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Cholesterol and Eggs: Let Us Eggsplain

Science seems to like changing its mind about eggs. At first, eggs were good. Then, they were bad. And then, eggs were good again. And recently, new research has added to this back-and-forth egg debate, discussing whether eggs are good or not for your cholesterol levels.

The widely reported study, led by Dr. Victor W. Zhong and titled “Associations of Dietary Cholesterol or Egg Consumption With Incident Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality,” had this to say as a conclusion:

“Among US adults, higher consumption of dietary cholesterol or eggs was significantly associated with higher risk of incident [cardiovascular disease (CVD)] and all-cause mortality in a dose-response manner.”

So, it’s been settled, right? Eggs are bad for you. Well, not quite. After reading how people across the Internet weighed in, this question remains complex and difficult to answer.

Let’s take a look at some opinions. But before that, let’s make sure we understand how cholesterol works.

What is cholesterol?

We all have cholesterol. Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in all our body’s cells. It has plenty of uses, such as making hormones and vitamin D.

All the cholesterol you require for healthy functioning is produced by your own body, but cholesterol can also be consumed through food.

Too much cholesterol can cause plaque to build up in your arteries. This condition, called atherosclerosis, can lead to coronary artery disease, and your arteries can even get blocked.

Lastly, to be transported throughout your body, you have substances called lipoproteins, biochemicals that carry cholesterol, and there are several types.

HDL: The “good” cholesterol

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is sometimes called “good cholesterol.” It carries cholesterol back to your liver from different parts of your body. Your liver can then get rid of this cholesterol, so it’s good to have high levels of HDL.

LDL: The “bad” cholesterol

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is often nicknamed “bad cholesterol.” Too much build-up of LDL cholesterol may lead to plaque build-up in your arteries. Eating saturated fats (found in meat, dairy, and processed foods) and trans fats (found in processed and deep-fried foods) can raise your LDL cholesterol levels.

VLDL: Another “bad” cholesterol

Very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) may also lead to plaque build-up in the arteries. VLDL, however, mainly carries triglycerides while LDL mostly carries cholesterol. Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in the human body, and high levels of them can increase your risk of heart disease.

What people are saying about eggs

So, as you can probably guess, having high cholesterol isn’t necessarily bad. And neither are eggs if we consider various viewpoints.

Conflicting studies

According to an article from TIME, we should remember that “nutrition research is notoriously hard to conduct accurately.” This article brought up past studies that seem to contradict Zhong’s. For example, a 2016 study concluded that “[e]gg or cholesterol intakes were not associated with increased [coronary artery disease (CAD)] risk.”

Another study, done on Chinese adults, concluded that “a moderate level of egg consumption (up to <1 egg/day) was significantly associated with lower risk of CVD, largely independent of other risk factors.” 

Self-reporting is flawed

Dr. Leslie Cho, a physician interviewed by CBS News, says the study in question was scientifically sound. But she brings up a good point about the reliance on self-reported data: “Do you remember what you ate last week? Because I don’t. It’s the same thing with patients.”

Dr. Cho also reminded readers that this study was not a randomized controlled trial (RCT) but an observational study. RCTs are considered the gold standard when it comes to testing the safety and effectiveness of a treatment. In other words, this study was done well, but not perfectly.

The takeaway

After browsing a number of opinions, the consensus seems to be eggs in moderation. After all, eggs contain numerous nutrients. As Bruce Y. Lee writing for Forbes reminds us: “You don’t want to eat an egg-cessive number of eggs but you also don’t have to completely eggs-lude eggs from your diet.”

There are also better and worse ways to eat an egg. If you scramble it with butter and top it with cheese, you’re consuming it with high levels of fat and salt. Poach it bare in water, and the egg is all you get. Drink the egg raw, and you risk salmonella contamination.

Treatments for high cholesterol

Whether or not eggs have been the cause, if you have excessively high LDL cholesterol levels, you may be prescribed a statin medication, which works to lower your LDL levels.

Since this medication needs to be taken regularly, you can save on your medical bills by buying up to a 90-day supply of drugs like atorvastatin from an online international or Canadian pharmacy referral service.

In general, lifestyle changes like eating a healthier diet, quitting tobacco, and exercising regularly helps most people. Your doctor can then recommend a treatment plan that works with your medical history.