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An egg a day won’t increase your risk of heart disease

There’s good news for people who like eggs. According to a new study, eating up to one egg per day won’t make it more likely that you’ll have a heart attack or a stroke.
By Sara Finlay

BMJ Group News

What do we know already?

egg

The question of whether eggs are good or bad for our health has been an ongoing matter of debate. In the 1960s, advertising told us to “go to work on an egg” because eggs are a good source of protein and minerals. But later advice cautioned against eating too many eggs. We know that if you have high cholesterol, you are more likely to have a heart attack or a stroke, and the American Heart Association recommends that people don’t eat more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day. One egg has almost 210 milligrams of cholesterol - almost two-thirds of the daily limit. So, we’ve been told to limit how many eggs we eat.

Recent studies have suggested that eating eggs might not actually increase the risk of having a heart attack or a stroke. Researchers have now pooled the results of several different studies from between 1996 and 2012 to look at the link between eating eggs and the risk of heart disease. In these studies, people recorded over several years how many eggs they ate, and were monitored to see whether they developed heart disease, or had a heart attack or a stroke.

What does the new study say?

The study found no evidence that eating up to one egg per day increased people’s risk of having a heart attack or a stroke. In fact, it suggests that people who had up to one egg per day actually had a lower risk of having a kind of stroke called a haemorrhagic stroke than people who ate eggs more often than this. The researchers say that more research is needed to look at the results about haemorrhagic stroke, as the studies looking at this were too small for us to be sure that the link is genuine.

Given that eggs are high in cholesterol, it’s not clear why they don’t increase the risk of heart disease. Researchers think it might be because your cholesterol levels may have less to do with how much cholesterol you eat, and more to do with your general diet, such as how much saturated fat you eat.

How reliable is the research?

This was a meta-analysis, which is the best way to combine research from different studies.

One thing that might make the results less reliable is that the information on how many eggs people were eating were collected through questionnaires. People might not remember exactly how many eggs they have eaten when filling these out. Researchers also don’t know how big the eggs were, how they were cooked, and how much salt was added, all of which may have influenced the results. But, overall, this is a good-quality study.

What does this mean for me?

This study suggests that if you aren’t at risk of high cholesterol, eating up to one egg a day is a healthy option that won’t increase your risk of having a heart attack or a stroke. However, eggs are often paired with bacon or sausages - sources of saturated fats, which we know increase your risk of heart disease. If you are concerned about your health, a balanced diet is still the best approach.

Published on January 11, 2013

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