Thursday, November 1, 2007

Enjoy your egg sunny side up

bacon and egg
Be cholesterol-smart, stop your worries and have a look at the real facts.

Do not make the same mistake as I did. Years ago, after a medical checkup, my doctor told me that my cholesterol level was too high and that I should care about it. I did. What I knew then was that the main source of cholesterol in food is animal fat. Soon after the checkup I began to dislike eggs. That is, I still liked them but I thought I shouldn't like them any more.

What I did not know then was the fact that only about twenty percent of the cholesterol in human blood comes from food, and that about eighty percent of it is produced by the body itself. The body maintains a cholesterol level according to its needs, and if less comes in from food, it increases the production. So I could have enjoyed my eggs, sunny side up, scrambled, soft boiled or whatever - my body just would have curbed the cholesterol production a little bit.

This is the first thing a cholesterol-smart person should know.

The second thing to know is that the link of cholesterol levels to heart attacks is only weak (see my post commenting on a 0.7 percent risk increase) and that it does not say anything about a cause. We do not know whether cholesterol is the real culprit or just a bystander. In dubio pro reo.

The third thing to know is that cholesterol is a vital substance for the body, otherwise it would not produce it. One important example is the need of cholesterol at the beginning of life.

And here is one more example of this kind: A high cholesterol level comes along with a lower risk of gastric cancer in a Japanese study: For every one millimol per liter cholesterol increase, the risk of gastric cancer decreases by 0.8 percent - about the same amount as seen in the mentioned heart study, but in the opposite direction.

This is not to say that cholesterol does prevent gastric cancer - to say it once again, a link or correlation does not imply a cause. And yes, we should be aware that the incidence of gastric cancer is not the same in Japan as it is in other parts of the world. This said, we conclude that there is also some good news about cholesterol, besides the fact that the bad news may be not so bad after all.

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