Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Unscrambling the truth: do eggs clog your heart?

Is an egg a day okay?

(Eggland's Best Eggs/ Official Facebook)

(Eggland's Best Eggs/ Official Facebook)

(Eggland's Best Eggs/ Official Facebook)

By Victoria Adams-Forne, Collegian Correspondent

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Eggs became the hot topic of conversation on my ride back to school from spring break. My mom was concerned (and still is) that I eat too many eggs, and since there seems to be an abundance of conflicting opinions about the beneficial effects of eggs and their link to high levels of cholesterol, I decided to look into it.

Let’s start with the basics: cholesterol is commonly associated with heart disease, of which 610,000 people die every year. Oddly enough, our bodies actually need cholesterol; they need it so much that the liver and intestines produce it to make cell membranes, hormones like estrogen and testosterone, vitamin D and bile acids important in the absorption of fats and the process of digestion. Cholesterol is carried through your bloodstream as lipoproteins: the two most common being low density lipoproteins and high density lipoproteins, commonly known as LDL and HDL. LDL is called the “bad” cholesterol, and too much LDL in the bloodstream can cause blockage of the arteries by creating fatty plaques that constrict and block blood flow through arteries. The hardening of the arteries due to plaque build-up over time is called atherosclerosis and can cause chest pains, poor circulation, heart attacks and strokes.

Scary, right? Well, no need to worry too much if your family does not have any significant history of these cholesterol problems. Unless it’s genetic, keeping LDL levels low can be as simple as eating foods lower in trans fats, saturated fats and refined carbohydrates such as conventional dairy products, processed vegetable oils, refined sugars, processed meats, white breads and white rice. By adding exercise to your routine and opting for foods that are made of complex carbohydrates and foods higher in unsaturated fats than saturated fats, HDL levels in your bloodstream can increase and can consequently lower LDL levels too. Foods that can help are salmon, tuna, olive oil, canola oil, mackerel, eggs, walnuts, almonds, cashews and avocados. Yes, these foods contain fats, and moderation is most definitely key. However, they help increase the HDL cholesterol levels in your bloodstream, which has a protective effect against LDL cholesterol.

On that note, let’s talk about eggs. Eggs have had a bad rap since doctors in the 1970s realized that excess cholesterol in our blood was associated with a higher risk of heart disease: people were told to stay away from anything with cholesterol. However, now we know that it’s not that simple. There are foods that still contain fats that are indeed necessary for daily function and body performance. In fact, we as humans need cholesterol to survive. An egg yolk contains the nutrient choline, necessary for cardiovascular and brain health, and lutein and zeaxanthin, which help protect the eyes by filtering harmful wavelengths. Eggs also contain calcium, iron, zinc, phosphorus and folate of the egg as well as vitamins A, B, D and E, five grams of fats and six grams of good quality protein.

I found this next part a little bit confusing: so I’m telling you that eggs are good for you, too much fat isn’t so great but eggs have a hefty amount of fat in them. The five grams of fat in an egg is mostly unsaturated, the “good” kind that helps increase your HDL levels. A study from 2011 in the Journal of Food Chemistry found that regular egg consumption can actually be associated with a reduced risk of heart disease because of their high levels of antioxidants. Another study in the journal of Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care found that individuals who consume a moderate amount of eggs are not seen to have an increase in cholesterol when compared to people who cut eggs out of their diets completely. Your body produces more cholesterol when you don’t consume enough of it, and produces less cholesterol when you consume the necessary amount.

In the end, eggs in moderation have little to no effect on your blood cholesterol levels. Their abundance of benefits from antioxidants, nutrients and vitamins definitely make them worth incorporating into a healthy diet (in moderation).

Victoria Adams-Forne can be reached at [email protected]

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