Cancel the cheese omelette. There is sobering news for egg lovers who have been happily following Heart Foundation guidelines suggesting you can safely consume six or seven eggs each week.
A large, new Northwestern Medicine study reports that adults who ate more eggs and dietary cholesterol had a significantly higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
“The take-home message is really about cholesterol, which happens to be high in eggs and, specifically, yolks,” said co-author Norrina Allen, associate professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University.
“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.”
Egg yolks are one of the richest sources of dietary cholesterol among all commonly consumed foods. One large egg has 186 milligrams of dietary cholesterol in the yolk.
Other animal products such as red meat, processed meat and high-fat dairy products (butter or whipped cream) also have high cholesterol content, said lead author Wenze Zhong.
The great egg debate
Whether eating dietary cholesterol or eggs is linked to cardiovascular disease and death has been debated for decades.
The evidence for eggs has been mixed.
Previous studies found eating eggs did not raise the risk of cardiovascular disease. But those studies generally had a less diverse sample, shorter follow-up time and limited ability to adjust for other parts of the diet, Assoc. Prof. Allen said.
“Our study showed if two people had the 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,” she said.
“We found cholesterol, regardless of the source, was associated with an increased risk of heart disease.”
Exercise, overall diet quality and the amount and type of fat in the diet didn’t change the association between the dietary cholesterol and cardiovascular disease and death risk.
The study found:
- Eating 300mg of dietary cholesterol per day was associated with a 17 per cent higher risk of incident cardiovascular disease. The cholesterol was the driving factor independent of saturated fat consumption and other dietary fat.
- Eating three to four eggs per week was associated with a six per cent higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
Based on the study, people should keep dietary cholesterol intake low by reducing cholesterol-rich foods such as eggs and red meat in their diet.
The authors, however, caution against banishing eggs and red meat completely, as they are still good sources of important nutrients such as essential amino acids, iron and choline. Instead, choose egg whites instead of whole eggs or eat whole eggs in moderation.
How many eggs do you eat per week? Do you believe previous advice that eating eggs is good for your health or are you convinced by this latest study?