- There is much debate about the role of dietary cholesterol in people’s health.
- An increasing number of studies on dietary cholesterol have been funded by the food industry.
- A new review identifies an association between food industry funding studies and the most favored explanations for the role of egg cholesterol in human health.
In a systematic review, researchers looked at how authors of both industry-funded and non-industrial-funded studies interpreted research findings on egg consumption and cholesterol levels.
The study that appears in American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, found that the authors behind the industry-funded studies were more likely to interpret findings on the relationship between egg consumption and cholesterol favorably — often not in line with what the data suggested.
In the past, scientists recommended that people consume less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system.
However, recent research has not found a significant relationship between dietary cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular disease.
As a result, recent guidelines from the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology do not set a target for daily dietary cholesterol consumption.
However, there has been an “intensive debate” regarding the role that eating eggs may play in increasing blood cholesterol levels. On the other hand, eggs are a major source of dietary cholesterol. On the other hand, it is a cheap, nutritious and widely available food item.
In the latest study, the researchers wanted to understand how research funding sources changed egg consumption and cholesterol levels over time.
They also wanted to know whether the source of funding for the studies — that is, industrial or non-industrial — made a difference in how researchers interpreted the results.
Researchers searched the databases for articles involving adults who had studied consumption of eggs or egg yolk and total or low-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
They identified 211 studies published between 1950 and 2019 that met these inclusion criteria.
Researchers found that industry-funded research on egg consumption and cholesterol increased from 0% of cholesterol studies in the 1950s to 60% of these studies in 2010.
The majority of studies found that egg consumption did indeed increase cholesterol concentrations in the blood.
However, the review authors found that 49% of the industry-funded studies did not accurately interpret their results, and are likely to indicate a neutral or positive relationship between egg consumption and cholesterol concentrations. This compares to 13% of studies not funded by industry.
Medical news today Talk with corresponding study author Dr. Neil Barnard, MD, assistant professor of medicine at The George Washington University School of Medicine. Dr. Barnard is also the chair of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM).
He said, “The egg industry has a huge financial interest in making eggs look healthy. So, industry-funded researchers tried to downplay the cholesterol-raising effect of eggs. They didn’t really succeed, though: Even their studies show that eggs raise cholesterol.”
Dr. Barnard said industry funding was not necessarily the problem – rather the problem is when pressures from industry lead to interpretations that do not reflect the results.
“It is understood that the food industry might want to do research studies on their products. That’s okay. The problem arises when you try to bury the unfavorable results.”
We’ve seen this over and over, particularly with the egg, dairy, and meat industries, as they try to rehabilitate a distorted picture of cholesterol and other risks. They hope to eradicate these issues.”
– Dr. Neil Bernard
Dr. Christopher Gardner, a Renborg-Farquhar Professor of Medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center at Stanford University in California and an expert on the potential health benefits of different food ingredients or dietary patterns, also spoke. MNT.
He explained that the results were not surprising, but warned that there may be other factors that explain the results.
Dr. Gardner noted that while eggs contain a large amount of cholesterol – about 200 mg per egg – the body excretes half of the cholesterol that a person consumes. The average person in the United States consumes about 300 mg of cholesterol in their diet each day. The body excretes half of this cholesterol and retains the other half.
The liver naturally produces 1,000 mg of cholesterol each day. Cholesterol is essential for building cell membranes.
However, as explained by Dr. Gardner MNTThe liver produces less cholesterol to account for any cholesterol a person consumes.
For example, explain that if someone eats 300 mg of cholesterol from eggs or other sources, the body absorbs 150 mg and sends it to the liver. The liver produces 850 mg instead of 1,000 mg. So, in general, the body still has 1,000 mg, and “the net effect in the blood will not change.”
Instead of dietary cholesterol, Dr. Gardner said saturated fats are more likely to increase cholesterol concentrations in the blood.
