Monday, 14 November 2016

What? Eggs May Reduce the Risk of Stroke?

You read it correctly! Close to the release of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which places no limit on cholesterol intake, new research shows that eggs are actually linked with a 12% reduction in the risk of stroke. These new guidelines, instead of condemning eggs for their cholesterol content, state that they are an easily accessible, affordable source of high-quality protein.

Source: Timothy Titus
Published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, the researchers found that consuming up to one egg per day had no effect on coronary heart disease (CHD) risk, and a 12% lower risk of stroke. These results came from a systematic review and meta-analysis, using research conducted between 1982 and 2015 with a total of 276,000 people in the studies examining CHD risk and 308,000 in the studies on stroke risk. The principal investigator, Dr Dominik Alexander, stated that more research is still needed on exactly how eggs may be protective against stroke. However, he did note that eggs are not only a source of protein, but also contain the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which are carotenoids with a yellow pigment and present in the (yellow) egg yolk. Eggs also contain the vitamins A, D and E. His research also builds on another 2015 meta-analysis where eggs were not linked to any increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. As stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the USA, a 12% lower risk means a lot of people. According to MedicalNewsToday, the choline in eggs plays an important role in breaking down homocysteine, which has been linked to cardiovascular issues. The lutein and zeaxanthin has also been associated with protection from macular degeneration. On top of this, the fact that eggs give sustained, satisfying energy may help with weight management, as you are less likely to want sugary snacks. Eggs are another source of DHA, which is an anti-inflammatory product of omega-3 fatty acids.

Cholesterol itself may not be that bad either, in fact it may even be beneficial! A 1988 study trying to find a relationship between blood levels of cholesterol and cancer risk found that, compared to the lowest quintile of cholesterol levels, men in higher quintiles had a 19-54% reduced risk of cancer, with the level of protection rising alongside their cholesterol levels! Women did not have such a dose-dependent reduced risk of cancer; compared to the lowest quintile, women in the second quintile had a 25% lower risk, a 16% lower risk in the third, a reduced risk of 22% in the fourth and a 30% lower cancer risk in the highest quintile. These results were not linked to higher levels of vitamin A, E or selenium. They weren't too much to laugh at either, as the study involved over 39,000 people aged 15-99, and had a follow-up of ten years. The strongest protective effects seen were in the first few years of follow-up, especially for fast-growing cancers. GreenMedInfo, in fact, has curated several studies showing that statins may increase the risk of cancer. One of these also linked statin use to accelerated aging and increased mortality, links which increase in strength with age. As cholesterol is a necessary component of cell membranes (Principles of Anatomy & Physiology - Tortora & Derrickson), these associations should not be shot down just because an "authority figure" in the media says that statins are safe and cholesterol is evil. The idea that cholesterol is evil began with animals who are not usually natural meat eaters being fed cholesterol (dogs did not develop cardiovascular issues). Then in the 1950s, Ancel Keys studied 22 countries to find a link between cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases, but used the results from the seven countries that showed the results he wanted. Overall, eggs (and cholesterol) aren't the awful things we once thought, although more research may be needed to see what happens to people's health before and after adding eggs to their usual diet.

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