In Defense Of Cholesterol

An excerpt from the March, 1975 Issue of Science Digest

John Yudkin, professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of London and an egg fancier, recently defended cholesterol against the charge that it's the main culprit behind heart disease.

Speaking before the annual conference of the International Egg Commission, Yudkin attacked what we called "the Reader's Digest view" of coronary thrombosis - namely, that eating too much cholesterol, or animal fat, leads to a high concentration of cholesterol in the blood, which in turn leads to deposits in the coronary arteries and ultimately a clot that cuts off the blood supply to the heart. In short, eating such high-cholesterol foods as eggs eventually dumps you on the floor with a heart attack.

"Ridiculously oversimplified," says Yudkin. Recent studies that indicate high blood cholesterol as the most distinctive characteristic of coronary victims, he points out, ignore several of their other salient traits. Looking at countries with a high rate of heart disease, says Yudkin, we do find a tendency to eat fatty foods, but we also find a larger proportion of people with diabetes and with a high blood level of triglyceride, or ordinary neutral fat. Yudkin claims scientists have homed in on cholesterol as the villain partly "because it happens to be easier to measure."

In defense of cholesterol, Yudkin points out that not everyone who eats a diet high in animal fat ends up with a high cholesterol level in his blood, and even those with high cholesterol counts don't always get coronary thrombosis. he cites a study of Eskimos, who eat a lot of fat, that shows they have just as much cholesterol in their blood as Americans, yet suffer far fewer heart attacks.

"So there is a limit," he continues, "to what you can do with epidemiology, and you can show that in general terms there is an association between consumption of fat in a population and a high risk of getting heart attacks. You can do the same with a whole lot of other factors. You can get just as good as or better association with sugar consumption."

Yudkin emphasizes that as yet no sure link has been established between diet and coronary thrombosis, but states that triglyceride level in the blood is a much better indicator of coronary risk than cholesterol. And blood triglyceride, he says, is determined by how much sugar, not how many eggs, you eat.

(IronMan Magazine July 1976 Vol. 35 No. 5)

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