Sunday, August 11, 2019

Retrospective #176: Eggs, Cholesterol and Choline

Recently eggs have had a checkered history. Why? Only 1 reason:  they are high in cholesterol. Ever since Dwight Eisenhower had a heart attack in 1955, our government has been telling us that dietary cholesterol is a no-no. Ancel Keys aggressively promoted the idea, joining the American Heart Association board and making the cover of Time magazine in 1961; and then in 1977, the McGovern Commission’s “Dietary Goals for the United States” institutionalized it. Eggs are “artery clogging” and will cause heart disease. Hogwash! And everybody knows this, but in case you haven’t heard it:
The Nutrition Source website of The Harvard School of Public Health starts off, “Long vilified by well-meaning doctors and scientists for their high cholesterol content, eggs are now making a bit of a comeback. While it’s true that egg yolks have a lot of cholesterol—and so may weakly affect blood cholesterol levels—eggs also contain nutrients that may help lower the risk for heart disease, including protein, vitamins B12 and D, riboflavin, and folate. A solid body of research shows that for most people, cholesterol in food has a much smaller effect on blood levels of total cholesterol and harmful LDL cholesterol than does the mix of fats in the diet.” (Emphasis mine) That may be faint praise, but I’ll accept it, coming from Harvard.
I eat 3 fried eggs a day, 6 days a week, cooked in bacon grease (from one strip). Occasionally, we have scrambled eggs, with whole milk and cheese. I always add salt and pepper, and I take my coffee with stevia and heavy cream. My latest HDL cholesterol was 85, triglycerides 49, total cholesterol 217 and LDL 122 (Pattern A: large-buoyant).
I mention my blood lipids because the uninformed reader, upon learning that I eat 3 eggs a day, might ask, “How about your cholesterol?” The government has recommended from 1977 until the 2015 DGA that people eat no more than 300mg of dietary cholesterol a day. Three eggs yolks contain 634mgs. With the heavy cream and bacon, I’m at 700mg for breakfast alone. With sardines for lunch and maybe shrimp for dinner, I could be over 1000mg!
I buy eggs at our local farmers’ market. The feed is soy-free. The vendor is a local farmer, who also raises heritage pigs and grass fed beef and rotates their chicken-coop-on-wheels from pasture to pasture, Joel Saladin Polyface Farms style. I pay a little more for these eggs, but I know that they are as good as I can get.
Because they contain “complete protein”, eggs are one of the best foods you can eat, and hens that range freely on pasture produce the best eggs, nutritionally and in terms of taste. Like people and pigs, chickens are omnivores, so they eat insects and larvae (from fermenting “flops”). Their eggs are higher in, among other things, Omega 3 fatty acids, the “good” polyunsaturated fat that is “essential” for humans. That’s why I also eat sardines (in olive oil) for lunch and supplement with a 1-gram capsule of fish oil twice a day – to get the EPA and DHA in the Omega 3s. 
Another reason to eat 3 eggs a day is to get extra choline. According to Wikipedia, “Choline was classified in 1998 as an essential nutrient by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine. Choline is the precursor molecule for the neurotransmitter… (that) is involved in many functions including memory and muscle control.”
“Choline must be consumed through the diet for the body to remain healthy,” according to the Linus Pauling Institute at LSU. “It is used in the synthesis of the constructional components in the body's cell membranes. Despite the perceived benefits of choline, dietary recommendations have discouraged people from eating certain high-choline foods, such as eggs and fatty meats. The 2005 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey stated that only 2% of postmenopausal women consume the recommended intake for choline.”
“A 2010 study noted young women should be supplied with more choline because pregnancy is a time when the body's demand for choline is highest. Choline is particularly used to support the fetus's developing nervous system.” Can you think of a better reason to eat lots of eggs?

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