Researchers issue new warning about eggs

Enlarge Image iStock

Enlarge Image iStock

The study, conducted by the Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine and released Friday, reveals that adults who eat more eggs have a significantly higher risk of cardiovascular disease - and even death.

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. Eating 300 milligrams of dietary cholesterol a day was associated with a 17 percent higher risk of heart disease and stroke, as well as an 18 percent increased risk of dying.

This news might be hard to swallow for some egg lovers, considering the fact that the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans actually encourages the consumption of eggs as part of a healthy eating pattern.

But a new study of studies is once again advising caution with cholesterol, and specifically eggs, which are a rich source of the waxy fat. "As part of a healthy diet, people need to consume lower amounts of cholesterol". "We found cholesterol, regardless of the source, was associated with an increased risk of heart disease".

"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.

And gobbling up three to four eggs each week is associated with a 6 percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease - and an 8 percent higher risk of any cause of death. The average egg contains 200 milligrams - more cholesterol than is in most fast-food double cheeseburgers.

The latest USA government nutrition guidelines, from 2015, removed the strict daily cholesterol limit. "The evidence is pretty clear that animal products, and high-cholesterol products, should be limited" in the diet, Freeman told Live Science. According to industry data, the average American will eat more eggs in 2019 than any time for the past 20 years.

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The researchers say the culprit is cholesterol, found in egg yolks and other foods, including shellfish, dairy products and red meat.

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

"This study does a good job of parsing the data and identifying dietary cholesterol as an individual and independent component of diet" that's linked with heart disease and mortality, said Dana Hunnes, a senior dietitian at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.

It's been debated for years: Are eggs good or bad for you?

The new findings could call for a reevaluation of these recommendations, the authors said. Of course, cheeseburgers have many other dietary problems, including saturated fat and sodium. You're getting a lot of protein, though you can get that from egg whites, too.

"A more appropriate recommendation would be eating egg whites instead of whole eggs or eating whole eggs in moderation, for the goal of reducing risk of cardiovascular disease and death", he said. 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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