Whether you take it scrambled or fried – or with hollandaise sauce on the side – you are in for some good news! Despite a lot of fake news about eggs being bad for your ticker, a meta-analysis of available evidence on this topic shows that it is not, if consumed in moderate amounts. And except if you have diabetes. Apologize for the qualifiers!
We all worry about our cholesterol levels. LDL-cholesterol is a bad actor, and HDL is a good one. You can learn more about this here. To minimize the elevation of blood cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, the American Heart Association (AHA) has recommended the public to consume less than 300 mg/day of cholesterol. Since eggs are a major source of dietary cholesterol, with one large egg containing almost 210 mg of cholesterol, it makes sense to limit egg consumption unless the intake of other foods high in cholesterol is restricted. However, eggs are also an inexpensive and a low calorie source of many other nutrients, including minerals, proteins, and unsaturated fatty acids, which could lower the risk of heart disease. Moreover, in populations following a carbohydrate- restricted diet, dietary cholesterol from eggs could increase plasma concentrations of HDL-cholesterol, which has been suggested to protect against heart disease. In fact, food based dietary guidelines from countries including Nepal, Thailand, and South Africa recommend consuming eggs every day or regularly as part of a healthy diet.
So how does this all add up?! Scientists from China and the US got together and conducted a meta-analysis of all available evidence on eggs and the heart. When they pooled data from seventeen studies, amounting to 3081269 person-years and 5847 incident cases for coronary heart disease, and 4148095 person years and 7579 incident cases for stroke, they found no evidence of association of egg consumption with heart disease or stroke. The risk for heart disease did increase as egg consumption increased in patients with diabetes. Risk for stroke actually decreased with egg consumption. Based on this, the authors concluded that egg consumption (up to 1 egg a day) is not associated with heart disease or stroke – and diabetics should take caution. Given that most of these data on eggs are from observational and not randomized studies, take that with a grain salt!
Other than cholesterol, eggs are a good source of other nutrients such as high quality protein and vitamin D. In the Diet, Obesity, and Gene (Diogenes) Project, increased protein consumption together with a modest reduction in glycemic index was beneficial for weight control. Substituting protein for carbohydrate also partly resulted in lower blood pressure, improved lipids levels, and concomitantly reduced cardiovascular risk. Higher vitamin D intake might have beneficial effects on the reduction of visceral fat tissue and other cardiovascular risk factors.
So, next time you are on a brunch date, go ahead and eat that egg whole-heartedly!