I am constantly asked for my advice and reassurance about protein breakfasts I can understand why. There is a general worry about eating eggs mainly because of the Edwina Curry scandal and of course the cholesterol content of an egg. I want to reassure your concerns which is why I wrote this blog, outlining the research so you can navigate your own health choices with confidence.
The number one reason you shouldn’t worry about how many eggs you eat is that each little egg has nine essential amino acids. These proteins are essential because you need to eat them every day. Vegans have to work out the amino acid content of each and every food and vary the foods they eat in order to consume all 9 essential amino acids each day. One egg has them all.
Each egg contains cholesterol and cholesterol being bad for your health is an old science. It is out of date, the world has moved on, but institutional science is taking a while to catch up.
The simple fact is ….
Eggs are great for your brain function.
I am going to leave you to decide on the Edwina debacle but I would love to dive deeper into the cholesterol debate. I am going to refer to Dr Malcolm Kendrick and his famous book ‘The Great Cholesterol Con’. It is a fabulous book that I couldn’t put down, a Dr with a great sense of humour.
In fact Dr Zoe Harcombe says:
“I cannot recommend highly enough “The Great Cholesterol Con” by Dr Malcolm Kendrick – funny and extremely logical, it should be compulsory reading for every public health advisor and statin prescriber world-wide.” Dr Zoe Harcombe
Authors like Dr Kendrick explain that we are still following government guidelines that are a hangover from science in the 1950s. The concern that reducing your cholesterol is your way to be healthy.
I do like to add a modicum of common sense and make things simple. As evolving species we ate meat with lots of fat, any fat occurring naturally in real food would have killed us off hundreds of thousands of years ago. You need cholesterol.
Cholesterol is essential for your body
1. Brain synapses are the vital connections between your nerve cells in the brain and elsewhere. They are made almost entirely of cholesterol. Without forming synapses you can’t think properly or remember anything. Your brain contains over 25% of the total amount of cholesterol in your body and over 2% of the total weight of your brain. Your brain needs cholesterol to function.
2. Low cholesterol levels lead to reduced serotonin levels in your brain. A low serotonin level is a neurotransmitter and one of the key brain abnormalities involved in depression. When this happens, serotonin boosters like Prozac are prescribed. Low serotonin has been linked to violence and aggression.
3. Vitamin D is needed to create healthy bones and protect against a number of cancers. Vitamin D is synthesized from cholesterol and by sunlight on your skin.
4. Cell membranes are made from cholesterol without it the cells would disintegrate
5. Cholesterol is a building block for most of your sex hormones and with menopause symptoms, they are particularly important.
6. Bile is released from the gallbladder as soon as you eat, it helps to digest your food. One of the major uses of cholesterol is the synthesis of bile acids. These acids are produced in the liver from cholesterol and are secreted in the bile. They are essential for the absorption of fat from the contents of your intestine.
Adverts bombard you every day with some new fabulous yoghurt, margarine or milk drink assuring you that these things lower cholesterol, thus protecting your heart.
For instance, Olivo, which is Olive oil ‘hydrogenated’ (ie processed and manufactured at high temperatures to add more hydrogen). The clue is in the word ‘hydrogenated’
Where Olive oil is fine, hydrogenated olive oil is not. The process that Olive oil goes through to make it spreadable turns it into a trans fat – which is unnatural and damage your health.
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Cholesterol that you eat and enters your intestine and is subject to absorption.
About 15-20% cholesterol molecule in your body comes from your food via your mouth, but most cholesterol molecules come from your body from your bile and gallbladder.
About 85% of the cholesterol you are going to absorb after a meal is produced by your body, not from your food
“There is no connection whatsoever between cholesterol in food and cholesterol in your body” Ancel Keys
Ancel Keys is the American scientist who promoted the cholesterol thesis, he wanted the message to get through to the public so he made the reasoning simple ‘fats make you fat’. Easy to understand and for the population to digest
Scientists knew that the majority of your cholesterol is synthesised from your body, not your food. If you ate 4-5 eggs a day your liver would simply produce less cholesterol to keep your levels steady.
American Heart went after Dietary fat, they wanted a unified front and it was too complicated that cholesterol in the diet is harmless it is cholesterol is blood system, so to keep the message simple ‘fats make you fat’ which the consumer easily believed.