Furthermore, Dr. Gardner said the following factors could all make a direct conclusion as to whether or not egg consumption is associated with increased cholesterol concentration:
- number of participants
- Study duration
- Participant characteristics
- The amount of cholesterol consumed
- The level of adherence to the diet of the study
- The amount of saturated fat consumed
Let’s say there are two new studies, one funded by industry and one funded by PCRM. Is it possible that under one set of circumstances the dietary cholesterol level would have occurred, and in another set it had not raised blood cholesterol? “
To answer the question of whether one group is lying (or misinterpreting), one must go through all the possible differences between the two studies. One such difference would be, “Is it industry funded or by PCRM?”
Put simply, both studies were conducted to test whether dietary cholesterol raises blood cholesterol. One study concluded that: “Yes,” dietary cholesterol caused high cholesterol. The other study concluded, “No.”
“It is possible that both studies will interpret their results correctly. The different conclusions will be attributed to differences in study design and implementation.”
Dr. Gardner said that unconscious bias could also be a factor that could influence the conclusions researchers draw.
Is it possible that some of the nuances of all this could be manipulated in a way like ‘not lying’ but ‘misinforming’ about the results? Yes! If you read Marion Nestlé’s book The Unpleasant Truth: How Food Companies Misrepresent the Science of What We Eat, you’ll find that it talks a lot about “unconscious bias”.
“This suggests not having a conscious intent to be misleading, but falling prey to a study setting in such a way as to increase the likelihood of a desired outcome while convincing yourself that the study design is objective and appropriate.”
Dr. Christopher Gardner
“This is one way to explain how the results of the study can be misinterpreted.”
Ideally, Dr. Gardner said, nutrition research should be funded by bodies such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which have no conflicts of interest. However, the high cost of conducting the studies means that this is prohibitive.
“If you collect money from [NIH], US Department of Agriculture, [the National Science Foundation] International [AHA], World Health Organization [WHO], and others, there will not be enough funding to address all the common – and practical – questions the public has about food and health.”
“So, who is going to fund such studies? Turns out the egg panel will fund cholesterol studies, the blueberry industry will fund antioxidant studies, the dairy industry will fund bone fracture studies, etc.”
“How can we adequately fund nutrition studies? Take all the healthcare money that is spent on treating heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer, and all the military budget and space budget, and put it into nutrition studies. This will help a lot!”
Dr. Gander continued: “What seems to me a crime, is the amount of our research money that goes into drug and device treatments for diseases caused by poor diets. The proportion of money that goes into nutrition research is shockingly low – something on the order of 1/100 of the money that goes into to drugs and devices.
“Good nutrition can prevent many downstream issues. But that means looking at the long-term picture, and that doesn’t work well when quarterly earnings reports need to show earnings.”
Dr. Christopher Gardner
Dr.. Both Barnard and Gardner said that a diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains promotes health.
“Fortunately, some of the debates are settled and uncontested: vegetables are good for you. So are fruits, whole grains, and everything in the bean group: beans, peas, lentils, etc. The science is clear, and there is no debate there,” Dr. Barnard said.
That’s where the controversy about commercial products containing “bad” fats, cholesterol, and unwanted amounts of sugar comes in. Therefore, meat, dairy, eggs, coconut, palm oil and soft drinks will continue to be part of a tug of war between industry and health advocates.”
Dr. Gardner said that “[t]It’s advice from [AHA] It is to think less about specific nutrients – like cholesterol – and more about food patterns in general. “
“If one follows a healthy Mediterranean-style diet, the foods involved in that pattern tend to be low in dietary cholesterol not to mention it. They tend to be low in saturated fat not to mention. They tend to be high in fiber. Without mentioning it.And the general ‘style’ has been shown over and over again, in different ways [healthy]. “
“Another way to frame this is a plant-based diet (WFPB) very similar to a Mediterranean diet. After all, people don’t shop for nutrients; they shop for foods,” Dr. Gardner said.
“Shopping for foods that follow a Mediterranean diet (or WFP diet) will include plenty of vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, fruits, healthy whole grains, and modest amounts of fish, yogurt, eggs, and some other animal products.”
This means avoiding added sugars, large candy portions of fat, and refined grains. This is the approach that is followed before