Are Eggs Really Bad for Us…Again?

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Eggs are nature’s power food. They have gobs of protein and macronutrients. However, they have also been at the “heart” of the great twentieth-century cholesterol scam. Despite recent research showing no connections between eating eggs and heart disease risk, new research just added a little more sizzle to this frying pan of controversy. Let me explain.

Understanding Cholesterol

The first thing you need to understand about cholesterol is that it is a critical substance in the human body, so critical, in fact, that the body naturally self-produces most of the cholesterol it needs. Without it, we wouldn’t exist as the body couldn’t make cell membranes, certain hormones (e.g., estrogen, testosterone, etc.), vitamin D, and much more. The liver is the cholesterol-production headquarters, and from there, it is transported throughout the bloodstream as lipoproteins. You are probably already familiar with a couple of types of these: low-density lipoproteins (LDL, or the “bad guys”) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL, or the “good guys”). Cholesterol also enters the bloodstream via the diet, but the vast majority of the cholesterol in the bloodstream (about 80%) is produced by the body. Interestingly, the liver will adjust cholesterol production levels based on cholesterol consumed in the diet. In other words, if cholesterol intake is lower than what the body needs, the liver will make more; if it’s higher, the liver will make less.

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Why Eggs Get Bullied the Most When It Comes to Cholesterol

Eggs, by far, get picked on the most when it comes to dietary cholesterol, and just when you think the bullying has finally stopped, another study comes along that links eggs and cholesterol front and center again. Why eggs? One large egg contains around 185 mg of cholesterol, which is nearly two-thirds of the recommended daily allowance (i.e., 300 mg). So despite the fact that the egg is a healthy and nutrient-dense power food, its cholesterol count makes it an easy target for some researchers and the masses. Let’s take a look at a new study investigating dietary cholesterol and the risks of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and mortality…

Eggs and Cholesterol: Does Egg Consumption Increase CVD and Death Risks?

The new study analyzed pooled study data on over 29,000 patients and looked at cholesterol consumption based on self-reported diets. During this time (about a 17.5 year follow-up time period), the development of both fatal and nonfatal CVD, stroke, and heart attack was reviewed as well as death from any other cause (termed all-cause mortality). The results? With each additional 300 mg of cholesterol consumed, there was an increased risk of CVD (17% increase) and all-cause mortality (18% increase). How many eggs is that? About two.

Does this new study about eggs and cholesterol mean we should give up our American Heart Association-recommended one egg a day? This is one contradicting cohort study in a sea of trials and other studies that have not been able to establish a credible link between eggs and CVD, and the AHA has not changed their stance on eggs being part of a healthy diet. Let’s look at just a few of those positive egg studies below.

What Else Is Published on Eggs and Heart Disease?

The same month that the egg study above was published, Norwegian research on more than 120,000 people showed the opposite conclusion about eggs. In addition, a recent study just compared those eating lots of eggs to those who eat few. Those who ate 12+ eggs a week had no difference in serum cholesterol when compared to those who ate less than 2 a week. Finally, this review article that looked at many studies on the topic also couldn’t conclude that eggs were bad actors and actually stated that they were a cheap source of protein and macronutrients, so people should eat more eggs in moderation.

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Can I Just Prevent Cholesterol Problems with Statins?

If you do fall outside of the norms on those LDL and HDL levels, what about cholesterol-lowering statin drugs? Can you just prevent cholesterol problems by popping a pill once or twice a day? After all, nearly one in three middle-aged and older Americans take statins, and many of these take them not to treat an active problem, but to prevent a possible problem from occurring. That must mean they’re safe right? Otherwise, why in the world would doctors be prescribing them for a disease that may or may not happen? Unfortunately, statins have been linked to many side effects, such as the following:

Statins also have a very minuscule benefit. In fact, one nice science article compared the benefit to a lottery ticket. In addition, just eating chocolate or blueberries has a bigger positive effect on your heart health than statins. Check out my table on that topic below:

The upshot? Should you eat fewer eggs? Not at this point. There are a slew of studies that show that you shouldn’t be worried about egg consumption and now this one. So until much more is published showing an issue, have an omelette with butter and don’t worry about it!


Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications. View Profile

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