How many times did this thought cross your mind? If you are an egg-lover like most of us are, probably each time you taste the amazing flavour of an egg yolk. In this article, we’ll explain to you what an egg is made of and the effects that eating eggs have on our bodies.
The good and the bad cholesterol
The relationship between blood cholesterol and heart disease is well-established, with the lowering of serum LDL-cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”) being the primary target of preventive therapy. Furthermore, epidemiological studies report a lower risk of heart disease with higher concentrations of HDL-cholesterol (“good cholesterol”).
The word cholesterol has gained considerable negative connotations in society; however, it is needed in the body to insulate nerves, make cell membranes and produce certain hormones.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), for the prevention of diet-related chronic diseases, the dietary recommendation for cholesterol is less than 300 mg per day. For people that already have or show a risk of heart disease, the goal is keeping the intake lower than 200 mg of dietary cholesterol per day.
The benefits of eggs
Eggs are considerable sources of dietary cholesterol, however, eggs are of particular interest from a functionality point of view, because they offer a moderate calorie source (about 140-170 kcal/100 g), a protein of excellent quality, great culinary versatility and low economic cost, which make eggs within reach to most of the population. Eggs are also relatively rich in fat-soluble compounds and can, therefore, be a nutritious inclusion in the diet for people of all ages and at different stages of life. In particular, eggs may play a useful role in the diets of those at risk of low-nutrient intakes such as the elderly, pregnant women and children.
Our body and the cholesterol
It is necessary to understand that our own body produces approximately 75% of the serum cholesterol and only about 25% of the serum cholesterol is derived from the diet. What does this mean? It means that our own body is capable of regulating serum cholesterol!
The majority of the population (2/3) has no or only a mild increase in serum cholesterol when they consume a large amount of dietary cholesterol. These individuals are classified as hypo-responders or compensators, in that they can compensate by reducing cholesterol biosynthesis, absorption, and excretion. On the other hand, a small proportion of the population has a much larger increase in serum cholesterol, these individuals are classified as hyper-responders or non-compensators.
Several factors such as ethnicity, genetic makeup, hormonal factors and body mass index determine who would hyper-respond to dietary cholesterol and those who are hypo-responsive to intake.
Recent studies, developed with the goal to determine the impact of consuming 1 to 3 eggs per day, indicate that:
- this daily consumption does not negatively affect serum lipids in part of the studied population.
- in some cases, it appears to improve the lipid profile of the individuals, increasing the amount and size of the HDL particles and also, increasing the less harmful LDL particles.
- other findings demonstrated an inverse association of egg consumption (less than 1 egg/day) with cardiovascular disease.
It is important to keep in mind that a healthy eating pattern and an adequate body composition are essential to reduce the risk of developing noncommunicable diseases and the response regarding the consumption of eggs and its daily quantity has to be observed individually.
MSc Ágatha Transfeld
Master’s Degree in Food and Nutrition