Three or more eggs a day increase heart disease risk, study says

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Enlarge Image iStock

Adults who ate about 1 ½ eggs daily had a slightly higher risk of heart disease than those who ate no eggs.

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

"There's always been a [suggestion in the data] that eggs can raise cholesterol and create cardiovascular harm", said Dr. Andrew Freeman, director of the Cardiovascular Prevention and Wellness program at National Jewish Health hospital in Denver.

Dr. Terrence Sacchi, chief of cardiology at New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital in New York City and was not involved in the research, said this study is a "wake-up call not to overdo high-cholesterol foods". The study had up to 31 years of follow up (median: 17.5 years), during which 5,400 cardiovascular events and 6,132 all-cause deaths were diagnosed.

Researchers at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine showed the more eggs you eat, the slightly higher the risk of heart disease and dying early.

The study left egg consumers around the world confused about whether or not eggs are safe for consumption and if yes, then how many eggs should they exactly be consuming on a daily or weekly basis.

"Considering the negative consequences of egg consumption and dietary cholesterol in the setting of heart-healthy dietary patterns, the importance of limiting intake of cholesterol-rich foods should not be dismissed", he concluded.

A large, new Northwestern Medicine study reports adults who ate more eggs and dietary cholesterol had a significantly higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death from any cause. The findings were published Friday in JAMA. "So I'd hate for them to come back to me and say, 'Oh, no!"

"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 is nice to get clearer data on this controversial topic to better inform future guidelines and our patients", Martin said of the new study. "They are not free from industry bias", she said.

"We want to remind people there is cholesterol in eggs, specifically yolks, and this has a harmful effect", added Allen. That instruction was not included in the latest version of the guidelines, which did note that "this change does not suggest that dietary cholesterol is no longer important to consider".

A potential reason for inconsistent results in the past was the fact that other studies did not take into account that egg consumption may be related to other unhealthy behaviors, such as low physical activity, smoking and an unhealthy diet. Each participant was asked a long list of what they'd eaten for the previous year or month.

"The old advice still stands, eggs in moderation are absolutely fine as a useful source of protein".

"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.

She recommends sticking to a Mediterranean diet, which is rich in heart-healthy plant-based foods that are also low in cholesterol, including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. However, that study was done on people who weren't eating a typical Western diet.

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