Cholesterol and heart disease: Are eggs the bad guys?

Today we’re going to talk about a staple in the kitchen: eggs.

Now we all know that eating a lot of protein is a must to grow muscle and eating eggs is an easy way to feed your gains. But is there such a thing as eating too many eggs?

This is actually a question I get asked quite a lot. Eggs are loaded with cholesterol and when most people hear that, they immediately think of heart disease and diabetes. So how many eggs can you eat safely in a day?

Well before we get to the answer, there is some basic information that you need to know first of all. All the cholesterol is in the yolk, which is the yellow part, so you can eat egg whites all day long with no problems.

Another misconception is that cholesterol is the enemy and that’s not true. The body needs cholesterol in limited amounts to function. Actually, cholesterol is an essential part of every cell membrane in your body and it is used to make hormones like testosterone, for example, which is crucial for muscle gains.

Another thing a lot of people don’t realize is that your own body makes cholesterol and it is made in the liver.

Cholesterol is made of three components, good cholesterol or HDL (high density lipoprotein), bad cholesterol or LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and triglycerides. The American Heart Association recommends that your total cholesterol levels should be below 180 mg per deciliter and now that you know the basics let’s get to the meat of the question.

A lot of older studies show that people with high cholesterol are two times as likely to have heart disease and based on these studies they figured that eating up to six eggs per week or about one egg per day is okay. They say that if you eat more than that, you’re at risk but it’s not that simple.

First of all, these recommendations of ideal cholesterol levels are from the 1960s so they’re pretty old. When I started looking into this stuff I found that there was little scientific evidence and also that these studies used animals that were fed ridiculous amounts of cholesterol. The other thing to consider is that these general recommendations are typically ultra conservative because they have to be safe for everybody in the population, even those people that have genetic predispositions to these diseases.

So then I looked at newer studies and they show that for the majority of the population when you eat cholesterol your liver just produces less of it to compensate.

The other piece of it is that when your bad cholesterol goes up, the good one goes up as well, so the ratio doesn’t change much which is an important factor for the health problems we talked about.

So how many eggs should you really eat? Well there are two scenarios, the first scenario is, if you are a person that has a high risk for these diseases. If you are on the high-risk part of the population, then you should be conservative; find out if you are at high risk by really talking to your doctor. But here are some examples to give you a general idea:

* You are in the 10% of the population with naturally

   high cholesterol because your liver just makes too much of it.

* You have a family history of diabetes and heart disease.

* You are overweight

* You are an active smoker

* You have high blood pressure

* You have bad eating habits such as eating a lot of

   saturated fats like butter, fatty meats and cheese.

If you fall into any of these categories, I would recommend that you stick with the maximum of six eggs per week which is the general conservative guideline.

Now for the rest of the population, the most recent studies have found no conclusive evidence that eggs increase your risk of heart problems. The most important part here is not the number of eggs but the amount of bad fats you’re eating, so keep the butter, fatty meats and cheese under control.

The conclusion is that a high egg diet is fine as long as the rest of your diet is healthy. If you are an active person, with no predisposition to heart disease or diabetes, with a balanced meal plan of plenty of veggies and good fats, you should be fine to eat more than one egg a day.

 Sometimes I eat two whole eggs per day, which is double the recommendation, with a lot of egg whites. Now I don’t believe in extremes and I personally wouldn’t go crazy as I have seen people eating five or six eggs a day. I would not go down that route, plus there are no studies that I could find analyzing these extreme cases, so just remember this notion to stay on the safe side. You can have a few whole eggs a day and if you want more, toss the yolk and go nuts with unlimited egg whites.

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