Three leading physicians have published a review in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology warning about the danger of dietary cholesterol for those at risk of a heart attack or stroke. And they say one of the worst offenders is the egg yolk which, depending on size, can contain 215 to 275 mg of cholesterol. Some fast-food meals can contain as much as 150 mg of cholesterol. Patients at risk of cardiovascular disease are advised to limit their total dietary cholesterol to less than 200 mg per day.
The review of studies was authored by stroke prevention expert, Dr. David Spence of The University of Western Ontario, nutrition expert Dr. David Jenkins of the Risk Factor Modification Centre at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, and cholesterol expert Dr. Jean Davignon of the Clinique de nutrition métabolisme et athérosclérose in Montreal.
"We wanted to put cholesterol into perspective, as there's been a widespread misconception developing among the Canadian public and even physicians, that consumption of dietary cholesterol and egg yolks is harmless," says Dr. Spence, a professor and scientist at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Robarts Research Institute. "Much of this has to do with effective egg marketing."
The review comments on the difference between fasting cholesterol and dietary cholesterol levels. It also discusses two large studies which showed no harm from egg consumption in healthy people. The authors point out that in both studies, those who developed diabetes while consuming an egg a day doubled their risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those eating less than an egg a week. The studies also showed a significant increase of new onset diabetes with regular egg consumption.
The authors conclude, "There is no question that egg white is classed as a valuable source of high-quality protein. Egg yolks, however, are not something that should be eaten indiscriminately by adults without regard to their global cardiovascular risk, genetic predisposition to heart attacks and overall food habits."
- JD Spence, DJ Jenkins, J Davignon. Dietary cholesterol and egg yolks: Not for patients at risk of vascular disease. Canadian Journal of Cardiology, 2010; 26 (9): e336-e339 [link]
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