A study published in JAMA last March puts eggs back in the spotlight. As research has noted, increased consumption of cholesterol and eggs is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and death.
The researchers reported that taking 300mg more cholesterol daily, which amounts to about 3-4 eggs per week, is the one to blame for the risk.
Should we therefore completely exclude eggs from our diet?
The Results of the Survey
Human nutrition is extremely complex and therefore difficult to fully study. This is why most medical articles often have conflicting titles.
For the analysis published in JAMA, the volunteers provided information about their diet at the beginning of the study, which was taken into account when assessing their health 30 years later. The JAMA research, like many nutrition studies, was an observational study. Therefore, it cannot prove that a particular action (consuming an increased amount of cholesterol or eggs) causes an effect (increased risk of cardiovascular disease and death). The results may, however, seem alarming to those who enjoy the eggs.
The authors emphasized that the link observed in their research was moderately valid. The highest risk of cardiovascular disease and death was observed in total cholesterol consumption and not in eggs. Much of the cholesterol in the volunteer diet came from eating meat.
The link was also stronger for people who consumed more saturated fat (about 14% of total calories). Saturated fats usually come from quadruped animals, such as cows and pigs, but also from processed foods. The average daily consumption of these foods exceeds 10% for most people.
Interpreting the Results
One egg contains about 180mg of cholesterol, while a 200g steak contains nearly 140mg of cholesterol and 6 times more saturated fat. Therefore, if you are at increased risk of stroke and myocardial infarction, you should probably limit the consumption of both of these foods.
Based on the above research, restricting eggs to less than 3 per week is probably a wise choice as no link to this amount has been observed. Those eating a diet high in protein, such as beans, nuts and seeds, that is, foods that help keep cholesterol and saturated fat low, need not worry.
In fact, many patients benefit from eating eggs, as they are an economical and fast source of protein. They also contain nutrients that are not found in other foods in large quantities. For vegetarians, eggs can be a good source of vitamin B12. This vitamin supports neurological functions such as memory and balance.
In addition to fatty fish, eggs are one of the best sources of vitamin D in the diet. Those living in northern countries or those who work indoors may have a vitamin D deficiency due to reduced sun exposure. Eggs are also one of the main sources of choline, an important nutrient for the development of the fetus. Most pregnant women do not consume sufficient amounts of choline.
Overall, research has not changed what we have known for many years, that our diet should be based on plant foods. Vegetable proteins, such as those found in beans, as well as unsaturated fats found in nuts, have been linked to cardiac health benefits. Patients with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and a diet high in animal protein may need to limit their consumption of eggs and meat.
Bibliography: Harvard Health