For years, the U.S. government and various medical organizations recommended limiting dietary cholesterol intake as low as possible for the sake of preventing heart disease.
The idea was simple – plaque blocks arteries in the heart (causing a heart attack) –> arterial plaque contains cholesterol –> the body can absorb cholesterol from food –> lowering dietary cholesterol can reduce the likelihood of plaque developing in the heart, thus preventing heart disease.
So, gradually over time, Americans have reduced their consumption of eggs, butter, milk, and red meat, in response to these recommendations. In fact, egg consumption was almost double today’s back in 1945, and red meat consumption has nearly halved since the 70s. (source 1 … source 2)
However, in recent years, top nutrition experts have re-examined the important (or lack of importance) of limiting dietary cholesterol-intake, leading to the question: is dietary cholesterol even a contributor in heart disease? (source)
And the answer is, well, there’s no simple answer. Sure, there’s been plenty of research that has tied cholesterol to heart disease, but more and more research is being brought to light that shows us the connection between the two aren’t that clear. In fact, the most damning piece of evidence against the idea of cholesterol causing heart disease is the “French Paradox” – ” … the observation of low coronary heart disease death rates despite high intake of dietary cholesterol and saturated fat [in French populations.]” (source)
To make things more interesting … as mentioned in the Washington Post article linked above, blood cholesterol is largely a product of the body’s own production of cholesterol. Meaning, dietary cholesterol can only make up a small portion of your blood cholesterol anyway.
There are a number of causes driving heart disease, including smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and a lack of physical activity. Whether or not cholesterol consumption is another cause is up for debate. And if it is a causative factor, we’re still not sure how strong of a causative factor it is compared to all the other factors.
If you’re already pretty healthy, you aren’t obese, you sleep well, you don’t smoke, and you’re plenty active already, I don’t think that eating a few eggs here and there will clog your arteries. As always, be sure to ask your doctor about it (and if you really want to make things interesting, bring up the French Paradox while you’re at it.)
If you found this article interesting and would like to learn more about fitness & nutrition, click the big red button below.
And if you’d like to schedule a FREE Starting Point Session to learn more about our adult fitness program and to get a game plan that will help you get started on your health & fitness journey, click here.