The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

Health-conscious student finds cholesterol myth wanting

“A recent study has shown eating egg yolks can be as bad for your heart as smoking,” claimed a satellite radio announcer this summer, interrupting [my favorite?] collaboration of Maroon 5 and Flo-Rida. Educated in part from organic chemistry lab, as well as from my own compulsive nutrition blog reading, I was outraged by the simplistic and blatantly under-informed urgency of the “health” advisory announcement.

With all the fitness and nutrition advice out there, health-conscious people — especially college students — are in dire need of a more comprehensive understanding of why they should consider or ignore many of the promulgated dieting myths.

But that radio announcement and similar news reports simply regurgitated the findings of a study published in August in the journal Atherosclerosis. A study that tracked 1,231 patients in London — all of whom were recently recovered from clot-induced mini-strokes — and asked them to record their egg-yolk consumption and other lifestyle markers for a period of time. A study that — having tracked only patients with preexisting conditions — has little informational value to healthy individuals, and even less so when explained in an ear-catching radio headline.

A recent lecture at the University of California San Diego’s Medical School by Peter Attia, co-founder of the Nutrition Science Initiative, and an article by another nutritional expert, Dr. Benjamin Kim, have helped me separate the truth from fiction.

Most relevant to this study is that cholesterol is not a toxin to your body. In fact, it is a substance that is essential to life and is consumed, produced, stored and excreted by our bodies. The cholesterol in your blood is from two sources: food and your liver. So, for example, if you eat a lot of egg yolks, your liver will produce less cholesterol because your quota has been met by your food intake. Hence, a low-cholesterol diet does not necessarily decrease a person’s blood cholesterol by more than a few percent. In fact, in Canada, the dietary guidelines for cholesterol consumption have been removed in light of research affirming the triviality of high-cholesterol foods.

The result of the London study was that those individuals whose consumption of egg yolks was in the highest quintile experienced a narrowing of the carotid artery similar to that of the study’s heaviest smokers. Do we know if those individuals who consumed egg yolks were also the heaviest, the most stressed or the most genetically predisposed to high blood pressure? Or do we know if they were also eating loads of sugar and refined carbohydrates along with those eggs? Nope. But the quick summary of the study’s “proven” hypothesis disregards such essential questions.

So before you stare fearfully at that yellow bulb of nutritious protein and run to buy egg-whites instead, remember that for each study proving one hypothesis there is often another lurking close behind to disprove its findings. Check the journal Atherosclerosis today, and you’ll find an article published August 30 by Antonis Zampelas titled “Still questioning the association between egg consumption and the risk of cardiovascular diseases.” So am I, Zampelas. So am I.