Ancel Key’s original 7 country study, in the 1950s – which formed the ‘fat makes you fat’ thesis was based on these 7 countries: Italy, Greece, Former Yugoslavia, Netherlands, Finland, USA, Japan
There are many countries and population sectors that disprove the original ‘7 country study’ that Keys promoted. For instance, researchers using more recently used 7 different countries and demonstrated the exact opposite. These countries were: France, Germany, Israel, Netherlands, Finland, Switzerland, Sweden
And here is why…
- French paradox: French consume more saturated fat than any other nation in Europe and they have the lowest rate of heart disease. Switzerland has the second-highest consumption of saturated fat. Maybe it is because the French eat a lot of garlic ?!@
- Swiss have the highest average cholesterol levels and the second-lowest rate of heart disease
- Inuits have a high saturated fat and low rate of heart disease.
- Dr George Mann in Kenya 1970s Masai tribe found the highest cholesterol and saturated fat intake ever discovered which came from milk, meat and fat. Yet the rate of heart disease was virtually zero.
- Australian aboriginal men have the highest rate of heart disease in the world – four times the rate than the UK and 10 times France and 50 times greater than French women. Yet their average HDL (good cholesterol) is lower than the UK, body mass index is considerably less than British men.
- Japan have an elevated risk of strokes with low levels of cholesterol. Over the last 50 years, cholesterol levels have risen by 20% in Japan and the rate of stroke has fallen. When cholesterol levels in Japan rose life expectancy increased and death from all cardiovascular disease fell dramatically.
- The Israeli paradox is a catchphrase, first used in 1996, Israeli Jews have a relatively high incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD), despite having a diet relatively low in saturated fat.
- Russians have the second lowest cholesterol level and yet they have the highest rate of heart disease
“Low cholesterol level is actually associated with a massive increase in death from stroke” Dr Kendrick
What is Heart Disease and how can I avoid it?
Heart disease is a disease of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Plaques build up and develop in arteries almost anywhere in the body. The plaques that develop are dangerous when they ‘rupture’ as this stimulates the formation of a blood clot which can block the artery.
The top 6 countries for Heart Disease
- 1950s USA
- 1960s Finland
- 1970s Scotland
- 1980s Poland
- 1990s Rest of Eastern Europe
- 2000s Emigrant Asian Indians
- 2000s Aboriginals in Australia
Scientific understanding of cholesterol is updating….
Scientists have been chasing their tails for decades ‘hung up’ on the conviction that ‘cholesterol’ causes the plaques in arteries that cause heart attacks and strokes.
An egg yolk is full of cholesterol because it takes a lot of cholesterol to build a healthy chicken and build and maintain a healthy human. All cells can manufacture cholesterol and one of the key functions of your liver is to make cholesterol. You have an entire transportation system dedicated to moving cholesterol around your body – in molecules called lipoproteins. HDL and LDL are lipoproteins along with 3 other lipoproteins.
Currently, scientists suggest that LDL is the ‘bad’ cholesterol because the particles within the LDL are small and dense and increase the development of plaques. HDL is good cholesterol is good because it removes cholesterol from the blood and returns it to the liver
Scientists believe that HDL the good cholesterol is supposed to reverse the cholesterol transport system, ie take out the cholesterol from your cells “Fatty acids continually ‘cycle’ across the cell membrane and back out again.”
HDL cannot move cholesterol through a fibrous cap, suck out cholesterol that forms plaque and then returns back through the same fibrous cap into the bloodstream again.
Do you remember osmosis biology at school, where cells move from through a semipermeable membrane from a less concentrated solution to a more concentrated one? Do you remember that stuff? Osmosis can only travel one way.
Eating real food like eggs and butter are healthier options than ‘processed’ refined carbs.
It’s taken me years (and loads of mistakes) to work out how to fit in nourishing nutrition, fulfilling exercise around my life which includes my coaching business, my Pilates obsession and 3 kids!
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Here is what other clients have to say…
5 responses to “Why you don’t need to worry about how many eggs you eat”
This detailed demystification of the general ‘cholesterol harms you and fats are bad for you’ into the specific deconstruction of the old assumptions is clear and based on researched facts which makes it reassuring and makes me interested enough to look out for more research and more evidence.
Thank you, Madeleine, for your welcome response. I am particularly pleased that you felt this article was helpful
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