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Apr 17, 2019

Study Supports Limiting Eggs and Cholesterol Intake for a Healthier Heart

Higher consumption of eggs and cholesterol is linked to increased risk for heart disease.

Eggs may not be great for heart health after all, based on a study that makes a strong case against egg and cholesterol consumption due to their link to increased risk for heart disease. The analysis included data from six separate studies and confirms ongoing fears that consuming high amounts of eggs and cholesterol could spell trouble for heart health.

Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, this study analyzed data from six studies that tracked the health and lifestyle of more than 29,600 U.S. adults over two decades. Each of the studies surveyed participants on egg and/or cholesterol consumption and then tracked outcomes like heart events and death between 1986 and 2006.

The goal of the recent analysis was to see—once and for all—if eggs and dietary cholesterol are linked to increased heart risks. This issue has been widely debated, as studies have provided conflicting evidence on this association. Authors also note that concerns around cholesterol consumption have been overshadowed by saturated fat, which is known to increase both cholesterol and cardiovascular risk.

But based on the latest data, concerns around eggs and cholesterol consumption are not unfounded.

During the 21-year study period, there were a total of 5,400 heart events and 6,132 deaths among nearly 30,000 participants. Overall, participants with higher egg and cholesterol consumption had greater risk of death than those with lower consumption. In fact, each 300 mg of cholesterol consumed a day was associated with 18% greater risk of death and for every half an egg consumed a day, mortality risk increased by 8%. (There are 187 mg of cholesterol in a large egg.)

These associations were statistically significant, even after taking into account factors like age and weight, which are known to impact outcomes.

What findings show, according to authors, is that higher consumption of eggs and cholesterol are linked to increased risk for heart disease and death. It also suggests that the more an individual consumes of eggs and cholesterol, the greater these risks will be.

Of course, the study was not a clinical trial and cannot prove cause and effect. However, experts believe the study has enough data to make a strong statement on the issue.

As we know, high cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease. It occurs when too much cholesterol (a waxy fat-like substance) builds up in the arteries, increasing risk for heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Avoiding fatty foods rich in saturated fat is one important way to help lower cholesterol. However, findings also support limiting cholesterol-rich foods like eggs to help promote a healthy cholesterol and reduce cardiovascular risk.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is a heart-healthy diet?

  • A heart-healthy diet is full of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains and includes low-fat dairy, fish and nuts as part of a balanced diet. It’s important to limit intake of added sugars, salt (sodium) and bad fats (saturated and trans fats).

  • At what age should I worry about my cholesterol?
  • More than one-third of Americans have high cholesterol and risk for high cholesterol increases with age. However, high cholesterol can be a problem at any age. It’s estimated that 22% of adults in their 20s have high cholesterol and 62% of adults in their 50s have high cholesterol. It’s important to have cholesterol checked regularly and make healthy lifestyle choices like eating healthy and staying active, which help control cholesterol levels.

Infographic: Cholesterol

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