Eggs linked to increased cholesterol, risk of heart disease in new study

Grant Boone
March 16, 2019

Eggs may not be all they've been cracked up to be.

Separately, the study found an additional 300 milligrams of dietary cholesterol per day increases the risk of heart disease by 17 per cent and premature death by 18 per cent.

Researchers at Northwestern University analyzed 30,000 USA adults over three decades and found that eating just three to four eggs per week was tied to increased cholesterol and a 6 percent higher risk of heart disease.

Zhong, however, emphasized that the study was observational and couldn't prove dietary cholesterol or egg intake could cause cardiovascular disease or death.

"We want to remind people there is cholesterol in eggs, specifically yolks, and this has a harmful effect", said Allen.

"The take-home message is really about cholesterol, which happens to be high in eggs and specifically yolks", said co-corresponding study author Norrina Allen, associate professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "We found cholesterol, regardless of the source, was associated with an increased risk of heart disease". For years, eggs were shunned as a major source of cholesterol - with 186 milligrams of cholesterol in a large egg, mostly found in the yolk. That's because unlike a randomized controlled trial that tests the safety and efficacy of a drug, it's hard to randomly control what people eat over a long period of time, especially with a large sample size.

Researchers at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine and elsewhere pooled results from six previous studies, analyzing data on nearly 30,000 USA adults who self-reported daily food intake. "Whether dietary cholesterol or egg consumption is associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD) and mortality remains controversial". "Still, people may have changed their diet, and we can't account for that".

Mickey Rubin is executive director of the American Egg Board's Egg Nutrition Center.

Eggs in moderation is generally considered a good addition to a daily diet.

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"There's always been a [suggestion in the data] that eggs can raise cholesterol and create cardiovascular harm", said Dr. Andrew Freeman, director of the Cardiovascular Prevention and Wellness program at National Jewish Health hospital in Denver.

Hold that three-egg omelet. On the one hand, the guidelines say that "cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption;" but on the other hand, the guidelines say that "individuals should eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible while consuming a healthy eating pattern".

Should I stop eating eggs?

Wait a second, eggs are bad again? On the flip side, this breakfast staple also delivers a significant dose of dietary cholesterol.

"Our study showed if two people had exact same diet and the only difference in diet was eggs, then you could directly measure the effect of the egg consumption on heart disease", Allen said. For example, a chopped-up hard-boiled egg in your salad is probably fine, because the rest of the food is low in cholesterol.

But 300 mg is twice the average daily amount eaten by Americans. As with any food, "everything in moderation" remains good advice, said Dr. Satjit Bhusri, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

"It was surprising", Allen says.

The authors even suggest that the most recent version of the federal dietary guidelines, in which eating eggs is still recommended, may need to be re-evaluated in light of their study's findings.

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