Debunking the Myth About Eggs and Cholesterol

Written by Joel Marion

Eggs and Cholesterol

We recently had the pleasure of entertaining many of our closest friends and family members, quite a few who stayed and crashed at our place. Upon awakening, the obvious answer to the question, “What’s for breakfast?” was eggs.

You see, I like eggs and tend to eat a lot of them. I mean, who doesn’t love a good omelet, right?

Now, I’m sure you’ve heard a time or two before that you should be mindful of consuming too many eggs as their cholesterol content is rather high.

I’ve even heard the recommendation that eggs should only be eaten once per week to avoid cholesterol issues. If that’s the case, I’m in big trouble.

Fortunately, it’s not.

The Truth About Eggs and Cholesterol

You see, for years we have been told that cholesterol intake should be kept to a bare minimum under the presumption that doing so will help to decrease blood cholesterol levels and promote overall health. While this theory of lowering dietary cholesterol intake to lower blood cholesterol makes sense, it doesn’t quite pan out that way.

Fact is, despite its bad rap, cholesterol is as necessary for human health as water or oxygen. Cholesterol is an essential building block of your cell walls (i.e., cell membranes), it helps form the protective covering that surrounds your nerves, and it’s used to synthesize important hormones, like testosterone and estrogen.

Cholesterol is so important, in fact, that your body (e.g., liver) produces it. Indeed, the average person’s liver produces about 75% of the body’s total cholesterol, far outweighing any potential contribution from dietary sources. And when dietary intake of cholesterol is decreased, the liver compensates by producing more cholesterol, leaving total cholesterol levels relatively unchanged.

Numerous studies have shown that egg consumption does not significantly affect total cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C, or the so-called “bad” cholesterol), and observational studies have found no evidence of a negative association between egg consumption and heart health.

In a study published in the journal Metabolism, researchers from the University of Connecticut compared the effects of eating 3 whole eggs per day versus an equivalent amount of yolk-free egg substitutes (i.e., cholesterol-free) on blood levels of cholesterol and insulin sensitivity. After 12 weeks, the researchers found that the participants who ate the whole eggs experienced significantly greater increases in HDL cholesterol and large HDL particles (i.e., the “good” forms of cholesterol), as well as reductions in total VLDL and medium VLDL particles (other forms of “bad” cholesterol).

What’s more, the egg eaters also experienced significant improvements in insulin sensitivity and increases in HDL and LDL particle size (i.e., more large, fluffy particles). Particle size is noteworthy because small, dense particles are considered more detrimental than large, fluffy particles (regardless of whether they’re HDL or LDL).

Still not convinced?

Perhaps the most striking evidence on the topic came in 2015 when America’s top nutrition advisory panel, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), which is responsible for publishing the Dietary Guidelines for Americans based on the body of scientific and medical evidence, stated, “Cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”

In other words, you don’t need to worry about the cholesterol in your food.

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In fact, the DGAC went on to retract its previous recommendation to limit cholesterol to no more than 300mg/day because “available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and [blood] cholesterol.” That is, the cholesterol in food (such as eggs) has little effect on the amount of cholesterol in the bloodstream.

Taken together, egg consumption does not seem to be a concern for otherwise healthy individuals, although it may be an issue for certain folks, who may be genetically described as “hyper-responders” to dietary cholesterol.

Now that’s not to say that we should go hog wild with our intake of cholesterol-containing foods, but it does mean that one can expect cholesterol levels to remain relatively stable over a wide range of dietary intakes.

Then, Why Is Everyone Afraid of Cholesterol?

Given this information, you may be wondering why the body would ever produce more cholesterol if cholesterol is so “bad,” and that’s a good question.

Metaphorically speaking, cholesterol accumulation on the walls of arteries can be compared to firefighters battling a blazing fire. Along those lines, you wouldn’t accuse those brave men of arson because they’re at the scene of a fire. Rather, they’re responding to a problem

Cholesterol acts in much the same way, as it is sent to “patch up” damaged arterial walls, which may be induced by several factors, including diet and lifestyle. Of course, genetics play a role, but the fact of the matter is there are many factors within your control that can impact blood levels of cholesterol.

“Wait a second, I thought you said dietary cholesterol doesn’t have an appreciable impact on blood cholesterol?!” I did, and that’s true; however, there are other dietary factors that do seem to affect cholesterol levels.

On one hand, dietary fiber has well-known cholesterol-lowering properties. It can interfere with the amount of bile, which is necessary for the breakdown of dietary fats, that is reabsorbed in the intestines. To make up for this loss, the liver must produce new bile salts, which are composed of cholesterol. So, increasing fiber intake by eating more vegetables, fruits, legumes, etc., can have a cholesterol-lowering effect.

On the other hand, consuming trans fats (in any amount), excess consumption of saturated fats, and regular consumption of refined carbohydrates and sugars can increase cholesterol levels. Interestingly, some studies have shown that replacing saturated fats with processed carbohydrates leads to an increased risk of heart issues. In addition, lack of physical activity and weight gain also contribute to suboptimal levels of cholesterol, while regular exercise and stress management help lower cholesterol.

