OCTOBER 01, 2006

The Incredible, Edible—and Healthy?—Egg

Once thought to be forbidden from the diet of those trying to watch their cholesterol levels, eggs are making a comeback. Recent studies have shown that eating up to one egg a day did not raise cholesterol levels or increase the risk of heart disease in healthy people. For those already battling high cholesterol levels, 3 to 4 eggs a week is still acceptable.

Instead of being wary of too much cholesterol in foods, patients need to look out for saturated and trans fats to keep their cholesterol levels low. Eggs may be high in dietary cholesterol, but they are relatively low in saturated fat. The same is true for shrimp and other shellfish—they are high in cholesterol but low in fat, as long as they are not fried or soaked in butter.

The results of a study published in the March 2006 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that adding a combination of heart-healthy foods to a patient's diet can bring cholesterol levels down as much as a first-generation statin drug can. The study was the first to examine the benefits of combining 4 types of foods with an FDA-authorized health claim related to heart disease.

Cholesterol, HBP, and Obesity Linked to Dementia

A study by the Aging Research Center in Stockholm, Sweden, has demonstrated that having high cholesterol levels, as well as having high blood pressure (HBP) or being obese, increases a person's chance of developing dementia later in life. Having just one trait doubles the risk; having all 3 increases the risk by 6 times. The results showed that, if people have one or more of these traits at age 40, they are more likely to develop dementia by the time they reach age 60.

The study involved 1409 middle-aged people from Finland who were observed over a period of 20 years for signs of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. The researchers used data from the Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging, and Dementia study. They found that, along with the known risk factors of age and a low level of education, HBP, high cholesterol, and obesity also meant that people had a higher chance of suffering from dementia. The results were published in the August 3, 2006, on-line edition of The Lancet Neurology.

Cholesterol/HBP Combo Not Being Treated

A large number of adults with both high cholesterol and high blood pressure (HBP) are not being treated, according to the findings of a recent study done by the Heart Disease Prevention Program at the University of California, Irvine. By studying 2864 adult men and women, the researchers found that ~18% of US adults have both high cholesterol and HBP. The figure rises to ~50% in those aged 60 and older. Unfortunately, <29% of those with both conditions are being treated for both.

"We were surprised that, despite well-publicized guidelines and treatments available for [both conditions], less than a third are being treated for [them], and only one tenth are controlled to recommended levels," said Nathan D.Wong, PhD, director of the program. "The?message is that many persons with hypertension also have hypercholesterolemia (and vice versa), and that we have to do a better job at identifying when both of these are present and treating both of these conditions, as their coexistence dramatically increases the risk of cardiovascular disease."

The results of the study were published in the July 15, 2006, issue of the American Journal of Cardiology.

Low-Glycemic-Index Diet Reduces Fat and LDL

A study conducted in Australia found that a diet that scores low on the glycemic index (GI) can help overweight people lose body fat and reduce their levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the "bad" cholesterol. In a study of 189 overweight and obese adults (aged 18 to 40 years), researchers saw that a diet high in either protein or carbohydrates, but with a low GI score, resulted in the largest reduction in body fat. Surprisingly, the diets high in carbohydrates and with low GI scores showed the greatest decreases in weight.

The GI measures the impact of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels. A food with a high GI score, such as a biscuit, causes sharper peaks in sugar levels than a low-GI food, such as pasta. Earlier research has shown that low-GI foods make people feel fuller for longer and may promote the breakdown of fat. These foods also tend to contain more soluble fiber, which reduces total and LDL cholesterol levels.

The study results were published in the July 25, 2006, on-line edition of