The latest U.S. research on eggs won’t go over easy for those can’t eat breakfast without them.

Adults who ate about 1½ eggs a day had a slightly higher risk of heart disease than those who ate no eggs. The study showed the more eggs, the greater the risk. The chances of dying early were also elevated.

The researchers say the culprit is cholesterol, found in egg yolks and other foods, including shellfish, dairy products and red meat. The study focused on eggs because they’re among the most commonly eaten cholesterol-rich foods. They can still be part of a healthy diet, but in smaller quantities than many Americans have gotten used to, the researchers say.

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U.S. dietary guidelines that eased limits on cholesterol have helped eggs make a comeback.

The study has limitations and contradicts recent research, but is likely to rekindle the long-standing debate about eggs.

The new results were published online Friday in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association.

The study

Researchers at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and elsewhere pooled results from six previous studies, analyzing data on almost 30,000 U.S. adults who self-reported daily food intake. Participants were followed for roughly 17 years, on average.

The researchers calculated that those who ate 300 milligrams of cholesterol daily — about 1½ eggs — were 17 percent more likely to develop heart disease than whose who didn’t eat eggs.

The researchers based their conclusions on what participants said they ate at the start of each study. They took into account high blood pressure, smoking, obesity and other traits that could contribute to heart problems. Risks were found with eggs and cholesterol in general; a separate analysis was not done for every cholesterol-rich food.

Dr. Bruce Lee of Johns Hopkins University, said nutrition studies are often weak because they rely on people remembering what they ate.

“We know that dietary recall can be terrible,” said Lee. The new study offers only observational data but doesn’t show that eggs and cholesterol caused heart disease and deaths, said Lee, who wasn’t involved in the research.

Senior author Norrina Allen, a preventive medicine specialist, noted that the study lacks information on whether participants ate eggs hard-boiled, poached, fried, or scrambled in butter, which she said could affect health risks.

Some people think ‘”I can eat as many eggs as I want'” but the results suggest moderation is a better approach, she said.

The debate

Eggs are a leading source of dietary cholesterol, which once was thought to be strongly related to blood cholesterol levels and heart disease. Older studies suggesting that link led to nutrition guidelines almost a decade ago that recommended consuming no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol daily; one egg contains about 186 milligrams.

Newer research questioned that relationship, finding that saturated fats contribute more to unhealthy levels of blood cholesterol that can lead to heart problems.

The latest nutrition guidelines from the federal government, published in 2015, removed the strict daily cholesterol limit. While eating as little cholesterol as possible is still advised, the recommendations say eggs can still be part of a healthy diet, as a good source of protein, along with lean meat, poultry, beans and nuts. Nutrition experts say the new study is unlikely to change that advice.

Bottom line

Dr. Frank Hu of Harvard University noted that most previous studies have shown that eating a few eggs weekly is not linked with risks for heart disease in generally healthy people.

“I don’t think that this study would change general healthy eating guidelines” that emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and beans and limiting processed meats and sugar, Hu said. Eggs, a breakfast staple for many, can be included but other options should also be considered, “like whole grain toast with nut butter, fresh fruits, and yogurt,” Hu said.

Dr. Rosalind Coleman, a professor of nutrition and pediatrics at the University of North Carolina, offered broader advice.

“The main message for the public is not to select a single type of food as ‘bad’ or ‘good’ but to evaluate your total diet in terms of variety and amount.

“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.”

— Lindsey Tanner

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  • I have watched the documentary, (what the health) I am very sorry to say, this documentary is apparently misleading the people by pushing them towards the vegan diet, I DON’T KNOW WHY? I think it should be a personal choice to become vegan or non-vegan.
    They are claiming that meat, egg, milk and milk products are hazardous to our health, and they are more harmful than smoking cigarettes, that’s ridiculous. They claim that animal food is chemically contaminated, yes, this could be the problem, but how could they say that plants are not chemically contaminated.
    Yes excessive use of pesticides, antibiotics and environmental pollution are contaminating the food. This is the big issue.
    There should be no war between animal based diet and plant based diet. We need both in a proper combination for the sake of healthy and prosperous life. Nature has created every food with a combination of different nutrients for a reason, our body is naturally designed to absorb and digest these foods naturally.
    That’s not fair to let down meat, egg and dairy products by comparing them with cigarettes. Meat and egg products contain 1st grade protein, (which contain all essential amino acids) and heme iron. Egg yolk contains good cholesterol, which is good for the heart. They are saying, milk is not good for bone bones, what should I say…. All these meats, egg and dairy products have an abundance of health benefits, which are scientifically proven.
    I think the problem is related with way of plant cultivation, raising and dealing of the animals. If the pesticide sprays and antibiotic are used in a safe range, clean water is supplied to the plants and animals. The animals / birds are raised naturally on grass / grain in a clean environment. Then the many issues would be resolved.
    Unfortunately, most of the processed food items are linked to many health issues but this not the fault of meat, egg, poultry or milk. The commercial method of their processing is controversial.

  • I also watched whatthehealth and it has some good points but it is a vegan biased film. They cherry picked the studies that supported their viewpoint especially the nutrition ones. No matter what diet, vegan, keto etc they all agree limit processed meat and food and eat more fruits and vegetables, while grains and get exercise.
    It’s not rocket science.

  • I don’t eat eggs bread cheese sugar for 3 months and just have a vegan diet and they’re saying I have diabetes and high blood pressure

    • I just watched whatthehealthfilm.com and was blown away at what they revealed. I’m not spamming you. Take a look. It might help you out.

  • Way too many confounds (did they add cheese to their eggs, have toast with jam, potatoes?). Eggs are ubiquitously eaten in the wild by other animals. They seem to do fine.

  • Highly suspicious study trying to link heart disease to statin drugs. 17%?? Kinda humorous. Enjoy your eggs.. The protein is more important especially if you’re fat.

  • The true culprit still seems to be Blood Cholesterol levels. How about someone who eats 3 eggs a day and has very low LDL levels and very high HDL levels. Does not seem to me that eggs are the problem. It is ultimate LDL and HDL levels. Perhaps those that eat eggs also eat bacon and sausage with them?

  • The same people who had us switch to transfats from Palm oil and butter. Also remember that the study showing shrimp as a high cholesterol food was done by the beef industry. They ground up shrimp, head and all and found high cholesterol because the hepatopancreas in the shrimp head is full of cholesterol. So if you skip the shrimp heads….no cholesterol. Yet the nutrition wizards still emphasize these bad data. Studies such as this make me very dubious of their”alarms”.

  • These studies are so frustrating. The real issue is that eggs are BOTH good and bad for you. The studies always use cheap eggs obtained from chickens who may be kept in unhealthy conditions, so the eggs are typically going to be bad for you. If you eat organic free range chicken eggs then they have higher omega 3 and are more nutritious, so the egg is good for you. For some strange reason, researchers never consider this when testing food items. The same arguments can be made for beef, butter, pork, etc.

  • I do not what to believe any more, said eggs are bad for, they said coffee is ok, so let’s see what happened next year.

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