Transcript: Eggs and Arterial Function
In reaction to the study that found a similar exponential increase in artery clogging plaque in smokers and egg eaters, one critic countered that eggs have beneficial effects on vascular endothelium, the inner lining of our arteries, citing this study on egg consumption and endothelial function, funded by the American Egg Board.
It was done on a group of men and women eating the standard American diet, overweight, normal cholesterol, (which is to say extremely high cholesterol) LDL levels twice as high as could be considered optimal. See, it’s often not appreciated that the average blood cholesterol level in the United States, the so-called normal level, has actually been abnormal, accelerating heart disease and putting a large fraction of the so-called normal population at a higher risk for coronary heart disease, our #1 killer.
If you threw a lit match into a flaming pool of gasoline and saw no real difference in the height of the flames, you can’t conclude that throwing lit matches into gasoline is not a fire hazard, but that’s what the Egg Board study concluded. When the addition of eggs didn't make the arterial function worse than it already was, they concluded that short-term egg consumption does not adversely affect endothelial function in healthy adults.
The Egg Board paid for a follow-up using folks who were even worse off, total cholesterol of 244. They report that egg consumption had no effects on endothelial function… as compared to sausage and cheese. Compared to the ingestion of a sausage and cheese breakfast sandwich. Yet instead of sounding the alarm that eating eggs is as bad for arterial function as a McDonald’s Sausage McMuffin, they conclude egg consumption was found to be non-detrimental to endothelial function. And cholesterol as well. They started out with a life-threatening cholesterol and ended up with a life-threatening cholesterol.
Why didn’t it get even worse? Because there’s a plateau effect, you can basically max out on your cholesterol absorption. After a certain level of intake, it’s just another match to the fire. If you’re already consuming the standard American diet averaging 400mg of cholesterol daily, even add two jumbo eggs to one’s diet, and it may already be a lost cause. But in people trying to eat healthy, those two eggs could shoot their cholesterol up 20 points.
But, a fat-free, cholesterol-free egg substitute was beneficial. So, not eating eggs lowered cholesterol levels, not eating eggs improved endothelial function—and that’s what these people needed. Their arteries were already hurting, they needed something to bring the fire down, not throw more matches at it. Same with the other Egg Board study. They were apparently eating so unhealthy that adding eggs couldn’t make things much worse, but eating oatmeal instead of eggs made things better, helping to quench the fire. So even the Egg Board-funded studies both said not eating eggs is better for our arteries, yet that’s the study pro-egg folks cite to claim beneficial vascular effects.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.
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