Are Eggs Good For Your Heart?

Are Eggs Good For Your Heart?

by Dr. Lakshmi Venkataraman on Mar 18 2019 4:28 PM
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  • Adults consuming more eggs and dietary cholesterol have a significantly increased risk of heart disease and death
  • Interestingly, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans does not restrict the amount of dietary cholesterol or eggs a person can consume, although earlier guidelines recommended only up to 300 mg of dietary cholesterol per day
  • The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans may need re-evaluation following the findings of the latest study to ensure optimal health of the US population and reduce heart disease risk
Eating too many eggs may not be good for your heart, according to a recent study at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. The study findings appear in JAMA.
One of the most common foods consumed by the average American is eggs, which are rich in cholesterol. Typically, an average American consumes 3-4 eggs per week and 300 mg or more of dietary cholesterol per day. Heart disease is the leading cause of mortality in the US.


Finding Out If Are Eggs Good For Your Heart

  • It has long been heatedly debated whether eating eggs or dietary cholesterol is associated with increased heart disease risk.
  • The evidence for eggs varies in previous research. Few studies showed that eating eggs did not up the risk of heart disease. However, these studies were smaller with less number of participants and shorter follow-up time and not adjusting sufficiently for other parts of diet that might influence the results, according to Norrina Allen, associate professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University.
The study team hoped to find the answer by conducting a larger study with longer follow-up duration.
  • The latest study analyzed data on 29,615 racially and ethnically diverse adults in the US from six prospective population studies and followed them for 31 years.


Design of Study

  • Dietary information was obtained through food frequency questionnaires or getting a diet history.
  • All participants were asked to list out in detail of what they had consumed over the previous year or month.
  • All this information was collected during a single visit.
  • The follow-up duration was 31 years (median: 17.5 years), during which 5,400 adverse heart events and 6,132 deaths due to any cause were reported.
Key findings included the following:
  • Consuming 300 mg of dietary cholesterol per day was found to increase heart disease risk by 17 percent and all-cause death by 18 percent. Dietary cholesterol was the driving factor behind the findings independent of other saturated or dietary fat consumed
  • Consuming 3-4 eggs per week increased the risk of heart disease by 6 percent and all-cause death by 8 percent
  • Exercise, overall diet composition and the amount and type of fat in the diet did not influence the association between dietary cholesterol and heart disease or death risk
The findings of the study suggest that cholesterol in egg yolk can increase heart disease risk as well as mortality risk due to any cause.

"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. "We found cholesterol, regardless of the source, was associated with an increased risk of heart disease."


Potential Limitation of the Study

The study team obtained only a snapshot of the participant’s dietary habits and longterm eating patterns were not taken into account. According to the authors, although this may represent their regular dietary pattern, eating habits could have changed over time which was not taken into account.

Should I Stop Eating Eggs?

Certainly not. Eggs provide several essential nutrients including essential amino acids, iron and choline. Opt for egg white instead or consume whole egg in moderation. In general, people should reduce foods rich in dietary cholesterol such as egg yolk, red meat or whipped cream in their diet.


Egg yolks are very rich in cholesterol and can increase heart disease and death risk, so consume them in moderation.

"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. "As part of a healthy diet, people need to consume lower amounts of cholesterol. People who consume less cholesterol have a lower risk of heart disease."

  1. Associations of Dietary Cholesterol or Egg Consumption With Incident Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality - (doi:10.1001/jama.2019.1572)


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