Not that long ago, we reported on a new study that showed eating an egg a day can reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes. But alas, the teeter-totter over the health status of eggs was destined to tilt back again.
Now an even newer study has shown that eating eggs can raise your risk for cardiovascular disease, essentially reviving the old egg scare around cholesterol consumption, reports MedicalXpress.com.
"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. "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."
Up until 2015, the daily guideline recommendation for cholesterol consumption in the U.S. was less than 300 milligrams. (One large egg has 186 milligrams of dietary cholesterol.) But after a slew of research raised doubts about whether eating dietary cholesterol was really what causes high levels of cholesterol in our blood, that recommendation was axed entirely. The most recent guidelines offer no daily limit in our cholesterol consumption.
Since eggs are among the foods highest in cholesterol that Americans eat on a regular basis, this was a welcome change for egg-lovers everywhere. A return to previous guidelines may be in order, however, in light of the most recent findings.
Tracking the cholesterol
What makes the newest research particularly alarming is that it's so comprehensive and has a much larger sample size compared to previous studies. As many as 29,615 racially and ethnically diverse adults from six prospective cohort studies were followed for up to 31 years. It found that eating 300mg of dietary cholesterol per day was associated with 17 percent higher risk of incident cardiovascular disease and 18 percent higher risk of all-cause deaths. This was independent of saturated fat consumption and other dietary fat.
Furthermore, eggs were singled out in the study. It was found that eating three to four eggs per week was associated with 6 percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease and 8 percent higher risk of any cause of death.
"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," said Allen. "We found cholesterol, regardless of the source, was associated with an increased risk of heart disease."
These numbers were consistent even among sections of the test group that exercised frequently.
While the study was quite damning to the health status of eggs, researchers still don't recommend removing eggs from your diet entirely. Previous studies that demonstrated health benefits to egg consumption should still be factored in. But moderation, as with everything, is the key. The days of consuming eggs with unrelenting abandon are over. Egg-enthusiasts who are concerned about their overall health should consider lowering their egg consumption to less than two per week, or just eating egg whites, which are lower in cholesterol. Anyone worried about their overall cholesterol consumption should look at their diet across the board, because meat consumption and even alcohol consumption can influence your cholesterol levels, as MNN's Judd Handler explains in his file about good cholesterol.
"We want to remind people there is cholesterol in eggs, specifically yolks, and this has a harmful effect," said Allen. "Eat them in moderation."
Editor's note: This story has been updated to add information about the the number of eggs you should consume in a week, information that was omitted in a version of this story published in March 2019.