A study recently published online in the journal Risk Analysis estimates that eating one egg per day is responsible for less than 1% of the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) in healthy adults.
Alternatively, lifestyle factors including poor diet, smoking, obesity and physical inactivity contribute 30 to 40% of heart disease risk, depending on gender.
This study adds to more than thirty years of research showing that healthy adults can eat eggs without significantly affecting their risk of heart disease.
The study evaluated the risk of heart disease associated with egg consumption compared to modifiable lifestyle risk factors (smoking, poor diet, being overweight or obese, physical inactivity).
The study authors used data from the 1999-2000 and 2001-2001 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) to categorize the US adult population into various groups based on modifiable lifestyle risks.
These populations account for 85% of all US males ages 25 and older and 86% of US females ages 25 and older.
The study found that the consumption of one egg per day contributes less than 1% of heart disease risk.
Modifiable lifestyle risk factors - smoking, poor diet, being overweight or obese and physical inactivity - accounted for 30 to 40% of heart disease risk.
Unavoidable risk factors, such as genetics, and potentially treatable risk factors, such as hypertension and diabetes, accounted for 60 to 70%.
"This study should influence health professionals to finally acknowledge decades of research showing that egg consumption is not a significant risk factor for heart disease," said Leila M. Barraj, Senior Managing Scientist in Exponent's Health Sciences Center for Chemical Regulation and Food Safety.
"The health community should focus on meaningful recommendations when it comes to preventing heart disease, like smoking and obesity, not egg consumption."
Uncovering the myths
The study, which was funded by the Egg Nutrition Center, substantiates decades of research challenging the outdated myth that the cholesterol in eggs is linked to increased heart disease risk.
Moreover, the study authors note that their analysis did not adjust for the health promoting benefits of eggs which may, in fact, decrease heart disease risk. For example:
- Research has found that overweight men who eat eggs while on a carbohydrate-restricted diet have a significant increase in their HDL levels (the "good" cholesterol) compared to men who do not eat eggs.
- In a recent study, eating two eggs for breakfast, as part of a reduced-calorie diet, helped overweight or obese adults lose 65% more weight and reduce their BMIs by 61% more than those eating a bagel breakfast of equal calories. In addition, the study found no significant differences between the HDL and LDL cholesterol levels of the egg and bagel eaters.
- Eggs are an excellent source of choline. A 2008 study concluded that a diet rich in choline and betaine, a nutrient related to choline, is associated with lower concentrations of homocysteine in the blood. High blood levels of homocysteine are indicative of chronic inflammation, which has been associated with cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's and dementia.