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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Eggs, Carbs and Cholesterol

On the various forums I visit one of the most common things I see when people describe their low-carb breakfasts is "egg-beaters" or other yolk-less forms of eggs. When I query them on the reasons, their fear is almost always that the cholesterol in eggs would raise their cholesterol levels.

Well, it appears that they may be partially correct if you eat a low-fat diet, but if you eat eggs as part of a reduced carb diet the cholesterol that is raised is the GOOD cholesterol, HDL. This article is from J. Nutr. 138:272-276, February 2008:

Dietary Cholesterol from Eggs Increases Plasma HDL Cholesterol in Overweight Men Consuming a Carbohydrate-Restricted Diet

Here is the abstract, I've edited by adding para breaks for clarity and to get past blogger's html gremlins; the comments in black are my own.

"Carbohydrate-restricted diets (CRD) significantly decrease body weight and independently improve plasma triglycerides (TG) and HDL cholesterol (HDL-C). [An interesting statement in itself.]

Increasing intake of dietary cholesterol from eggs in the context of a low-fat diet maintains the LDL cholesterol (LDL-C)/HDL-C for both hyper- and hypo-responders to dietary cholesterol. In this study, 28 overweight/obese male subjects (BMI = 25–37 kg/m2) aged 40–70 y were recruited to evaluate the contribution of dietary cholesterol from eggs in a CRD. Subjects were counseled to consume a CRD (10–15% energy from carbohydrate) and they were randomly allocated to the EGG group [intake of 3 eggs per day (640 mg/d additional dietary cholesterol)] or SUB group [equivalent amount of egg substitute (0 dietary cholesterol) per day]. Energy intake decreased in both groups from 10,243 ± 4040 to 7968 ± 2401 kJ compared with baseline. All subjects irrespective of their assigned group had reduced body weight and waist circumference [The reduced-carb diet worked for ALL of them, regardless of egg intake].

Similarly, the plasma TG concentration was reduced from 1.34 ± 0.66 to 0.83 ± 0.30 mmol/L after 12 wk in all subjects. [That is a very significant decrease, the mg/dl equivalent is: "plasma TG concentration was reduced from 119±58 to 73±26 mg/dl after 12 wk in all subjects"] .

The plasma LDL-C concentration, as well as the LDL-C:HDL-C ratio, did not change during the intervention. In contrast, plasma HDL-C concentration increased in the EGG group from 1.23 ± 0.39 to 1.47 ± 0.38 mmol/L, whereas HDL-C did not change in the SUB group. Plasma glucose concentrations in fasting subjects did not change. Eighteen subjects were classified as having the metabolic syndrome (MetS) at the beginning of the study, whereas 3 subjects had that classification at the end. [Just a reminder - ALL were on the CRD] .

These results suggest that including eggs in a CRD results in increased HDL-C while decreasing the risk factors associated with MetS."

It also says quite a lot about the benefits of a Carbohydrate-restricted diet for Metabolic Syndrome; presumably another paper is on the way or recently published.

Have an omelette for breakfast
tomorrow folks - and also notice the improvement in your peak post-breakfast BG's.

Cheers, Alan
Everything in Moderation - Except Laughter


Anonymous said...

The egg yolks add the fluffy kind of particles to your cholesterol. If you're low carb, that's all you're adding. If you're high carb you are also raising the amount of small dense particles from the resulting elevated triglycerides.

Trinkwasser said...

I don't eat eggs, but that's purely due to the stinky sulphurous flavour!

However (and I suppose I should add "don't try this at home") I have experimented with the saturated fat in real meat and have similarly found that in the absence of excess carbs and the resultant high trigs, my HDL has gone up and my LDL gone down by around 10 points each.

The ratios suggest similarly that the LDL is the beneficial kind.

In retrospect most dietary research has been done with high carb diets or at best "less high carb" diets, fortunately a few researchers do now appear to be looking at nutrition in a less biased way.

Check out some of the papers here


for some 21st century dietary information

Jeff B said...

I'm a firm believer in the idea that carbs and respective insulin response have a direct impact on fat and cholesterol usage by the body. Last year I tried The South Beach Diet and, not only did I lose 17 lbs. in just six weeks, my overall cholesterol dropped by about 70 pts. (from 312). As part of this diet I ate 2 eggs along with 2 pieces of canadian bacon every morning. Pretty impressive impirical evidence, if you ask me.

I gathered a bunch of information during my quest to lower my cholesterol and have put together an informational site at Artery Blocker - Cholesterol, heart disease, LDL, HDL, Cholesterol Testing. Please visit if you have the time.

Alan said...

Thanks for the comment Jeff.

I haven't tried South Beach or any other "name" diet, but it has a good reputation on the various diabetes forums that I read.

However, please note that approving the the comment and the url link for publication does not imply agreement with the cholesterol comments on that link.

I have some quite different views on the relative importance of triglycerides, HDL and LDL and I am presently preparing a new blog article on the subject.

Anonymous said...

I would just like to take some time too thank the active members for doing what you do and making the community what it is im a long time reader and first time poster so i just wanted to say thanks.

jpg391 said...

I eat eggs every morning for breakfast and will continue to do so.