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Quit Worrying About Eggs!



It's a common misperception that those who have high cholesterol need to avoid foods with high levels of cholesterol in them, such as eggs and shrimp. The truth is that the amount of fat and saturated fat in your diet has much more impact on your cholesterol levels - and therefore your risk of heart failure - than the amount of cholesterol you eat.

A recent study in Circulation bears this out (2008;117(4): 512-516). The researchers used data collected from a large-scale, prospective study known as the Physicians' Health Study I, which focused on over 21, 000 male physicians in the United States. As with other large studies of this kind, the physician subjects provided information on their dietary habits as well as physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption, cholesterol levels (in some subjects), and conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

The subjects' egg consumption were separated into 6 levels: ‹1 per week, 1 per week, 2-4 eggs per week, 5-6 per week, 1 daily, and 2 or more eggs per day. Those levels of egg consumption were correlated with that of those subjects who experienced heart failure, heart attacks, or high blood pressure.

They found that after controlling for a number of variables, including Body Mass Index, physical activity levels, and smoking status, those subjects who ate up to 6 eggs per week saw no increase in their risk of heart failure. On the other hand, those who ate an egg every day had a 28% increase in their risk of heart failure, and those who ate 2 or more eggs per day increased their risk by 64%.

Further, when the researchers looked at the smaller group of subjects who provided cholesterol levels, they found no association between the amount of eggs the subjects ate and their total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, or ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol.

What this means for you

It's pretty simple: eating eggs every day is probably not a great idea, but a couple each week is unlikely to do you any harm. Better to look at the amount of fat and saturated fats in your overall diet than to obsess over how many eggs you eat. Relax and enjoy an occasional omelet without guilt!

First posted: January 23, 2008