WASHINGTON—“Cholesterol kills,” warn billboards near the Texas home offices of Agriculture Committee chairman Rep. K. Michael Conaway. The Physicians Committee—a nonprofit of 12,000 doctors—is appealing to Rep. Conaway with the billboards and a letter after he convened an October congressional hearing over the Agriculture Committee’s “concerns with the process of developing the Dietary Guidelines,” which are poised to remove cholesterol warnings when they are released in December.
The billboards, which feature the image of a cracked egg and direct viewers to TheTruthAboutEggs.org, were created in response to the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which recommended removing cholesterol warnings from the guidelines. Eggs are the leading source of cholesterol in the American diet. A report in the autumn 2015 issue of Good Medicine magazine finds that this recommendation may have been influenced by egg-industry-funded cholesterol research.
“Through research grants, the egg industry has established economic relationships with key researchers and major universities. Its studies have worked to portray eggs in a favorable light. Intentionally or not, they have used specific design characteristics to construct research studies that minimize the negative health effects of eggs,” says the report.
“Cholesterol is as big a health threat as ever,” says Physicians Committee president Neal Barnard, M.D., in his letter to Rep. Conaway. “America’s heart disease and diabetes epidemics will continue unabated if the egg industry succeeds in its efforts to get cholesterol warnings out of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”
Two recent studies highlight the dangers of eggs and cholesterol. One in the journal Atherosclerosis found that study participants who ate the most eggs, compared with those who ate the least, had 80 percent higher coronary artery calcium scores, a measure of heart disease risk. A study in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology found that those who consume the most eggs have a 19 percent increased risk for cardiovascular problems.
Despite these facts showing the dangers of consuming eggs, Nina Teicholz, who wrote The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet and was recently questioned about the validity of her conclusions in her recent BMJ criticism of the guidelines, is now urging people to sign a petition the to the Agriculture Committee that states “we were told to avoid eggs due to their cholesterol content, but now eggs are deemed safe to eat.”
Tom Vilsack, secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Health, and Sylvia Mathews Burwell, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, who were questioned at the Oct. 7 congressional hearing, will approve the final guidelines.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research and medical training.