So, the answer to decreasing blood cholesterol levels is not avoiding omelets and not necessarily decreasing dietary cholesterol intake, but rather improving one’s diet overall by eating healthier in general and avoiding the other harmful types of foods mentioned.

Combine that with increased physical activity, and both you and your cholesterol levels will be in even better shape.

Bonus Food Tip:

Now that you know the truth about eggs and cholesterol, did you know that many “common” everyday foods, such as cooking oils, condiments, and even certain types of fish can cause massive DAMAGE to the precious tissues of your heart?

Problem is, most people don’t have a clue that many of the foods they are eating, including many “healthy” foods, are doing this kind of crippling damage to their most vital, life-giving organ.

To make sure YOU aren’t one of them, we recently put together a brand new free report entitled The 15 Foods That DAMAGE Your Heart to inform you of the worst foods you MUST steer clear of if you care about your health and longevity (unfortunately, most people eat these foods every day).

Even better, you can download the entire 34 page report completely free in just a few seconds.

==>15 Foods that DAMAGE Your Heart (don’t eat these)

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  • Doctor Jack

    Unfortunately, the writer is incorrect about eggs though he is correct about fish. The human body makes 100% of the cholesterol it needs. It does not need any coming in from the outside. That’s where you get into CVD trouble. Additionally, when eggs and other substances are cooked, heat destroys nutrient quality. He hits the ball out of the park when he recommends eating a whole foods plant based diet, i.e. fruits, vegetables, legumes.

    • Hi Doctor Jack,

      Thanks so much for stopping by, reading our article, and sharing your feedback; we appreciate it!

      You mentioned, “Unfortunately, the writer is incorrect about eggs…” The overarching premise of the article is that “available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and [blood] cholesterol.” And I believe that’s what you’re stating, correct?

      Having said that, would it be possible for you to elaborate on your statement (about being incorrect) a little bit more? Specifically, if you believe there is an inaccuracy in the article, we’d greatly appreciate your input in pointing it out so that we can make the appropriate adjustment, if necessary.

      I noticed that you mentioned that heating eggs and other foods destroys nutrient quality. Do you recommend consuming a completely raw, vegan diet? From an evolutionary standpoint, heating/cooking food has tremendous significance, as it can make certain foods safer to eat (i.e., killing off microbes) and make more calories available for absorption. Of course, cooking also makes certain nutrients more available (e.g., beta-carotene, lycopene) and digestible (e.g., protein).

      What’s more, cooking makes iron and other minerals more available for digestion by decreasing oxalates, an acid that makes the minerals inaccessible by binding to them. Cooking may also reduce “anti-nutrients” (e.g., phytic acid) found in grains and beans. Of course, there is benefit to eating certain foods raw, such as foods rich in water-soluble and heat-sensitive nutrients (e.g., vitamin C, B vitamins).

      Taken together, I completely agree with your recommendation to focus on a whole foods diet, as well as including plenty of plant-based foods as you mentioned. Thanks, Doctor Jack!

      Coach Tim

      • Doctor Jack

        I guess it’s a matter of who you believe. I have done an exhaustive amount of reading and quite frankly, don’t put a whole lot of credence in ‘studies’. One of my professors once stated that whatever result you want, just pay the researchers and they will come up with conclusive results that favor whatever outcome you’re looking for or, more succinctly, he who pays the piper calls the tune. So it’s important to know WHO’S funding whatever study or research.

        Secondly, eggs are loaded with artery clogging fat and cholesterol. Our bodies make all the cholesterol we need and as for fat, well the average Westerner is already composed of way too much fat as a component of their physical make-up, and moreover; regardless of source, too much fat spells trouble in a myriad of ways. I had a friend who, to look at him, appeared healthy even though his diet was atrocious and he had high blood pressure. One night after having a large omelet dinner at his girlfriend’s, he fell into a coma and died a few days later. Yes he had a pre-existing condition so the omelet was an exacerbating influence but nonetheless, that’s all it took to put him over the edge. As you may agree, most people in our society don’t die, they poison themselves to death. They consume all manner of poisonous things, including pharmaceuticals, to which we are not biologically adapted. It’s systemic toxemia not micro organisms that invites the grim reaper into our lives prematurely.

        The three main tenents of healthful eating are whole verses fractionated or processed, raw verses cooked and plant verses animal. Regarding evolution, I have not found evidence that the human body has changed over the millennia. We are very old “technology”. Our dietary needs now are the same as they were millions of years ago when we lived within an environment where all our dietary needs were met, before man began migrating. As for heating food, name one other species that heats its food. Why would man be an exception? How did we ever survive before we understood fire and how to use it? Apparently very well as there are billions of us alive today. Also, anything that has to be cooked in order to be made palatable is not really food for us.

        There are plenty of people who not only are surviving on an uncooked whole foods plant based diet but they are actually thriving. Am I saying this would be easy for the average Westerner who’s use to eating anything and everything they can swallow? Absolutely not but I am saying that if maximum health is one’s criteria, the aforementioned raw materials intake is ideal. There would be exceptions of course for those with dental problems as well as irreversible digestive system issues. Personally I am about 80 to 90 per cent raw, 99 per cent plant based and at 67, can do everything I’ve been able to do all my life. Of course there are non dietary factors that play a significant role in one’s overall health/well being that I strive to observe in my day to day life as well. One could be on the best diet in the world but if they’re not practicing the other tenents of healthful living, their health will suffer because health is only produced by healthful living.

  • Frances

    Ironically this evening I had such a craving for eggs. Recently I had cut down my poor little eggs. Why you ask because my DR. said that my cholesterol level was too high I believe it was if my brain serves me well it was 138. His first question was about my egg consumption. I can’t chew so well due to needing dentures. So I got into the habit of eating 3 eggs at least 2 or 3 times a week maybe a bvrd xxxit more. Joel I faithfully read all your articles and as usual you never cease to amaze me. Thanks for all your research its truly needed to help us eat better and therefore our brains should be the way it should. I watch a public broadcasting channel and I truly amazed at Dr Amen and his wife teaching us that what you put in your gut affects the brain. The wife wrote an awesome cookbook and he has a clinic. He was a heart specialist and seeing so many people with Alzheimer’s disease he switched his profession and studied a way to eat better and now he specialty is studying the brain. His findings are amazing. Thanks again. From Frances.

    • Cristina

      Hi Frances. Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us. Since we are not medical professionals I will refrain from offering medical advice, however I would be curious if your cholesterol level of 138 is your total cholesterol or was just one of the assessments? Regardless I would definitely heed the advice of your physician, as they are privy to your healthy history and would know best.

      I am thrilled to hear that you are enjoying your BioTRUST subscription, and with the addition of the blog, you will be getting double the content with recipes and lifestyle tips to boot. If there is anything you would like to learn more about, we welcome your suggestions, so please feel free to reach out to us with topics of interest.

      Thank you for staying on top of your health and wellness, Frances. We look forward to hearing more from you in the future.

  • Simon Wooliscroft

    There is a significant difference between the cholesterol in eggs and other foods, and the dangerous cholesterol in the body that, if in excessive amounts, can cause problems like blood vessel blockages. The two are different and unrelated. II’s fats in the diet that are what to watch out for as the article says.

    • Cristina

      Hello there, Simon. Thank you for taking the time to review the article above. You have made some great points. Coach Tim has written a fascinating article which may help us all better understand what is fact and fiction once and for all:

      The Great Cholesterol Debate

      I hope you will let us know your thoughts once you have checked it out.

  • Cristina

    Hi bellasue. Great question. There is approximately 126 grams of choline in the yolk of a large egg. And with choline being essential for the normal function of the cells in our bodies, I would say they are somewhat important.

    For some additional information, the following is a great resource:

    <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2782876/"_blank"Choline: An Essential Nutrient For Public Health

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this topic, bellasue.

  • Cristina

    Greetings, bellasue.

    I can appreciate your concerns, and it is important to understand that the information we provide is for otherwise healthy adults over the age of 18. Neither our products nor the information we provide is intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any medical conditions. If you have any specific medical-related questions, we suggest that you consult with a member of your professional healthcare team.

    Having said that, it does appear that abnormal choline metabolism may be a metabolic biomarker of cancer. That, however, doesn’t necessarily imply that dietary choline causes cancer.

    One study in particular that does seem to suggest that dietary choline may play a role in cancer is one published in the journal of Clinical Nutrition. In the study, researchers found that dietary choline intake was positively associated with the risk of lethal prostate cancer.

    It is important to note that this correlation was determined by dietary recall, which has many limiting factors. While that’s another discussion, the point is that this study doesn’t prove causation, rather correlation.

    Other studies, however, have shown that higher choline intake may be protective against other forms of cancer (e.g., lung), and low choline intake may be associated with increased risk of breast cancer. Taken together, it would be difficult to generalize and say that choline causes or protects against cancer, and it may vary across different types of cancer.

    As we learn more in the field of nutritional genomics, we may find that relationship between cancer risk and certain nutrients may come down to certain genotypes. For instance, some people may have a genetic polymorphism that affects choline metabolism, which may play a role in carcinogenesis.

    Bottom line is that it is up to the individual to have open discussions with their family and their practioner about any health concerns they may be predisposed to, and how their dietary choices can both positively or negatively effect these.

  • Wildwestwishes

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    • Cristina

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      We welcome you to share our page with your friends and family, and if there are any topics you would like to learn more about, please let us know!

  • Felipe

    Great content! I have only one question. How the hell do I get rid of the left side social media bar which makes it impossible to comfortably read the content