Eggs, cholesterol tied to greater risk of heart disease, stroke

March 24, 2019 in Heart Health, Nutrition Topics in the News

Eggs, cholesterol tied to greater risk of heart disease, stroke

After a raft of studies reassuring consumers that eggs are okay to eat, a new report suggests an increasing risk of cardiovascular disease with the increasing egg intake.

The researchers from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago found a 6 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease when the average number of eggs consumed per day went up by half an egg. 

The team analyzed data pooled from six studies involving a total of 29,615 people who were followed for a median of 17.5 years. At the start, participants filled in questionnaires detailing the foods they ate. They were not asked about their diets again. 

Over time, there were 5,400 cardiovascular-related adverse outcomes, including 2,088 fatal and non-fatal heart disease events, 1,302 fatal and non-fatal stroke events, 1,897 fatal and non-fatal heart failure events and 113 other cardiovascular disease deaths. 

When they analyzed the data, the researchers found an association between egg consumption as reported at the start of the study and participants’ risk of developing cardiovascular disease. As their egg consumption rose, so did their risk. 

The association between eggs and heart disease was explained by the cholesterol in the egg yolks. 

Other experts weren’t entirely convinced that the study shows that eggs were causing heart disease. 

The contribution of cholesterol in eggs has been looked at in several studies, with varying and discrepant results.

Study limitations

Like most nutrition studies, this one is not without limitations.

The six studies included the JAMA analysis relied on self-reported data; having to recall what you ate in the past month is prone to error.

What’s more, dietary data was collected only once at the beginning of each study. The fact that long-term eating patterns were not assessed is a major limitation since people may have changed their diets over the years of follow up. 

While it’s presumed that the link between egg and cholesterol intake and cardiovascular disease is a result of high blood cholesterol levels, LDL cholesterol was not assessed.

This observational study suggests only that a relationship exists between dietary cholesterol and cardiovascular disease; it does not prove that higher egg and cholesterol consumption causes it.

Still, this doesn’t mean that these findings should be completely dismissed. According to an editorial in JAMA, the study’s large dataset and rigorous methodology make a strong case that eggs and dietary cholesterol intake influences the risk of cardiovascular disease.

And while the overall relationship between cholesterol and cardiovascular disease was modest, the results suggest that the risk may be greater for people who consume eggs and cholesterol substantially above average intakes (two or more each day). 

Take home message

It’s not necessary to stop eating whole eggs which deliver a lot of nutrition.

They’re an excellent source of protein, vitamin B12 and selenium, a mineral that protects DNA in cells and is needed for thyroid function.

That said, if you eat two or more eggs each day, these new findngs suggest eating them in moderation. 

Source: JAMA, online March 15, 2019.

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.