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

Henrietta Brewer
March 16, 2019

Based on the findings, researchers advise that people eat fewer eggs, but they do not have to cut them out completely. The new study offers only observational data but doesn't show that eggs and cholesterol caused heart disease and deaths, said Lee, who wasn't involved in the research.

The new study looked at pooled data on 29,615 US racially and ethnically diverse adults from six prospective cohort studies for up to 31 years of follow up.

For years eggs were shunned because of concerns that their high cholesterol content was bad for the heart.

However, she told Newsweek, "Factoring dietary cholesterol together with egg consumption was somewhat "stacking the deck" statistically speaking", but added that the study was still "very well-designed". The culprit is the cholesterol in egg yolks, they reported.

A potential reason for inconsistent results in the past was the fact that other studies did not take into account that egg consumption may be related to other unhealthy behaviors, such as low physical activity, smoking and an unhealthy diet.


The findings suggest it may be time to re-evaluate the current USA dietary guidelines that no longer limit cholesterol or eggs, the researchers say.

"What we found in this study was that if you consumed two eggs per day, there was a 27 percent increased risk of developing heart disease", says researcher Norrina Allen, an associate professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University. That's when the U.S. Dietary Guidelines dropped a longstanding recommended limit on dietary cholesterol. There is sobering news for egg lovers who have been happily gobbling up their favourite breakfast since the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans no longer limited how much dietary cholesterol or how many eggs they could eat. Additional results showed that eating three to four eggs a week was associated with a 6 percent higher risk of heart disease and an 8 percent higher risk of all-cause death.

"Considering the negative consequences of egg consumption and dietary cholesterol in the setting of heart-healthy dietary patterns, the importance of limiting intake of cholesterol-rich foods should not be dismissed", he concluded.

Diet data were collected using food frequency questionnaires or by taking a diet history.

Compared with previous studies, "this report is far more comprehensive, with enough data to make a strong statement that eggs and overall dietary cholesterol intake remain important in affecting the risk" of heart disease and death, Dr. Robert H. Eckel writes in an editorial published along with the study.


Should I stop eating eggs?

The study had up to 31 years of follow up (median: 17.5 years), during which 5,400 cardiovascular events and 6,132 all-cause deaths were diagnosed.

"We want to remind people there is cholesterol in eggs, specifically yolks, and this has a harmful effect", said Allen, who mentioned that she still cooks scrambled eggs for her children.

Now, a new study - published yesterday by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) - has weighed in.

"In science, the way it works is we don't think of it as one study having the final word", she said.

"The old advice still stands, eggs in moderation are absolutely fine as a useful source of protein". However, that study was done on people who weren't eating a typical Western diet.


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