The Red Herring of Cholesterol

  • 6 Jul 2011
  • Reading time 12 mins
Login to add to reading list

Back in 1913 a Russian scientist, Dr Anitschkov, thought he had found the answer to heart disease: he found that it was induced by feeding cholesterol to rabbits. What he failed to realise was that rabbits, being vegetarians, have no means for dealing with this animal fat.

I’ve kept an eye on studies ever since and they all show the same thing. Eating cholesterol doesn’t raise blood cholesterol. For example, here’s a more recent study, published in the European Journal of Nutrition in 2008. The researchers fed two eggs per day to overweight but otherwise healthy volunteers for 12 weeks while they simultaneously followed a reduced calorie diet.

A control group followed the diet but cut out eggs altogether. Both groups lost between 3 to 4kg (7- 9lbs) in weight and saw a fall in the average level of blood cholesterol. Research leader Professor Bruce Griffin stated: "When blood cholesterol was measured at both six weeks and twelve weeks, both groups showed either no change or a reduction, particularly in their LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, despite the egg group increasing their dietary cholesterol intake to around four times that of the control."

But what about if you have a high blood cholesterol level already?

A study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition took 161 people with high cholesterol levels and fed them either two eggs a day or a cholesterol-free egg substitute. After 12 weeks those eating two eggs a day had a tiny non-significant increase in LDL cholesterol of 0.07mmol/l, and a significant increase in the ‘good’ HDL of 0.1mmol/l, and therefore no real change in the ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol, which is the more important statistic. Having an LDL cholesterol below 1.8 is consistent with a low risk, while having a level above 3.4 is consistent with high risk. A tiny 0.07 increase is inconsequential. But what if there’s something special about eggs? Other foods rich in cholesterol include shrimps.

A more recent study from Rockefeller University, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, gave participants either three servings (300 grams) of shrimps or two large eggs a day, each providing 580mg of cholesterol. Researchers found that both groups had an increase in both the good ......

The full content of this report is only viewable by 100% Health Club members.

MEMBERS have free access to 100's of Reports, a monthly 100% Health Newsletter, free use of the 100% Health programme with unlimited reassessments and big discounts, up to 30% off books, supplements and             foods at


Find out more