for sure, but it advice based on dogma, not science.

    It is definitely beneficial to eat the yolk even if their blood cholesterol is high, because eggs can help improve your cholesterol subtypes, as I showed in the article.

    The best way for them to lower their cholesterol (total cholesterol does not correlate to heart disease, so it is rather irrelevant, but anyway) is to lose weight, eat less trans fats and refined carbs and improve the quality of their food intake.

  7. hooch turner Says:

    I’m delighted to see a nutritionist refer to egg-white ommlettes as ‘ridiculous’. A lot will still just circle around it and recommend something like a 2 full, 4 albumen concoction, on account of the recent growing evidence.
    We spend so much energy thinking about the caveman’s diet and lifestyle – there’s no way he’d throw away a dodo or archaeoptrex egg in a million years. He’d eat that bird out of nest and home til they’re extinct. Even today they don’t waste food in countries like Thailand, where spiders have to watch their step, lest a human gobble them up. I really think it’s a sin to waste food, and maybe if people knew more about the items they are firing down their gullets, we wouldn’t have this culture of excess, by which I mean excess adipose tissue.

  8. Zach Says:

    nice article. any chance you could post links to those studies you mentioned? especially if you could find the study showing that 90% of Americans are deficient in choline. that’s a pretty startling statistic

  9. Brian St. Pierre Says:

    Hooch turner,

    I couldn’t agree more, and thank you for the kind words on Monday’s blog, much appreciated.

    Zach,

    Here is the choline deficient study, it is based on NHANES data – http://www.fasebj.org/cgi/content/meeting_abstract/21/6/LB46-c?maxtoshow=&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=choline&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&volume=21&issue=6&resourcetype=HWCIT

    Here is the inflammatory markers – http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/87/2/424

    Here is the kids and their improved LDL subtypes -
    http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/full/80/4/855?maxtoshow=&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=mexico+children+eggs&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&resourcetype=HWCIT

  10. Jeff Brewster Says:

    Brian,

    I am curious about something, and given your experience working with many clients, you’d be a great source to consult……….how prevalent is the issue of sensitivity to eggs? Personally I find that if I consume no more than 2-3 of them on a very infrequent basis that I have some issues. I wish that I could eat them with greater frequncey and/or in larger amounts when I do, but I have yet to pull that off without a hitch, which unfortunately leaves me unable to take maximum advantage of their myriad benefits.

  11. Brian St. Pierre Says:

    Jeff,

    In all honesty off the top of my head I can only recall maybe 2-3 people who informed me they were allergic to eggs, so the prevalence is quite small, at least from my experience.

    Just because a food has lots of health benefits, if it doesn’t agree with you then the risk to reward ratio is just not there.

    Another great source of choline would be beef liver, and in fact even though I have never eaten liver in my life, it is a tremendously rich source of tons of powerful nutrients.

  12. The Home of BSP Training & Nutrition » Blog Archive » Delicious and Nutritious Deviled Eggs Says:

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