Cracking Open Heart Health Myths
February is American Heart Month, and while cardiovascular disease continues to be the number one killer of Americans, many adults are confused about what foods to eat and what to avoid. A January survey of healthy adults conducted by the Egg Nutrition Center shows that nearly one out of four (24 percent) Americans still avoid eggs for fear of dietary cholesterol, even though 30 years of research has never linked egg consumption to heart disease. As a result of this myth, many Americans are missing out on the beneficial nutrients of the incredible egg.
Science Sets the Record Straight
A 2007 study of 9,500 people reported in Medical Science Monitor showed that eating one or more eggs a day did not increase the risk of heart disease or stroke among healthy adults, and that eating eggs may be associated with a decrease in blood pressure. Also in 2007, researchers showed that egg consumption contributed less than 1 percent of the risk for heart disease when other risk factors were taken into account. The researchers concluded that broad recommendations to limit egg consumption may be misguided, particularly when eggs' nutritional contributions are considered.
"People should feel secure with the knowledge that the literature shows regular egg consumption does not have a measurable impact on heart disease risk for healthy adults," says Stephen Kritchevsky, Ph.D., director of the J. Paul Sticht Center on Aging at Wake Forest University. "In fact, many countries with high egg consumption are notable for low rates of heart disease."
Not only have decades of research shown no association between egg intake and heart disease risk, but eggs are an excellent source of choline, which plays an important role in breaking down homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood that may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
Five More Reasons to "Heart" Your Eggs
Nutrient-rich, all-natural eggs are a welcome addition to any diet. One egg has 13 essential vitamins and minerals, high-quality protein, healthy unsaturated fats and antioxidants, for only 70 calories. Eggs' nutrient package aids in the following:
1. Weight management: The high-quality protein in eggs helps you to feel full longer and stay energized, which contributes to maintaining a healthy weight.
2. Muscle strength and muscle-loss prevention: Research indicates that high-quality protein may help active adults build muscle strength and help prevent muscle loss in middle-aged and aging adults.
3. Healthy pregnancy: Egg yolks are an excellent source of choline, an essential nutrient that contributes to fetal brain development and helps prevent birth defects. Two eggs provide about 250 milligrams of choline, or roughly half of the recommended daily intake for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
4. Brain function: Choline also aids the brain function of adults by maintaining the structure of brain cell membranes, and is a key component of the neuro-transmitter that helps relay messages from the brain through nerves to the muscles.
5. Eye health: Lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants found in egg yolks, help prevent macular degeneration, a leading cause of age-related blindness. Though eggs contain a small amount of these two nutrients, research shows that the lutein from eggs may be more bioavailable than lutein from other food sources.