An egg a day may protect the heart

May 22, 2018 in Heart Health, Nutrition Topics in the News

An egg a day may protect the heart

People who eat an egg almost every day appear to have a lower risk of heart attack and stroke than individuals who don’t eat eggs at all, a large study from Peking University Health Science Center in Beijing suggests. 

Researchers examined survey data on egg consumption among 461,213 adults who were 51 years old on average. When they joined the study, none had a history of heart disease. Overall, they ate an average of half an egg daily; about 9 percent of them avoided eggs altogether while 13 percent ate one egg every day. 

At least half of the participants were followed for nine years or more. During that time, 83,977 people developed heart disease or had a heart attack or stroke, and 9,985 died from these conditions. 

Compared to people who never ate eggs, individuals who ate an average of 0.76 eggs per day (about 5 per week) were 11 percent less likely to develop cardiovascular diseases and 18 percent less likely to die from them.

The findings suggest that, when consumed in moderation, eating eggs regularly does not increase the risk of developing heart disease or stroke. 

However, the study doesn’t offer any insight into the risk of heart disease or stroke associated with eating more than one egg a day.

What about cholesterol in eggs?

Eggs are a main source of dietary cholesterol, but they also contain high-quality protein and many vitamins. Previous research on the link between eggs and heart disease have offered inconsistent results, with some pointing to a protective effect and others suggesting that eggs might make people more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. 

Part of the issue revolves around cholesterol. 

One large egg contains around 190 milligrams of cholesterol; scientists used to think that eating eggs would lead to higher levels of cholesterol in the blood. 

More recent research, however, suggests that eggs might block the liver from making so-called “bad” LDL cholesterol, the kind that can build up in blood vessels, and increase production HDL cholesterol, the “good” kind needed for healthy blood flow. 

Egg nutrition

One large egg, with the yolk, delivers 72 calories, 5 g of fat (60 per cent of it unsaturated fat) and 6.3 g of protein.

The high-quality protein in eggs delivers all of the essential amino acids needed to build and maintain muscle mass.  The yolk, which might surprise you, contains 42 per cent of the protein in an egg.

And thanks to the yolk, eggs are an exceptional source of hard-to-find choline, a B vitamin-like compound that helps transmit nerve impulses and is important for brain function. Eggs also contain B vitamins, vitamin A, and lutein, an antioxidant that helps maintain healthy vision.

One whole egg also supplies 15 mcg of selenium (one-quarter of a day’s worth, most of it found in the yolk), a mineral that protects DNA in cells and is needed for thyroid function and immune health.

There are other benefits to eating a whole egg, too. The protein in eggs, along with its five grams of fat, promotes satiety, or a feeling of fullness.

Study limitations

The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how eggs might impact the risk of developing cardiovascular disease or dying from it.

Another limitation: results in China might not apply in other parts of the world. The study participants were typically a healthy weight, and most of them didn’t have high blood pressure or a family history of heart disease. 

In the U.S., where most adults are overweight or obese and eat a Western diet heavy on meat and potatoes and light on fruits and vegetables, the connection between eggs and heart disease might look quite different.  

What to eat for a healthy heart

For optimal heart health, the American Heart Association recommends following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet or a Mediterranean-style diet. Both emphasize unsaturated vegetable oils, nuts, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fish and poultry and both limit red meat, as well as foods and drinks high in added sugars and salt. 

Source:  Heart, online May 21, 2018.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.