New data in eternal debate over eggs, heart health

Eating eggs can lead to higher risk of cardiovascular disease: study

In a large trial published Friday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, it appears that too much cholesterol in our diets, especially from egg yolks, can lead to both an increased risk of coronary artery disease and dying, with the degree of the risk correlated with how much cholesterol we eat.

Whether eating eggs or cholesterol, which is also found in products such as red meat, processed meat and high-fat dairy products, is linked to cardiovascular disease and death has always been a subject of debate, the researchers said.

The researchers examined data from six USA study groups including more than 29,000 people followed for 17 ½ years on average.

Adults who ate about 1 ½ eggs daily had a slightly higher risk of heart disease than those who ate no eggs. 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". Older studies suggesting that link led to nutrition guidelines nearly a decade ago that recommended consuming no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol daily; one egg contains about 186 milligrams.

In the Northwestern study, researchers were able to compare two people who otherwise had the same diet, but one of whom consumed more eggs.

It's enough to put you off your breakfast: an egg a day increases the risk of heart disease by 12 per cent, an overview of research suggests.

Eating 300 milligrams of cholesterol a day was associated with a 17 percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease incidents (stroke and heart attack, for example) and 18 percent higher risk of death generally, researchers said. The average egg contains 200 milligrams - more cholesterol than is in most fast-food double cheeseburgers. "Whether dietary cholesterol or egg consumption is associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD) and mortality remains controversial".

Earlier versions of the dietary guidelines have advised Americans to keep their cholesterol under 300 milligrams daily. According to industry data, the average American will eat more eggs in 2019 than any time for the past 20 years.

In addition to the new findings on eggs, the latest study found a link between dietary cholesterol consumption and heart disease, strokes, and death from any cause.

But the Northwestern researchers said their study suggests those guidelines may have to be looked at yet again.

"We know that dietary recall can be bad", said Lee.

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

Most dietary studies are also observational, making their findings less reliable.

His bottom line is the same as Allen's: "Eat eggs in moderation".

As heart disease kills around 610,000 Americans each year, accounting for one in four deaths, understanding the role played by food such as eggs is important.

"The old advice still stands, eggs in moderation are absolutely fine as a useful source of protein". Eggs, a breakfast staple for many, can be included but other options should also be considered, "like whole grain toast with nut butter, fresh fruits, and yogurt", Hu said.

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