So it may or may not be news to some of you that the America's Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (ADGAC) recently released their 2015 recommendations. For those of you that don't know what in the world I'm talking about, the ADGAC is a group of experts that submit dietary guidelines by reviewing current scientific evidence to the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in order to promote the health and well-being of American citizens.1 The report outlines non-binding recommendations, which basically means that the higher-up committees such as the USDA will take the information under advisement but can pick and choose how it will affect policy and what role the government might play (if any) in implementing the recommendations.1
Why do I care about this as a Canadian dietitian? Well as we all know, what happens in America often has a direct effect on what happens in Canada. As westernized countries we often takes cues from one another on how to use/implement advances in science, technology, medicine, and in this case - nutrition. Needless to say, although this report was written for America, it certainly applies to the Canadian population as well. The report is written for use by nutrition and health professionals (enter the RDs) and is a great summary of the most recent science-based nutrition literature. I'd be lying if I said I read the whole report (it's 571 pages) but you can take a look at the executive summary here, and I have linked several articles that discuss the report below. If you are interested in reading the full report (and good on ya!) click here for the pdf.
So what's with the egg?
Well, one of the most interesting things noted in the report that seems to be getting a lot of media attention, is that dietary cholesterol may no longer be "a nutrient of concern." 1,4 Now don't let this confuse you into thinking that CHOLESTEROL is no longer a concern. It is a well know fact having high cholesterol increases your risk of developing heart disease, however consuming DIETARY cholesterol (from eggs, meat, dairy, shrimp, lobster) is not likely to be the cause of high cholesterol in our blood. This isn't exactly new information either, but keep in mind that the dietary guideline recommendations are only made every 5 years. After all, we have to let scientists complete new research in order to update our information!
This part of the report is significant since for years people have been swearing eggs for fear that they will develop high cholesterol while the fact of the matter is, it's not cholesterol consumption but rather saturated fat consumption that we should be concerned about. The fact that we have steered people away from eggs in the past presents a major problem. As Dr. David Katz states his article Cholesterol, Unscrambled (2015) "when we advise people to stop eating X, we generally fail to ask: what is the Y they will wind up eating instead?"5 I thought this was absolutely enlightening because as he discusses, we see the implications of failing to ask what people will eat INSTEAD of eggs by taking a look at a typical cardiac patient's diet. Although egg substitutes may appear occasionally, it's starchy breakfast treats like pancakes, muffins, waffles, and sugary cereals that make up the majority of breakfast meals.5 I think he says it best in this quote:
"America gave up eggs, and started running on donuts."
Dr. David Katz Cholesterol, Unscrambled (2015)
Donuts, albeit delicious, are a source of saturated fat. Research tells us that over-consumption of saturated fat (from foods like fatty meats, whole milk, butter, and many processed snack foods) is really to blame for the epidemic of high-cholesterol in our population. Let's take a look at the physiology of it all to get a better picture.
First of all it's important to note that cholesterol production in our body happens in the liver. Only about 20 - 25% of the cholesterol in our body comes from our food, while about 75 - 80% is produced by the liver. It's the ingestion of saturated fat that tells our liver to make more cholesterol and THAT's the problem.
A quick cholesterol lesson:
- Cholesterol is important for our body and helps us maintain health by playing an important role in hormones and membrane function. It is also a precursor to Vitamin D!
- Cholesterol is only found in animal foods.
- There are two main types of cholesterol you should know about:
Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL) = bad cholesterol. This is the cholesterol that causes blockages and can lead to heart attack or stroke. You want LOW levels of LDL cholesterol.
High Density Lipoproteins (HDL) = good cholesterol. HDL helps remove bad cholesterol from your arteries and promotes heart health, therefore you want high levels of HDL cholesterol.
- Eating soluble fibre from sources such as oat bran, barley, legumes, fruits, and vegetables can help REDUCE bad cholesterol.
- Factors that can increase LDL cholesterol include saturated and trans fat intake, limited exercise, genetics, stress, and our environment (eg. pollution).
If you want a more in-depth explanation on cholesterol check out this handout from Dietitians of Canada.
The moral of the story is that what influences a person's blood cholesterol levels is complex and demonizing eggs is not the solution to promoting overall better health and reduced risk of disease - especially if one's eggs are being replaced by processed breakfast foods such as sugary cereals or drive-thru muffins.4
Eggs are an excellent source of complete protein, are naturally portion-sized, and rich in a variety of nutrients.4 If what we've covered here today seems a bit overextended to you, Dr. Yoni Freedhoff puts it perfectly in his recent article, America's Dietary Guidelines Need a Brazilian (2015) where he states that rather than concerning yourself with the new guidelines, focus on cooking food from fresh whole ingredients, eat at a table without distractions, don't smoke, drink at most a moderate amount of alcohol, sleep well, and cultivate healthy relationships. It is much more likely that these habits will have significant impact on our overall health than aiming for 10% more or less of any given nutrient.6
One thing's for sure, even if your not interested in what new recommendations are made in the 2015 dietary guideline report, it appears you can have your yolk and eat it too!
Have a happy, healthy week everyone :)
2. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. (2015). Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Retrieved February 23, 2015, from http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report/PDFs/Scientific-Report-of-the-2015-Dietary-Guidelines-Advisory-Committee.pdf
3. Food For Thought Blog. (2015, February, 20). Interview with Caroly O'Neil, RD. What's on the menu now for a healthier diet? Retrieved February 23, 2015, from http://www.bestfoodfacts.org/food-for-thought/2015-dietary-guidelines-oneil
4. Giller, B. R., (2015). A shift in thinking about dietary cholesterol. BRG Health Solutions. Retrieved February 23, 2015, from
5. Katz, D. L., (2015, February 16). Cholesterol, unscrambled. Retrieved February 23, 2015 from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/cholesterol-unscrambled-david-l-katz-md-mph
6. Freedhoff, Y. (2015, February 23). America's dietary guidelines need a brazilian. US News and World Report. Retrieved February 23, 2015 from