Eggs about to be ‘officially’ exonerated. But what about butter?

Posted by
February 17, 2015

eggBy BILL BONVIE

Call it the exoneration of eggs.

If you still feel “guilty” about enjoying eggs in the morning because of an decades-old nutritional “rap sheet” identifying them as a prime suspect in heart disease, you’ll be happy to know they’re on the verge of being officially cleared of all charges.

For nearly 40 years, in fact, people have been advised to limit their egg consumption over concern that this traditional breakfast staple was responsible for high cholesterol levels in their blood, as were delicacies like shrimp and lobster.

But it now appears that long-standing advice is about to be relegated to the misinformation heap of history.  According to news reports, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which provides the scientific rationale for the federal  government’s publication “Dietary Guidelines,” is about to recommend that such foods no longer be considered significant enough sources of cholesterol to concern us.

Not that vindicating a previously condemned commodity comes easy to these “experts,” who meet once every five years and counsel both the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture on what they should advise consumers. You might even say that when they call for so dramatic a reversal, they wind up with, well a good deal of egg on their faces (especially given how their recommendations impact the nation’ s nutritional norms, to say nothing of their economic effects on sectors like egg production).

In fact, an indication of how painful this is can be seen in the way they’re still trying to blame high cholesterol levels on consumption of commodities high in saturated fat, like butter.

But hasn’t butter already been given a clean bill of health?  Indeed it has, by Britain’s University of Cambridge after a comprehensive study that we reported on last April.  That study consisted of an analysis of some 72 smaller studies involving some 600,000 participants in 18 countries. And what the investigators found was that “total saturated fatty acid, whether measured in the diet or in the bloodstream as a biomarker, was not associated with coronary disease risk in the observational studies.” Nor was there any significant associations between consumption of total monounsaturated fatty acids, long-chain omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, consumption and cardiovascular risk.

Despite all that, however,  the undeserved ‘bad rap’ given to butter, along with other really healthy high-fat foods like coconut oil, has still not been officially expunged from those Dietary Guidelines.

And unfortunately, we’ve paid a high price for having turned innocent traditional foods like butter and eggs into culinary culprits all those years ago, and having continued to malign them when we perhaps should have reevaluated the evidence. Because, like good citizens given a bad reputation, the health benefits they could have been providing people have been largely sacrificed in the process.

Paving the way for harmful additives

Consider, for example, that eggs, according to the website MedicalNewsToday.com, are  “considered to be one of the best sources of protein available,” as well as being rich in vitamins A, B2, B12, B5, D and E, and folic acid, along with biotin, choline, iodine and iron. And the biological beneficiaries of these nutrients include your immune, nervous and reproductive systems, your vision, your teeth and bones, general metabolism and mental well-being.

And butter, as noted by the Weston A. Price Foundation, actually “contains many nutrients that protect us from heart disease.” These include vitamin A, of which butter is the most easily absorbed source, lecithin, which assists in the assimilation and metabolism of cholesterol, and artery-protecting antioxidants such as vitamin E and selenium That’s right – butter, rather than contributing to high cholesterol, actually helps the body to assimilate it.

In fact, as we now know, much of the blame that’s been attached to things like butter and eggs for heart disease actually belongs to trans fat, which is found in the partially hydrogenated oil used in so many products, primarily to maintain self-life. The Food and Drug Association now acknowledges this, holding PHO responsible for approximately 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths every year (although a proposal to phase it out, made over a year ago, has stalled after industry strenuously objected to it).

And for many years, a primary source of trans fat was margarine – the very product promoted as a “healthy” substitute for butter.

But there have been other repercussions to such misinformation as well.  Attaching unnecessary stigmas to “fat” and “cholesterol” (which our bodies use in the maintenance and repair of cells), along with salt, has also led to food products being laced with a whole slew of harmful additives to compensate for the resulting blandness. These have included neurotoxic flavor enhancers such as monosodium glutamate, hydrolyzed protein and other forms of free glutamic acid. And a lot of unhealthy processed products have been substituted for old-fashioned eggs at breakfast time.

So don’t wait for the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s latest cholesterol recommendations to become official – or for it to change its mind (five or 10 years down the line) about saturated fat.  If you haven’t done so already, welcome the butter and eggs back into your diet. And while you’re at it, we’d recommend you opt for the organic versions.