by Malcom Kendrick, M.D. and Duane Graveline, M.D., M.P.H.
According to the U.S. Government's latest guidelines, one egg per day does not result in increased blood cholesterol levels. Nor does it increase the risk of cardiovascular disease in normal people.
What it might have said is that 12 eggs per day will not increase your blood cholesterol or have a significant impact on cardiovascular risk. And the government could say this about many other cholesterol containing foodstuffs such as whole milk and butter.
Four decades ago when the U.S. Government abruptly placed eggs, butter and whole milk on the restricted list, doctors began to counsel patients likewise and warned about the evils of these farm products.
Families were placed on a no egg, margarine instead of butter and low fat milk instead of whole milk diet. The typical farmer's diet from a generation or two ago was homemade butter from Jersey fat, whole milk and plenty of eggs.
For 20 years doctors carried on like this, lackeys to Big Pharma, marching lockstep with medical peers to the music of cholesterol causation of heart disease. When Big Pharma created statins, doctors bowed again in allegiance to them for having given to us this new cholesterol lowering club.
Now after years of researching the true purpose of cholesterol and the terrible consequences of statin use to lower cholesterol we have discovered that cholesterol is not the cause of cardiovascular disease. It has never truly been Public Health Enemy #1.
Foods containing cholesterol don't raise blood cholesterol for several reasons. The main one is that our bodies, like the bodies of all living creatures, are capable of an amazing thing called homeostasis. Namely, keeping the level of things that are important e.g. temperature or potassium levels, at a constant level. No matter what you do on the outside, things remain calm and in control on the inside.
If your body couldn't do this, you would die in about two seconds flat. Looking at cholesterol, our livers synthesize around five times as much cholesterol as you are ever likely to eat in your diet. If you eat less cholesterol, your liver will synthesize more (of this vital substance). If you eat more cholesterol, you liver will synthesize less. This is homeostasis in action.
Quite how much cholesterol you would need to eat to overwhelm your homeostatic system is unknown. Nobody has managed to do it yet. People fed up to ten eggs a day kept their 'cholesterol levels' constant; something first proven by Ancel Keys - ironically the man who almost single handedly created the diet-heart/cholesterol hypothesis in the 1950s.
The body controls 'cholesterol levels' - actually the level of low density lipoprotein (LDL) through the action of LDL receptors in the liver. If the LDL level rises, LDL receptors on the liver catch hold of it, drag it back into the liver and recycle the cholesterol contained within the LDL.
If you have a lack of LDL receptors - the underlying cause of Familial Hypercholesterolaemia (FH) - your LDL/cholesterol level will rise. Not, because of anything you eat. In fact, despite anything you eat. In short, the body normally controls LDL/cholesterol levels within certain levels, completely independent of diet. If this system fails, it has nothing whatsoever to do with what you eat. It is entirely due to errors within your homeostatic system. It is as simple at that.
Cholesterol is perhaps the most important biochemical in our bodies. The true cause of heart attacks and strokes is a form of inflammation. For the past 40 years our dietary guidelines have been wrong. Is anyone coming out with an apology for all this - some words from our national leadership? Don't hold your breath while you are waiting.
The most we will ever get is this really foolish statement, "One egg a day gets the OK." Meanwhile Big Pharma alone has made some 75 billion in profits from the use of statins to lower cholesterol and no doubt the food industry has taken its share as well.
Meanwhile the game has changed. Statins work to lower cardiovascular risk not by cholesterol reduction, which they do well, but by inflammation reduction. The same doctors who put you on statins for cholesterol reduction are keeping you on statins for their anti-inflammatory properties. And testing your blood for cholesterol? Forget about it! From now on we will be using the C-reactive protein test for the level of inflammation in your bloodstream. Cholesterol is the most important biochemical in your body.
Malcolm Kendrick, M.D.
Dr. Kendrick has worked in family practice for almost twenty years.
He has specialized in heart disease and set up the on-line educational website for the European Society of Cardiology.
He is a peer-reviewer for the British Medical Journal.
Duane Graveline MD MPH
Former USAF Flight Surgeon
Former NASA Astronaut
Retired Family Doctor