Posts Tagged ‘LDL’

Who knew? May is National Egg Month, and I almost let it slip by. But don’t be deterred from celebrating. This versatile food is great all year.

The poor egg has been maligned for decades. In the 1970s, I taught a nutrition class in New Orleans to nursing students. My office, on one side of the river, required I traverse the old Huey P. Long bridge connecting to the other side. It was scary. The rickety bridge rattled and reaching the other side safely seemed dubious. It revved my adrenalin and blood pressure.

When my class discussed the role of LDL (low density lipoprotein), known to have a negative effect on the cardiovascular system, I would say to my students, “If I have a heart attack on my way to class, it isn’t the egg I had for breakfast. It was driving across that bridge.”

Stress remains a factor in heart disease, but eggs? Now some forty years later, my stand on eggs has been vindicated. For many years, researchers have known that cholesterol in the foods we eat has less effect on blood cholesterol levels than does the type of fats we eat. Individuals with diets high in saturated fat (those mostly from animal sources) are more likely to have increased cholesterol blood levels (LDL) than those who consume unsaturated fats (mostly from plant sources).

Many still argue that those who eat the yolk, which contains small amounts of cholesterol, should limit intake to three to four eggs per week. While an egg yolk has about 200 mg of cholesterol, the effects may be more positive than negative.

A nine-year Chinese study of nearly a half-million people compared the risk of heart attacks and strokes of those who consumed an average of a half to one egg per day with those who never ate eggs. Researchers concluded that eggs eaten in moderation had no effect on elevated risks for developing heart disease or stroke.

Naysayers pointed out that the study wasn’t a controlled experiment. They claimed results might not apply to other parts of the world such as the U. S. where westernized diets prevail, and most people are overweight. Other recent research suggests that eggs may block the production of LDL in the liver while at the same time boosting HDL, known as the good cholesterol. The Egg Nutrition Center is one source of more  nutrition information about the value of eggs in the diet. 

A study published in the May 7, 2018 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at the effect of a high-egg diet on the cardiovascular system of people who were pre-diabetic or had type 2 diabetes. Compared to a low-egg diet (less than two per week) the high-egg diet had no adverse effects on the heart. Both diets were weight-loss diets and results from the two diets were similar.

That’s not the only good news about eating moderate amounts of eggs. Besides its many nutrient benefits and its quality protein, studies find more health attributes for this wholesome food. Eggs are significant sources of choline and lutein (a xanthophyll carotenoid). These nutrients may influence cognitive functions. As the number of Americans over age 65 rapidly increases, so does the incidence of cognitive decline. Scientific evidence substantiates the role choline and lutein in brain and neurological development post conception, and it is believed that lutein may influence cognition across the lifespan.

I remain a proponent of eggs as part of a healthy diet. Unless advised otherwise by a qualified health professional, add eggs into your diet with the assurance they are unlikely to affect heart conditions in a healthy person. It just may keep your brain more healthy and active during the latter years of life. Most of us need all the help we can get.






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Clip Art for American Heart Month

February is Heart Month. Many factors other than genetics influence heart health. High levels of Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol increase cardiovascular risks. Statins are the most effective classification of drugs and frequently considered the best option for lowering LDL levels. They act in the body by reducing an enzyme needed to create cholesterol. Less LDL cholesterol helps to prevent buildup of fatty substances in the arteries called plaque.

More than 33 million people take some form of statin medications, with nearly half of the population over age 75 taking some form of the drug. Some of the most commonly recognized statins on the market include Crestor, Lipitor, Pravachol, Zocor, and others.

Statins are safe and effective for most people, but like many drugs, they may pose risks for some. Among the adverse effects are memory loss, mental confusion, increased blood sugar, and serious muscle problems.

While statins save many lives of people with cardiovascular difficulties, are they the best option for everyone? A recent study followed thirty-seven overweight subjects for three months. All gradually increased treadmill exercise up to 45 minutes a day for five days per week. Half of the subjects received a statin, and half did not. The LDL cholesterol levels dropped 40 percent in those taking statins while they increased slightly in the non-statin group. Cardio fitness increased 1.5 percent in the statin group compared to an increase of ten percent in the non-statin group. So while statins lowered LDL in the experimental group, cardio fitness was greater in those who exercised but did not take statins.

When it comes to heart health, no drug is a substitute for a healthy lifestyle. After cessation of smoking, appropriate exercise and eating remain two changes that promote heart health. While statins may be appropriate for great numbers of the population with serious heart conditions, others may fare better with altered lifestyles. As this February Heart Month draws to a close, remember if we want to stay healthier and live longer, the option is ours. When statins aren’t the best choice, either eat healthy foods and move that body or plan for an earlier demise.



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