Eggs and Heart Disease

Dear Dr. B: I am a young body builder and eat ten to twelve eggs each week as a source of protein and vitamins. My cholesterol level is normal but I have a bad family history of heart problems. Should I be eating eggs? Do eggs cause heart disease?

Answer: Let us get one thing straight – there are many reasons why a person gets heart disease. Heart disease cannot be blamed on eating eggs only. I surfed various websites to see if there was a clear cut answer to your question.

First step in the prevention of heart disease is to identify your risk factors. Second step is to take measures to control these factors.

Here is the bad news. Heart disease is a number one killer and is going to affect 70 per cent of our population. It is unfortunate that you have a family history of heart disease. This doubles your risk of getting heart problems as you get older. Since you cannot change your genes you have to change other risk factors starting early in your life. Remember the risk of heart disease and stroke increases after the age of 45.

Your ethnicity counts. It has been found that black people, Aboriginal Peoples, and South Asians from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have a greater chance of developing high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Do you belong to any one of these groups?

Do you drink alcohol? Studies have shown drinking too much alcohol – particularly binge drinking – can increase your blood pressure and contribute to the development of high blood pressure , heart disease and stroke. No drinking or drinking in moderation is important for good health.

The best news you have is that your cholesterol level is normal while you are young. You should take steps to keep this under control with proper diet and exercise. Why? Because high blood cholesterol is responsible for heart attacks, stroke, clogging of the arteries and high blood pressure.

Where does cholesterol come from? There are two sources: our body makes cholesterol and there is cholesterol in the animal food we eat such as eggs, regular milk products, meat and poultry. High fat foods containing saturated and trans fat are lethal because they are high in cholesterol

What about eggs?

Egg is considered to be a complete food. It is low in calories (79 calories) and is loaded with protein (six grams of protein per egg), important vitamins and minerals. Egg is low in fat but the yolk is high in cholesterol. Yolk is also high in calories (egg white 16 vs. yolk 63 calories per egg).

The average large egg yolk contains 212 mg. of cholesterol. This is considered to be high and it is rivaled only by single servings of liver, shrimp, and duck meat. Compare this to other foods: one cup of whole milk has 35 mg. of cholesterol, one cup of skim milk has four gm. of cholesterol, one ounce of cheese has 20-30 mg. of cholesterol and 3.5 ounce of beef or chicken has 70-100 mg. of cholesterol. Shrimp (3.5 oz.) and cod have 25 and 65 mg. of cholesterol respectively.

For healthy individuals, the American Heart Association recommends 300 mg or less of dietary cholesterol a day. If you have one of the risk factors for heart disease then 200 mg or less of dietary cholesterol is recommended. There are many other risk factors which you can control such as obesity, diabetes, smoking and high blood pressure.

An individual’s capacity to handle dietary cholesterol also varies. A cardiologist in New York City treated over 8,000 patients with a diet high in meat, milk, and eggs and he lowered the serum cholesterol markedly in 63 percent of his patients. The cardiologist, Dr. Itchiness, believes that 95 percent of all heart trouble is associated with high serum triglycerides and attributes this to the staggering increase in sugar consumption – up from 7 pounds per person in 1840 to over 100 pounds today.

Important thing is to use common sense, exercise regularly and eat a sensible diet in moderation. Relax, be happy and laugh a lot.

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