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Dietary cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular disease in patients: a review of the Harvard Egg Study and other data

01/10/2009

For many years, both the medical community and the general public have incorrectly associated eggs with high serum cholesterol and being deleterious to health, even though cholesterol is an essential component of cells and organisms. It is now acknowledged that the original studies purporting to show a linear relation between cholesterol intake and coronary heart disease (CHD) may have contained fundamental study design flaws, including conflated cholesterol and saturated fat consumption rates and inaccurately assessed actual dietary intake of fats by study subjects. Newer and more accurate trials, such as that conducted by Frank B. Hu of the Harvard School of Public Health (1999), have shown that consumption of up to seven eggs per week is harmonious with a healthful diet, except in male patients with diabetes for whom an association in higher egg intake and CHD was shown.

The degree to which serum cholesterol is increased by dietary cholesterol depends upon whether the individual's cholesterol synthesis is stimulated or down-regulated by such increased intake, and the extent to which each of these phenomena occurs varies from person to person. Several recent studies have shed additional light on the specific interplay between dietary cholesterol and cardiovascular health risk. It is evident that the dynamics of cholesterol homeostasis, and of development of CHD, are extremely complex and multifactorial. In summary, the earlier purported adverse relationship between dietary cholesterol and heart disease risk was likely largely over-exaggerated.

Reference

Dietary cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular disease in patients: a review of the Harvard Egg Study and other data Jones PJ (2009) International Journal of Clinical Practice 163: 1-8, 28-36

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