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February 1, 2013
Are egg substitutes better than
whole eggs for lowering cholesterol?
Since I don't eat many animal products (only dairy), many people ask me about eggs. Most of them ask fearing cholesterol. It's true, eggs have a lot of cholesterol. And it's true that I don't eat them. So should you avoid them too?

This may surprise you, but my answer is no – don't avoid them. Eggs are a great food. But are they better for you than the yolk-free egg substitutes you can buy? I'm sure you've seen how the manufacturers of these alternatives to eggs promote their products as a healthier choice. But the advertisements couldn't be more wrong.

In this study, the participants consumed three eggs per day vs. an equivalent amount of yolk-free egg substitute. They limited their total carb intake to 25-30% of energy needs and the study lasted for 12 weeks. The researchers evaluated them for a variety of cholesterol-related biochemical parameters. These included lipoprotein particles, oxidized lipids, and key cholesterol metabolic enzymes.

Many of these parameters improved in both groups. However, there were greater increases in HDL-cholesterol and large HDL particles, and reductions in total VLDL and medium VLDL particles for those consuming whole eggs compared to the substitute. Higher levels of the large HDL particles are more beneficial. The eggs also reduced plasma insulin and insulin resistance. That means better glucose control and less insulin resistance, which can cause problems when high.

LDL particles, long considered high-risk factors, increased in diameter with whole eggs. The large LDL particles are not as risky compared to the small dense LDL particles. But even better, the activity of the enzyme LCAT increased only in the whole egg. LCAT is a crucial enzyme. It helps transport cholesterol from your arteries back to your liver for elimination.

This is more proof that what God made is far better than the garbage man makes. I never recommended egg substitutes, even before I got into integrative medicine. Egg substitutes carry dangers in my opinion. Unlike God-made eggs, in which the lipids and cholesterol are carefully wrapped in compounds to prevent oxidation and damage (benefitting the future chick), egg substitutes are processed and exposed to air, allowing oxidation of components.

Please don't be afraid of eggs. I have no problem with you eating up to three per day. They contain lots of protective lecithin, have a highly absorbable full amino acid profile (the gold standard), among other essential nutrients like precious choline. Just don't fry them or otherwise cook them to oblivion. I suggest soft boiled or poached.

What about raw eggs? Until 2001, when I quit eating eggs, I added one to two raw eggs to my nightly homemade salad dressing. Yes, there's a small salmonella risk. But this is likely more from the shell than the egg. So if you're going to eat it raw, wash the egg thoroughly in hydrogen peroxide before you crack it.

Yours for better health and medical freedom,

Robert J. Rowen, MD

Ref: Metabolism. 2012 Sep 26. pii: S0026-0495(12)00318-6. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2012.08.014. [Epub ahead of print].

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