One egg is worse than a KFC Double Down when it comes to cholesterol. This is one conclusion to be drawn from a recent review by Canadian researchers of cholesterol studies involving eggs. The important words here are cholesterol and eggs.
Three leading Canadian physicians, Dr. David Spence, a stroke-prevention expert at The University of Western Ontario, Dr. David Jenkins, of the Risk Factor Modification Centre at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, and Dr. Jean Davignon, a cholesterol expert with the Clinique de nutrition métabolisme et athérosclérose in Montreal, have published a review in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology warning about the danger of dietary cholesterol for those at risk of a heart attack, stroke or diabetes.
The egg, or more accurately the egg yolk, packs more cholesterol than almost any other single food item in the North American diet. The infamous KFC Double Down, a sandwich using two thick KFC chicken breasts instead of bread to hold slices of sauce-covered bacon and cheese, delivers a whopping 145 mgs of cholesterol. In comparison, one egg contains from 215 to 275 mg of cholesterol depending upon the size of the egg. That's as much as 90 percent more cholesterol than the fat-filled fast food sandwich.
In recent years, dietary cholesterol's reputation has been largely rehabilitated thanks to egg marketing boards. The well known "Get Cracking" campaign calls eggs one of the best breakfast choices.
Egg marketing boards like to claim:
"The latest research also shows no significant link between eating eggs and developing cardiovascular disease in healthy individuals . . . there is no maximum number of eggs the average healthy person can eat . . . "
These statements, which the Canadian researchers call "propaganda" by the egg-lobby are misleading and dangerous. They write: "Not only in Canada, but around the world, the public, nutritionists, and even physicians are increasingly accepting of the notion that dietary cholesterol is not important."
Even the Heart and Stroke Foundation has fallen for the persuasive egg lobby line. A brochure distributed in February 2010 by the foundation during Heart Month quoted directly from an egg lobby campaign.
For those at risk of heart attack and stroke, high levels of cholesterol pose a serious health risk. For this reason, dietary cholesterol should be limited to less than 200 milligrams per day, the researchers say. A single large egg yolk provides from 215 to 275 mg, "more than a day's worth of cholesterol."
A lot of Canadians are at risk of heart attack and stroke and risk climbs steeply with increasing age. According to Spence, we all have plaque in our carotid arteries after the age of 50. "The thing that kills more Canadians than most other causes of death combined is heart attacks and strokes. And strokes disable more people than any other cause of illness."
The review comments on two large, oft-quoted studies which reported no harm from egg consumption in healthy people. The Canadian trio points out that in both studies, those who developed diabetes while consuming an egg a day doubled their risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those eating less than an egg a week. The studies also showed a significant increase of new onset diabetes with regular egg consumption. [For more on this, see Comment #3.]
The authors conclude:
“There is no question that egg white is classed as a valuable source of high-quality protein. Egg yolks, however, are not something that should be eaten indiscriminately . . . ”