Archive | March, 2012

Eggs about Cholesterol

3 Mar

So I am skiing this weekend with my family in Colorado and my uncle and dad were arguing over how many of the yolks to actually put in the bowl for scrambled eggs.  And it’s no surprise, with all the misinformation out there surrounding cholesterol levels, so here I am to put the record straight!  Be forewarned that this is a long post, but stick with it as it is full of useful information!

Cholesterol itself is not a bad or evil thing.  Cholesterol is a soft, waxy, fat-like substance that is produced by the liver and is found in most tissue.  Certain types of cholesterol circulating in the bloodstream can accumulate in blood vessels, blocking normal blood flow, and leading to heart attack and other circulatory complications.

The body needs some cholesterol in order to properly function.  Cholesterol is used in a variety of important functions within the body  Humans naturally create some cholesterol, but we also obtain it from animal by-products such as dairy, eggs, and meat. Only 25% of the cholesterol needed by our bodies is needed from food sources.  The FDA recommends consuming no more than 300 mg/day.  To put that into perspective for you, a whole egg has between 220 & 245 mg per egg. So clearly it does not take a lot to bump up against that daily maximum.

Types of Cholesterol

While there is only one cholesterol there are three types of cholesterol complexes: HDL, LDL, and VLDL.  I’m going to cover the two most talked about: HDL & LDL.

Low density lipoproteins (LDL) is considered to be the “bad” cholesterol.  LDLs are produced by the liver to transport fats from the liver to other tissues and organs in the body.  It is important to keep LDL levels low, because high levels indicate that there is too much cholesterol in the bloodstream than the body knows what to do with or has uses for.

High density lipoproteins (HDL) is known as the “good” cholesterol.  HDL is produced by the liver to transport fats back to the liver from tissues and other organs for recycling and degeneration. HDLs carry LDLs out of the bloodstream reducing the chance of LDL sticking to blood vessels.  High levels of HDL is a good indicator that there is less cholesterol in the bloodstream to attach to blood vessels and create plaque.

Although triglycerides are not a cholesterol complex, they are the main form of fat and are very closely linked to cholesterol

American Heart Association Cholesterol Guidelines

AHA puts out guidelines regarding cholesterol profile recommendations. They are always revising their guidelines, but as of now they are as you see below.

AHA recommends that all adults over the age of 20 have a fasting lipoprotein profile every 5 years. The blood test is done after 9-12 hours of fasting (no food, liquids or pills).  It gives a whole view of your cholesterol profile. Total cholesterol levels should be less than 200 mg/dL.  A person who has above 240 mg/dL has twice the chance of developing heart disease as someone whose cholesterol is normal.

Having low HDL levels are indicative of higher risk for heart problems.  A low HDL for men is <40 mg/dL and for women, it’s <50 mg/dL.  High HDL is defined as >60 mg/dL and having high HDL means a lower risk of developing problems.

Your goal for LDL levels should be under 100 mg/dL for people with heart disease or diabetes. For people of normal risk, your LDL levels should be between 100 and 129 mg/dL.  Anything above 160 ml/dL is considered high and puts you at a higher risk for heart disease.

Your triglyceride levels should be under 150 ml/dL in order to be in the normal range.  Anything over 150 puts you at a higher risk for heart disease.

So what happens to your body when you have too much cholesterol in your blood? Read on to find out!  Cholesterol cannot dissolve in the bloodstream, so excess cholesterol leads to plaque build-up.  Plaque is a thick, hard deposit on the arterial walls which leads to the hardening and narrowing of the arteries (also known as atherosclerosis).  The same quantity of blood still has to be pushed through the now narrower artery.  This places a lot of strain on your heart and can lead to heart failure among other issues.

Complications from Hypercholesterolemia/Atherosclerosis

There are many diseases and complications that can arise due to hypercholesterolemia.

Hypercholesterolemia is the medical term for thecondition of having a high level of cholesterol in the blood.  Hyperlipidemia can also occur when you have a high level of fat in the bloodstream.

When you have hypercholesterolemia, it can lead to atherosclerosis.  Atherosclerosis is plaque build-up and the hardening of the arterial walls, which occurs when there is too much LDL in the blood, which can lead to fatty deposits on the arterial walls.  If left unchecked, atherosclerosis eventually leads to the heart attack, stroke or even death.

Coronary Heart Disease occurs when the vessels that supply the heart with blood begin to harden and become blocked with plaque.  As the vessels fill with plaque, it leads to a slower rate at which the heart can receive blood and oxygen. When the vessels become completely blocked, it can lead to a heart attack or even death.

Carotid Artery Disease is similar to coronary heart disease the only difference being that in Carotid Artery disease, the blood vessels that supply the brain become blocked leading to a stroke.  Peripheral Artery Disease is similar to coronary and carotid as well, only the pelvis and leg arteries become blocked and it becomes extremely painful or even impossible to walk and be mobile. If left untreated, it can lead to the loss of limbs and/or gangrene.

Hypertension (aka high blood pressure) occurs when plaque build-up causes the arteries to narrow and the heart has to work harder to push the same amount of blood through a smaller space leading to higher pressure on the arterial walls.  Prolonged stress on the arterial walls causes immense and sometime irreversible damage to the walls.  Hypertension can lead to heart failure due to the extreme amount of work the heart has to exert to pump blood through the body.

Preventing High Cholesterol

So what can you do to limit your intake of cholesterol?

If you want to have eggs for breakfast (which is a fantastic breakfast by the way!) I recommend having one whole egg per person eating the eggs and then only use 1-2 more egg whites (which have no cholesterol) to create a healthier breakfast.  Make sure you also eat berries and other fruits with it! (just because it’s yummy!) Also watch how much animal proteins and by-products you consume.  This includes dairy and meat (particularly red meat).  Try to limit your intake of red meats to twice a week and choose the low-fat options of dairy products.

If you’ve read any of my other blog entry you know exercise is the other point of the weight loss pyramid (the last being mental well-being).  Exercise helps to keep your blood vessels supple and flexible.  It may also help to reduce the amount of cholesterol in your blood stream. Shoot for at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week to help reduce your risk of heart disease.

The Bottom Line

Cholesterol is not the enemy, but your choices can be. Yes, you need to watch your intake, but cholesterol does serve a purpose in your body.  If you are young, healthy, don’t have a history of cholesterol, work out regularly, stick to a healthy diet, and don’t have a family history of hypercholesterolemia, atherosclerosis , or heart disease you don’t have to be obsessive over whether to have one egg yolk or two. As always, everything is okay in moderation.

Keep Sweating!

Bucket List Publications

Indulge- Travel, Adventure, & New Experiences


The Voice of Fitness Blog

The Better Man Project ™

a journey into the depths

L-Jay Health

Nutrition and Fitness

Lavender Parking

Enjoying Life One Post-Race Pint at a Time

Medal Slut

Ticking off local races one medal at a time.

The Weight Loss Counter Revolution

Dedicated to giving you the truth about weight loss.


Bringing New England to the table!

Tyler and Lisa Brown's Flow

Flow: an authentically happy state of engaged activity that supremely interests you, challenges you, and occasionally makes time melt away

my sister's pantry

Eat food... real food

%d bloggers like this: