I eat 6 whole eggs a day for breakfast. Usually.
Some of my plant-based friends will probably disappointed I eat animal products, but don’t care much about the commonly believed health implications.
And others, I would say most, will probably be shocked and think my cholesterol is sky high and I’m going to give myself a heart attack or some other form of cardiovascular disease at a young age.
I’m basing the second assumption on experiences telling people in person. Several have counselled that one egg a day is the maximum I should be eating, even at that it’s a lot. Others cautioned that eggs are bad for my heart. And some laughed out loud thinking the fact I eat that number funny in itself, because I guess 1 or 2 is more normal.
I’ve been eating around 6 whole eggs a day for close to two years now. So my cholesterol levels should be through the roof if the idea that eggs (and other animal products) that contain cholesterol translate directly to higher cholesterol levels in the body.
I received blood test results today.
My total cholesterol is 168mg/dl.
Under 200mg/dl is widely accepted as ‘good’.
Normal cholesterol level references:
- less than 200mg/dl is the number the Hospital de Jerez de la Frontera gave me also.
Apart from eggs, I also eat quite a bit of sea food, known for being high in cholesterol. And I eat a little meat, which also contains cholesterol.
I’m not going to get into how much, or how I source my animal products. I have just watched Cowspiracy which I found fascinated and has made me question a lot of things. But my thoughts on that are coming in another post, hopefully shortly.
What’s going on then? Where does this belief that cholesterol in food leads to heart issues come from? The answer it seems is from outdated, inaccurate studies. And new studies show the connection is incorrect.
Information and Opinion Caveat
I’ve gone on a rollercoaster of beliefs in diets and what I was 1000% sure was the most healthy way to do X, Y and Z. I’d read a book and then share my newfound expertise with others.
The trouble with that was accepting an authors word at face value, just because that person wrote a book. And not having tested out the information myself.
The point of this post is just to share my own experience and some information from a book that correlates to that experience. My own experience is just a study of one. Maybe eating a high cholesterol and saturated fat diet is horrible for somebody else, I don’t know. And maybe the correlation between the book I’m about to dive into and my cholesterol levels are just coincidence and not causation.
Correlation does not equal causation
Just because I do something and that seems to produce a result, does not mean that thing caused the result. Even though it really appears that way. Just something to keep in mind, to cultivate an open, critical mind. I exercise regularly, meditate, do yoga, eat mostly good quality, local food and am very fortunate to live a fairly low stress life. All of these are possible factors in having healthy cholesterol levels too.
The Great Cholesterol Con
The book I mentioned above is The Great Cholesterol Con by Anthony Colpo.
The premise for the book is that the idea that “cholesterol and saturated fat cause heart disease is one of the most fundamental tenets of modern medicine. It is also completely false.”
The book explains:
- “Heart disease is not caused by saturated fat nor elevated blood cholesterol;
- People with low cholesterol levels live shorter lives;
- Populations consuming high saturated fat diets often enjoy very low rates of heart disease;
- Many dietary recommendations made by ‘experts’ to reduce heart disease have actually been shown in animal and human studies to increase heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity;
- The primary force behind the anti-cholesterol paradigm is not public health, but profit!”
Colpo cites the Framingham study as one of the most frequently references advocates of the ‘lipid hypothesis’—the hypothesis that saturated fat and cholesterol are linked to coronary heart disease.
The study started in 1948 and monitored 5,000 residents in Framingham, MA, USA. The study followed those 5,000 for 16 years and found a link between the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) in those under 50 and their cholesterol level.
He goes on to explain that a 30 year follow up paper was published 1987 which found again that under 50’s cholesterol levels were linked to mortality. But found there is no link in people older than 50. 95% of CHD deaths are in people over 55, so the remaining 5% on which cholesterol link was suggested is a very small statistical data sample.
Colpo argues that the results of the study actually show an increase in mortality in those over 55 connected with lowering cholesterol. The opposite of what the study is ‘supposed’ to show. He goes on to list several other studies, often poorly conducted, which fail to show a link between cholesterol and CHD.
What Really Causes Coronary Heart Disease?
Stress is cited as a big one. Anthony talks at length about eating the food we were designed to eat, like a large amount of fruits and veggies (ground breaking concept right there).
Free radicals is another cause, which can be combated by avoiding polyunsaturated vegetable oils, avoiding low fat diets, eating fresh fruits and veg (and meat for those so inclined), and regularly exercising.
Shooting Myself in the Foot
I’ve essentially said, I eat a lot of eggs and it hasn’t effected my cholesterol levels, which is good.
Then argued that cholesterol levels are not even a valid health indicator. So what was the point?
Well, on one hand, it’s interesting to disprove the connection between ingesting cholesterol in the form of animal products and increasing levels in the body. Cholesterol is essential to produce testosterone. And my T levels were at 873.5 ng/dl, which is apparently a little high. The hospital that did my blood work cited 836 as an upper normal limit. Nothing to be worried about.
One the other hand, it’s a nice segue into talking about what currently looks like matters most in terms of health.
Colpo shows that blood glucose levels are an important health marker to keep an eye on. And that elevated blood glucose levels can have nasty effects, like stimulating free radical activity, reducing vitamin C uptake, and impairing the immune system.