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Less Cholesterol in Eggs, USDA Says

New Analysis Finds 14% Less Cholesterol in Eggs, 64% More Vitamin D
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

hand holding egg

Feb. 8, 2011 -- Cholesterol in eggs has dropped in the past decade, according to a new analysis by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Eggs, on average, have 14% less cholesterol and 64% more vitamin D than the last time they were analyzed by the government in 2002.

For the recent analysis, regular large-shell eggs were picked up from 12 locations across the country and then sent off to an independent lab at Virginia Tech University for evaluation.

The average amount of cholesterol found in one large egg is 186 milligrams, a level 14% lower than recorded in the last analysis. A large egg has, on average, 41 international units of vitamin D, 64% higher than found last time.

However, the message is still moderation. "It's still one egg a day," Jacob Exler, PhD, a nutritionist with the Nutrient Data Laboratory at the USDA Agricultural Research Service, tells WebMD. He points to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, which recommend getting less than 300 milligrams a day of dietary cholesterol.

"Eggs are a healthy food in a diet that has a variety of foods," Exler says.

Egg Analysis: Details

The USDA has a sampling plan for retail foods nationwide, Exler tells WebMD.

For the recent egg analysis, the laboratory workers evaluated not only cholesterol and vitamin D, but a host of other nutrients.

The new information will be updated on nutrition labels on cartons of eggs in grocery stores and on menus.

Why eggs have lower cholesterol than before isn't known, but it may be because of improvements farmers have made to hen feed.

The vitamin D increase, Exler says, is easier to explain. "Some chickens are being supplemented with vitamin D," he says. "We think because of the interest in vitamin D that more egg producers will be changing the diet of their chickens to have more vitamin D."

Cholesterol in Eggs: Other Views

Eggs in moderation can be part of a heart-healthy diet, says David Katz, MD, MPH, director and founder of the Yale University Prevention Research Center in Derby, Conn.

In a study published in 2010 in Nutrition Journal, Katz and his colleagues found that moderate egg intake didn't adversely affect blood cholesterol in men and women with high cholesterol (although egg substitutes improved it). The study was funded by the CDC and the Egg Nutrition Center, funded by the American Egg Board, an industry group.

Moderate egg consumption doesn't appear to be linked to an increased cardiac risk, Katz and his colleagues conclude, although further testing is needed on people with established heart disease "to clarify the place of eggs in a judicious and heart-healthy diet."

When people are told to avoid or eliminate eggs from their diet, Katz says they might substitute unhealthy foods. "When we tell people not to eat eggs, what are they eating instead?" He suspects they may substitute a Danish, for instance, for their breakfast eggs.

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Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

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