Scrambled, poached or over easy: No matter how you take your eggs, there's not really a sunny side to a new study that links egg consumption with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
But a new study by Northwestern Medicine in the United States found that people who ate more eggs and dietary cholesterol had a significantly higher risk of cardiovascular disease and early death. The sunny-side down news comes from Northwestern University researchers, who analyzed 30,000 US adults over three decades.
An individual who ate three to four eggs per week appeared to have an 8 percent higher risk of all-cause mortality, and a 6 percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
Egg yolks are the richest source of dietary cholesterol among all commonly consumed food - with one large egg providing 186 milligrams of cholesterol in its yolk, according to the study. While eating as little cholesterol as possible is still advised, the recommendations say eggs can still be part of a healthy diet, as a good source of protein, along with lean meat, poultry, beans and nuts.
Why? "The association of egg consumption and dietary cholesterol with [cardiovascular disease], although debated for decades, has more recently been thought to be less important", wrote Eckel, who was not involved in the research.
"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.
After analyzing 30,000 Americans from six separate studies, researchers concluded that eating an extra half-egg a day increased the risk of cardiovascular disease (six per cent) and premature death (eight per cent) over the study period.
The new findings contradict the latest dietary guidelines for Americans, released in 2015; in them, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said that Americans no longer had to worry about keeping their cholesterol intake within a certain limit. "Bad" cholesterol-often found in animal products such as eggs, meat, and dairy products-has been linked to coronary heart disease, stroke and heart failure. Participants were followed for an average of 17.5 years.
Eggs, especially egg yolks, are high in dietary cholesterol.
Zhong, however, emphasized that the study was observational and couldn't prove dietary cholesterol or egg intake could cause cardiovascular disease or death. "But in general, any dietary study is fraught with difficulty because of the problem of patient recall".
But the Northwestern researchers said their study suggests those guidelines may have to be looked at yet again. Nutrition experts say the new study is unlikely to change that advice.
But more recent dietary guidelines have loosened the reins on dietary cholesterol. WW (formerly Weight Watchers) tells its members to eat eggs with abandon, counting them as a free food in its diet plan.
It's important to note that no one, including the study authors, is saying you need to cut eggs completely out of your diet.
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.
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