Whenever a new study comes out on an old topic—in this case, the relative benefits or risks of egg consumption—your concierge family practice physicians at MD 2.0 in Jupiter, Florida, receive numerous questions from our patients about it. So we’d like to try to clear up the confusion regarding this kitchen staple.
The most recent study to weigh in on this long-standing controversy comes from a large study performed in China and reported in the journal Heart. After surveying 461,213 adults averaging 51 years of age over a nine-year span, it concluded that those who consume an average of one egg a day may have a lower risk of heart attack and stroke than those who avoid them entirely.
Compared with those who never ate eggs, those who ate an average of .76 eggs per day were 11 percent less likely to develop cardiovascular diseases and 18 percent less likely to die from them, Reuters reported.
“The take-home message from this is that when consumed in moderation, there does not appear to be an elevated risk of developing heart disease or stroke,” Dr. Luc Djousse told Reuters. Djousse, a researcher at Harvard Medical School in Boston, was not involved in the study.
“Among Chinese adults, a moderate level of egg consumption was significantly associated with lower risk of (cardiovascular disease), largely independent of other risk factors,” said an excerpt from the study.
So that appears to be the final word. Unless you listen to Dr. J. David Spence of the Western University Stroke Prevention & Atherosclerosis Research Center in London, Ontario, who also was not involved in the study.
“Eggs are not safe for anyone at risk of heart attacks or strokes, but particularly not for diabetics,” Spence told Reuters by email. “Eggs increase the risk of vascular disease,” he said.
For one example, he pointed to the presence of the chemical phosphatidylcholine in eggs, which he explained can contribute to clogged arteries.
In general, though, despite decades of warnings against egg consumption, more recent research has shown that “moderate” consumption can be part of a healthy diet. The key phrase is “healthy diet.” While the Japanese, for example, consume more eggs daily than any other culture, they are also known for their low incidence of heart disease, primarily because of their restricted consumption of saturated fat. The American breakfast which contains eggs also often includes such heart-risky accompaniments as fried hash browns, sausages or bacon, and the saturated fat many use to fry eggs.
Eggs, in fact, contain many nutrients that can improve health overall, including vitamin D, choline, vitamin B12, riboflavin, and folate, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin, both necessary to prevent such common eye diseases as age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. A single egg also contains 10 percent of the recommended daily requirement of protein for about 70 calories, making it an important and cheap source of these nutrients and high-quality protein for those around the world who may not have access to the abundance of protein sources we enjoy here in the U.S.
One large egg yolk contains about 185 milligrams of cholesterol, but is relatively low in saturated fat, the real culprit.
The American Heart Association (AHA) warned since the 1950s against consuming more than three eggs per week due to their cholesterol content. In 2014, however, the organization revised its recommendation to say that up to one whole egg per day could be part of a healthy eating plan, as long as people lower their consumption of other foods higher in cholesterol, such as meat, poultry, and dairy foods. The AHA recommends that you should limit your cholesterol intake to no more than 300 milligrams a day, or 200 milligrams if your LDL cholesterol reading is over 100 or if you have cardiovascular disease.
Much depends on your overall physical health. We recommend you talk to us before increasing your consumption of eggs. We can help you make the best choice for your individual circumstances.