For years, folks have been afraid of eggs, and how they are “bad” for cholesterol and LDL. Long gone are the days where people drank them raw like Sylvester Stallone did in Rocky… and no I don’t recommend you do that! Rocky did that to build muscle mass, like other body builders do, but so you know, the practice of eating raw eggs is about 120 years old. Today, some body builders use the liquid egg whites, to avoid salmonella contamination.
Anyway, enough of that raw-egg tangent. Today’s focus is on eggs and whether or not they are bad for you, or impact your risk of stroke. The rationale that some people have is that eggs are high in cholesterol, and cholesterol increases risk of stroke. So let’s explore that today, and see what the research claims. I pay attention to the research because I eat a lot of eggs myself, usually in the form of scrambled or egg salad.
Eggs contain natural cholesterol. One hard boiled egg contains 187 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol. One scrambled eggs has about 169 mg natural cholesterol. One raw egg contains 184 mg cholesterol and all of that comes from the yellow yolk. The white part has zero mg cholesterol.
We know that data has accumulated from many epidemiological studies, and it suggests an inverse relationship… meaning the more eggs you eat the higher your risk for stroke. However, the evidence of the relationship is quite limited, and has not deterred me from eating them. Millions of people have however, run scared from the egg.
The one thing that you could consider is your genetics. If you are a carrier for the ApoE4 gene, it influences your cholesterol metabolism. We are all carriers of the ApoE4 gene, I looked at my 23andMe and I have it but mine is homozygous negative (not expressive). But again, we all have it because we get a copy of the gene from mother and father. There are many variations depending on the specific alleles.
The gene functions in about 1,700 different pathways in your body, so it’s very important to our daily functioning. It is presumed by many physicians that ApoE4 carriers are prone to higher cholesterol as well as Alzheimer’s disease. But this is interesting… men and women of Nigerian decent have the highest observed frequency of the ApoE4 gene anywhere in the world, yet Alzheimer’s is extremely rare in that population.
If you have that gene, you were likely told to avoid eggs forever. I don’t agree. I just simply do not believe eggs cause Alzheimer’s or strokes in people with ApoE4, there are too many other factors. The research is there to back me, and I’ll share that next. Nevertheless, this is my opinion blog, so consult your own practitioners for advice as to how this ApoE4 gene impacts your cholesterol.
There is brand new research out, and it was just published in the May 16, 2019 issue of The Journal of the American College of Nutrition.The aim of the study was to determine the association of eggs (and cholesterol intake) with risk of stroke. It was conducted in 1,950 middle-aged men from Finland, not body builders, or women. The age of the men ranged from 42 yo to 60 yo and the data was collected for over 2 decades. Neither egg consumption, nor cholesterol intake correlated with stroke risk in the population. The gene that influences cholesterol metabolism was accounted for, and the researchers concluded that regardless of ApoE4 phenotype, egg consumption and cholesterol still intake did not affect stroke risk. The lack of an association between eggs and stroke is great news for egg lovers!
Don’t get me wrong, strokes occurred over that time frame. There were 217 strokes that occurred and 166 were ischemic, 55 were hemorrhagic stroke. The latter type of stroke is very dangerous, as it means a blood vessel has burst in the brain and it is accompanied with many symptoms, the most obvious being head pain or sudden severe headache. But the results (ie the number of strokes) showed NO correlation with the number of eggs consumed. Cholesterol didn’t appear to matter either! Which, as a pharmacist, begs the question, “Do we as a society need all these strong medications to reduce cholesterol?” If you think you do, then let me ask you these questions:
- How low do you think your cholesterol should be?
- Who gave you that number to shoot for?
- Do you feel better when your cholesterol is low?
- Are the “normal” reference ranges that show up on your lab tests really good for you?
Do you feel well when you have reduced cholesterol that much? Many people do not, because cholesterol is used as the backbone compound to make sex hormones and brain neurotransmitters. So when cholesterol is low, you can’t effectively make acetylcholine, serotonin, dopamine, estrogen, testosterone, vitamin D. That’s why I asked you if you feel well with low cholesterol? Most people do not. I just mentioned choline which is lowered by statins, leading to memory loss. And ironically, egg yolks are high in choline (and cholesterol) which builds your memory! Statins reduce CoQ10 production at the level of the liver, and CoQ10 is actually useful at reducing cholesterol. Lots of fun facts and ironic twists here.
Here’s one more fun fact. You can tell if your egg is raw, or hard-boiled very easily. If you’re not sure, spin it. If it spins nicely, it’s cooked. If it wobbles, it is raw.
These are questions to ask yourself if you are supported on medication for cholesterol management. (Boy, I find myself on many tangents today! Back to eggs).
