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Low-cholesterol eggs.

Low-Cholesterol Eggs


David Rust may be the only egg producer daring enough to urge people to eat more eggs in order to lower their cholesterol. But he's not the only one using phoney cholesterol claims to con you into buying his eggs.

Producers across the country have begun to stick "less cholesterol" claims on their egg cartons. But as it turns out, there's nothing special about their eggs. It's the average egg that has less cholesterol than we used to think. And that's largely because there are now more accurate ways to measure cholesterol.

The egg industry has been trying to erase the stigma of heart disease for years. It used to claim that "there is no evidence that eating eggs...increases the risk of heart attacks or heart disease." After a four-year legal battle in the mid-1970s, the government finally put an end to that.

Individual producers, though, haven't lost their zeal for hyperbole. But if industry figures are any guide, they're going to need a lot more than exaggerated claims to boost sales. Egg consumption has fallen from 332 per person in 1967 to 249 in 1987. Less Than What? Last April, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets fined two Pennsylvania companies, Full Spectrum Farms and Sauder's Inc., for making "untrue" claims on their egg cartons. Sauder's, for example, promised that its eggs had "25 percent less cholesterol than the USDA standard."

But the USDA has no "standard" for cholesterol in eggs, says New York State's Joseph Ferrara. It only has an old estimate of the average cholesterol content of a large egg--274 milligrams.

According to the USDA's Gary Beecher, that estimate is now outdated. About two years ago, when a few producers first started claiming their eggs had less than 274 mg of cholesterol, the egg industry asked the USDA to reconsider the estimate. It did, and the new numbers showed that the average large egg has 213 mg of cholesterol--22 percent less than the previous measurement.

Edward Naber, of the poultry science department at Ohio State University, says that changes in how farmers raise hens account for only a minor portion of the decline. "The principal reason is that the older methods of determining how much cholesterol is in an egg weren't precise."

Does that mean omelettes and once-over-easy's belong back on the menu? Not quite. One large egg still uses up about two-thirds of a day's 300-mg cholesterol allowance set by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Low-Cholesterol Beef, Pork? Beef and pork producers have now asked the USDA for new fat and cholesterol estimates for their their meats.

If those numbers also fall, just remember: When the government changes its estimates of what's in foods, that doesn't solve the nation's cholesterol problem. It may shift the blame slightly from one food to another (from meat to dairy, for example).

But it doesn't change the fact that half the population has high cholesterol levels. Some foods are responsible. And it sure ain't broccoli.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Center for Science in the Public Interest
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Copyright 1989, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes related article
Author:Liebman, Bonnie
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Date:Jul 1, 1989
Previous Article:Great grilling.
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