For the second time in 2 weeks we are learning a staple of our diet can raise risk of heart attack and stroke, and not through the usual mechanism that we all know, raising cholesterol.  

Last week we learned that a study by Dr. Stanley Hazen of the Cleveland Clinic showed that eating meat, which contains carnitine, or even taking carnitine supplements, affects the bowel bacteria and provokes them to make a substance called TMAO, which has been shown to cause heart disease in mice.  

Now we’re told, in a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine 4/15/13, that eggs do the same thing!  This time it’s the choline in the egg yolk. 

Choline is found in soy lecithin in the form of phosphatidyl choline (PC).
Supplements labeled as “lecithin” usually contain 10-20% PC.
Egg yolks are not the only source of choline.  Choline, the major constituent of PC, is also found in soy beans, liver, oatmeal, cabbage, and cauliflower, meat, and some vegetables. Lecithin (containing 10-20% PC) is added to many processed foods in small amounts, for the purpose of maintaining texture consistency and there is a small amount of choline in most multivitamins. 

Choline and Phosphatidyl Choline are important substances in the body. PC acts as a supplier of choline. Choline is needed for cell membrane integrity, to facilitate the movement of fats in and out of cells and the binding of substances to membrane receptors.   It is also a component of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. For this reason, PC has been used in a number of preliminary studies for a wide variety of neurological and psychiatric disorders.

PC has  a positive effect on plasma lipids, lowers triglycerides and oxidized lipids, reduces risk of atherosclerosis, mobilizes cholesterol from blood vessel walls, improves insulin binding, decreases fasting blood glucose, and reduces signs of liver damage and fatty liver.  It also reduces risk of gallstones. 

To put it in perspective, It appears that Choline has many more benefits than risks and if you cultivate better bowel bacteria by eating more vegetables, you might not get the TMAO spike after all.

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