There was a META-ANALYSIS published in 2016, in the Journal of the American College of Nutritionwhere the relationship between dietary intake of cholesterol and heart disease was studied. The review was specifically conducted to evaluate eggs (which have cholesterol) to the risk of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) and/or stroke. The scientists poured through 7 different studies as they did their meta-analysis. (FYI, a meta-analysis is not a clinical study. It is a review of existing scientific literature.)
Their findings while not a surprise to me, actually came as a shock to others. Let me just quote right out of the STUDY so you can interpret it as you wish: Based on the results of this meta-analysis, consumption of up to one egg daily may contribute to a decreased risk of total stroke, and daily egg intake does not appear to be associated with risk of CHD.
In other words, taken together, the data reveals that eggs might lower risk of stroke! I’m 54 at the time of this writing, so I can hear Sergeant Gomer Pyle in my head saying “Surprise, surprise!”
What’s so important here, and one of the messages that I am trying to give you is to stop worrying so much about food. I think there is so much mental chatter going on in the heads of Americans. Eat this, and not that… this is bad for you… bread will kill you… there’s caffeine in this… gluten in that, lactose in this and sugar in that. Of course, you want to be smart, but there is a large group of people in America that have so much mental chatter going on in their head that there is almost no joy left in the meal. For years, some caring physicians and nutritionists have said avoid the egg due to cholesterol. And I’m saying it’s food, it’s actually real food, unlike some of the fake manufactured refined foods.
Eggs are natural and if you like them, then I see no reason to avoid them, unless of course, you are a vegan, then you would avoid eggs. And that’s totally okay! The problem is that one study comes out, and then headlines are propagated like a wildfire out of control. Everyone runs scared of eggs (or gluten, grapefruit, or rice or lactose or the food du jour to be frightened of today… it’s crazy and it changes every day or two!). By the time you sit down to eat, you’re left with a glass of water and a cracker!
I propose to you to eat normal, healthy foods and stay away from refined, manufactured foods, and anything with artificial colors, sweeteners or MSG. It’s not hard to do, and it will lower your pro-inflammatory cytokines, the ones that are raising your cholesterol and making you sick! Eggs are not the problem. Neither is avocado for that matter. The fats are good in those, and it’s so silly to think that these foods can cause brain damage (ie stroke).
The meta-analysis I mentioned above also went on to conclude that eating 1 egg daily “may be associated with reduced risk of total stroke.” There was no association between egg consumption and risk of CHD. Of course not! If you sense my enthusiasm here it’s because I am up to here with the misinformation. Eggs (and several other health foods under attack) are NOT the problem. I see health bloggers, practitioners, licensed physicians and pretenders all over the Internet advising nonsense without any scientific reason.
In the meantime, everyone is afraid to eat real food, real (unrefined) sugar, real salt, real meals… some of you are eating manufactured unnatural foods to avoid the real deal. As an example, eating margarine instead of butter. Horrible in my opinion. Drinking and eating foods sweetened with artificial chemicals, because you’re afraid to drink/eat foods with sugar. Do you realize one chemical is made in a laboratory and the other grows in the Earth? Do they have you convinced that the patented chemicals and colors are superior than the ones that have been on our Earth for centuries? Not you because you’re smart, but some people are brain-washed that’s why the industry makes billions of dollars per year.
Synthetic chemicals are endocrine disruptors and damage DNA. The natural ones come unglued from your cells, and flow naturally out of your body via your colon and kidneys. The mindset that normal, natural foods are “bad” for you has annoyed me for a long time. Enough is enough. (Yes I just did an eye roll!) Eggs are cheap and nutrient dense. They provide a host of natural choline which forms acetylcholine, which helps boost memory function. They have natural essential fatty acids and powerful anti-cancer antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Before I wrap this article up, I’d like to share more scientific research that was published in the British Medical Journal in 2013. This was a meta-analysis where scientists delved into data from 17 journals, and that data was relevant to egg consumption, cholesterol and stroke risk. To give you an idea of the extent of this, it evaluated 3,081,269 people. This was not an evaluation of like 150 people, lol, the sample was massive! After analyzing the data, and quantifying it, they published their results which found that higher consumption of eggs is actually protective to the cardiovascular system.
Eating eggs (up to one egg per day) is not associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease or stroke. The higher stroke incidence that we see in diabetic patients is not from eating eggs. Certainly, the condition warrants more analysis, however, it should be on the levels of cytokines and on the pathways, nutrient deficiencies, genetics and family history. It should not be on the consumption of eggs. Let’s give that one a break!
CLICK HERE to get my recipe for Baked Eggs in Avocado with Bacon.
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.