Cesare R. Sirtori
Atherosclerosis is the main cause of cardiovascular disease (CVD), the leading cause of death worldwide, and is characterized by the thickening and loss of elasticity of the arterial wall as well as compromised blood flow. Risk factors for the development of atherosclerosis include elevated blood pressure, high levels of LDL-cholesterol, diabetes mellitus, age, cigarette smoking and family history. While some of these risk factors cannot be modified, food components, such as fats, proteins, peptides, fibre and polyphenols, are likely to be important in the prevention of CVD. Recently extensive studies have evaluated the nutraceutical properties of eggs, particularly egg peptides (cholesterol in eggs is no longer considered a risk factor in the development of CVD). Egg contains antihypertensive peptides, in particular ovokinin, antidiabetic peptides as well as anti-obesity peptides and proteins. In addition, egg components may reduce cholesterol absorption from the intestine, and some egg proteins can possibly raise LDL-receptor activity in different tissues. The consumption of egg whites may decrease cholesterol levels in humans similar to the effect of soybean proteins. Well-defined egg components could thus act as nutraceuticals and could be used as functional food ingredients to prevent cardiovascular disease.