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Study rekindles debate on eggs-heart health link

16 March 2019

Eating 300 mg of dietary cholesterol per day was associated with 17 percent higher risk of incident cardiovascular disease and 18 percent higher risk of all-cause deaths.

Researchers at Northwestern University analyzed 30,000 US adults over three decades and found that eating just three to four eggs per week was tied to increased cholesterol and a 6 percent higher risk of heart disease.

This news might be hard to swallow for some egg lovers, considering the fact that the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans actually encourages the consumption of eggs as part of a healthy eating pattern. "We found cholesterol, regardless of the source, was associated with an increased risk of heart disease". However, consumption has surged in the past decade as... Older studies suggesting that link led to nutrition guidelines nearly a decade ago that recommended consuming no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol daily; one egg contains about 186 milligrams.

Two eggs contain more than 300 milligrams of dietary cholesterol.

Freeman cited concerns about the influence of the agricultural and food industry over the guidelines as a reason for this contradiction, and the general downplaying of the link between dietary cholesterol and heart disease.

Whether eating dietary cholesterol or eggs is linked to cardiovascular disease and death has been debated for decades.

That said, the relationship between eggs and the risks of heart disease and early death is only "modest", he said. That instruction was not included in the latest version of the guidelines, which did note that "this change does not suggest that dietary cholesterol is no longer important to consider". "As part of a healthy diet, people need to consume lower amounts of cholesterol".

Researchers who conducted the study explained that when it comes to a normal human diet, cholesterol is quite common, with eggs being a major source of dietary cholesterol.

The study findings mean the current USA dietary guideline recommendations for dietary cholesterol and eggs may need to be re-evaluated, the authors said.

Based on the findings, researchers advise that people eat fewer eggs, but they do not have to cut them out completely. "I tell my students that eating a protein-rich breakfast is one of the best ways of preventing getting hungry", Sherman says.

"I'm sorry if it seems like a boring recommendation", she added, but for most people, the most important diet advice "should be to maintain a healthy weight, to exercise, and to get an adequate amount of sleep".

Wright praised the researchers for using a large sample of people, and taking into account unhealthy risk factors, such as saturated fat intake, when assessing the data. Each participant was asked a long list of what they'd eaten for the previous year or month.

"We found dietary cholesterol, particularly eggs, had a strong association with cardiovascular disease, especially stroke", Allen said. The data were collected during a single visit. During the time period of the follow-up, the researcher said that there were 5,400 incident CVD events (2,088 fatal and non-fatal heart disease events and 1,302 fatal and non-fatal stroke events) and 6,132 all-cause deaths. "But we think they represent an estimate of a person's dietary intake". "This is the diet we should be adopting".

Study rekindles debate on eggs-heart health link