Eggs are an excellent source of protein and, while they are naturally high in cholesterol, they don’t seem to raise cholesterol levels as other foods do.
Eggs are nutritious and an excellent source of protein. Despite controversial findings in multiple clinical studies, eggs are naturally high in cholesterol. However, they do not raise the body’s cholesterol levels the way some other cholesterol-containing foods do, such as trans fats and saturated fats.
While some studies found a link between eating eggs and heart disease, those same studies also suggested that there may be another reason for such results. Since people who eat eggs also eat meat products, such as bacon, sausage and beef, they are at an increased risk of heart disease. The way eggs are cooked also matters. For example, eggs fried in oil, butter or lard increase the risk of heart disease more than eggs themselves.
Cholesterol in eggs is only present in the yolk. So, those who want to avoid cholesterol can eat only egg whites, which also contain protein.
Recommended dietary intake of eggs
It is recommended to keep dietary cholesterol under 300 mg a day. One large egg with the yolk has about 186 mg of cholesterol.
Most healthy people may eat up to seven eggs (with the yolk) a week without increasing their risk of heart disease. This level of egg consumption has several health benefits, such as preventing certain types of strokes and an eye condition called macular degeneration, which can lead to blindness.
Those with health problems, such as diabetes or heart disease, may have to decrease their egg consumption. Hence, in the presence of any medical problems, it is advised to consult a doctor or nutritionist for dietary advice.
Egg White vs. Egg Yolk Nutrition
|One egg white has:||One egg yolk has:|
|17 calories||55 calories|
|3.6 grams of protein||2.7 grams of protein|
|0 grams of fat||4.5 grams of fat|
|0 mg of cholesterol||About 186 mg of cholesterol|
|2.3 mg of calcium||21.9 mg of calcium|
|3.6 mg of magnesium||0.854 mg of magnesium|
|53.8 mg of potassium||18.5 mg of potassium|
|0.03 mcg of vitamin B12||0.331 mcg of vitamin B12|
|0.002 mg of vitamin B6||0.059 mg of vitamin B6|
|No vitamin A||245 IU of vitamin A|
|No vitamin E||0.684 mg of vitamin E|
|No vitamin D||18.3 IU of vitamin D|
|No vitamin K||0.119 IU of vitamin K|
Levels and ranges of cholesterol
|Too high or low||>240||
Very high: >190
Very high: >500
Effects of high cholesterol
A high level of cholesterol in the blood (hyperlipidemia) can have harmful effects on health, such as building up cholesterol on the walls of arteries. Over time, this buildup, called plaque, causes the hardening of arteries or atherosclerosis. This condition causes arteries to become narrow, which obstructs blood flow through it, causing medical conditions, including:
- Coronary heart disease: The main risk from high cholesterol, also known as Atherosclerosis, causes coronary arteries to become narrow, which slows the blood flow to the heart muscle. Reduced blood flow results in angina (chest pain) or heart attack if the blood vessel gets blocked completely.
- Stroke: Occurs when a blood vessel carrying blood to the brain is completely blocked.
- Peripheral vascular disease: High cholesterol has been linked to this condition, in which fatty deposits build up along the artery walls, affecting blood circulation in arteries that lead to the legs and feet and the arteries of the kidney.
- Type II diabetes: People with hyperlipidemia often have a high risk of developing heart and artery diseases.
- Hypertension: When the arteries become narrowed with cholesterol plaque, the heart has to work harder to pump blood through them, which results in high blood pressure.
What is the treatment for high cholesterol?
High cholesterol levels can be lowered with medication and lifestyle changes, thus reducing the risk of many medical conditions. Typically, treatment for high cholesterol may look like the following.
Medications used to treat high cholesterol include:
- Statins: The foremost group of cholesterol-lowering drugs that include atorvastatin, fluvastatin, lovastatin, pravastatin, rosuvastatin calcium and simvastatin.
- Bile acid resins or sequestrants: These help eliminate cholesterol from the blood.
- Ezetimibe: This prevents absorption of cholesterol from food.
- Fibrates or fibric acid derivatives: These reduce triglycerides and increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels.
- Niacin or nicotinic acid: This helps increase HDL while lowering the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and triglycerides levels.
Lifestyle changes include:
- Eating a heart-healthy diet:
- Reducing intake of saturated fat and trans fat
- Limiting dairy products made with whole milk
- Choosing skim milk, low-fat or fat-free dairy products
- Limiting fried food
- Cooking with healthy vegetable oils
- Increasing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts
- Limiting red and processed meats, sodium and sugar-sweetened foods and beverages
- Being physically active: Sedentary lifestyle lowers HDL cholesterol or good cholesterol, whereas moderate aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, swimming or bicycling, for about 150 minutes (2.5 hours) per week is essential to lower cholesterol.
- Quitting smoking: Quitting smoking helps lower LDL cholesterol and increases HDL cholesterol levels.
- Reducing alcohol intake: The liver breaks down alcohol into triglycerides and cholesterol.
- Losing weight: Being overweight or obese raises bad cholesterol and lowers good cholesterol, although a five to ten percent weight loss can help improve cholesterol levels.
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Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Sweeney MET. Hypertriglyceridemia. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/126568-overview
American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association, and multisocieties. Cholesterol Management Clinical Practice Guidelines (2018). Medscape. https://reference.medscape.com/viewarticle/905950
Lopez-Jimenez F. Eggs: Are They Good or Bad for My Cholesterol? Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/expert-answers/cholesterol/faq-20058468
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