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Myths and facts about cholesterol

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Jakarta  /  Mon, July 18, 2016  /  06:35 pm
Myths and facts about cholesterol

Diets that substitute carbohydrates for saturated fats may actually increase the risk for heart disease. (Shutterstock/-)

The myth that cholesterol causes heart disease and eggs are bad for us because they contain cholesterol and fats is misleading. As with every type of food we eat, an egg is only as good as the bird in which it came from. It is not the cholesterol that is the issue but the ratio of Omega-3: Omega-6 fatty acids.

A healthy free-range egg will contain a cholesterol ratio of between 1:1 and 1:4, whereas in an industrially raised chicken egg it can be as high as 1:16-30. This presents a problem as too much Omega-6 fatty acid creates a state of inflammation in our bodies. Inflammation is now recognized as the leading cause of chronic disease.

Despite the claims that eggs (in particular the yolk, as this is where all the nutrients are found) contain too much fat and cholesterol, a healthy egg also contains adequate lecithin. Lecithin is a compound that effectively emulsifies the fats and cholesterol in eggs, making the whole egg a well-balanced, natural food source that is very healthy. According to recommendations, quality free-range eggs can be enjoyed in abundance.

The cholesterol myth has been turning people away from eggs for too long. The case against cholesterol, which was made nearly 30 years ago, was based on faulty evidence. This bogus science that incorrectly labeled cholesterol as the “bad guy” has caused the public to focus on eggs’ negative aspects that lead to poor health and heart disease. A large amount of research now proves that the true promoters of heart diseases are inflammation, oxidative damage, stress and sugar.

(Read also: Cholesterol no longer a concern: US experts)

Cholesterol itself is actually crucial for a lot of bodily functions, as it builds and maintains cell membranes, aids in the manufacture of bile to help digest fats, is important for the metabolism of fat-soluble vitamins (including vitamins A, D, E and K), and is essential for healthy skin as it is the major precursor for the synthesis of vitamin D. It is also critical for growth and development of the brain, nerves and sex organs, as it is the precursor of the various steroid hormones (including cortisol and aldosterone in the adrenal glands, and the sex hormones; progesterone, estrogens, testosterone and derivatives). Cholesterol is needed for the immune system as well, and required by the brain; in fact, low cholesterol can result in memory loss. Some research also indicates that it acts as an antioxidant.

In light of these facts about cholesterol, eggs can be very beneficial for children and young adults’ development. Dr. Bernard Jensen, author of Foods that Heal, describes eggs as “having all the right nutrients for the brain, nerves and glands”. 

Below are some facts taken from the new book The Great Cholesterol Myth by Jonny Bowden (PhD, CNS) and Stephen Sinatra (MD, FACN):

(Read also: 10 false 'perceptions' about heart disease)

Myth: High cholesterol is a good predictor of heart attacks. Fact: High cholesterol is a terrible predictor of heart attacks.

Myth: High cholesterol is the cause of heart disease. Fact: Cholesterol plays a fairly insignificant part in causing heart disease.

Myth: The higher your cholesterol, the shorter your lifespan. Fact: In the Framingham Study, the people who lived the longest actually had the highest cholesterol.

Myth: A high-carbohydrate diet protects you from heart disease. Fact: Diets that substitute carbohydrates for saturated fats may actually increase the risk of heart disease. 

To ensure you have a healthy heart, don’t worry about how many eggs you eat. Rather, focus on things that really matter: reduce the amount of stress in your life, reduce your consumption of sugars, exercise and consume more Omega-3 foods and less Omega-6 foods. (kes)

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.