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Eggs Do Not Raise Cholesterol, Study Says

New research found that eating up to 12 eggs per week did not raise cholesterol levels in study participants, dispelling a long-standing belief that eggs are bad for heart health.

In 1968, the American Heart Association (AHA) announced that people should limit their consumption of eggs to no more than three per week and consume no more than 300 mg of cholesterol per day to help prevent heart disease.

Soon after the recommendation, egg consumption dropped, and processed food products labeled "low cholesterol" and "cholesterol-free" began flooding the market.

As a result, eggs, which contain high-quality protein, vitamins, and minerals key to human health, were suddenly on most people's do-not-eat list.

However, decades later, several studies showed that egg intake is, in fact, not associated with cardiovascular disease risk. Then, in 2002, the AHA dropped its egg restriction recommendation of three to four per week but kept the less than 300 mg per day dietary cholesterol guideline.

But this did little to change the public's perspective on the "evils" of eggs.

Now, a new study found more evidence that eggs are not a driver of high cholesterol and may even benefit people with diabetes and older adults.

Scientists put eggs to the test

To conduct the single-center trial, the research team recruited 140 people 50 years of age or older who had experienced one previous cardiovascular event or had two cardiovascular risk factors, such as diabetes, a higher BMI, or high blood pressure or cholesterol levels.

Over a four-month study period, participants consumed either 12 or more fortified eggs or less than two eggs of any type per week. The researchers used fortified eggs in the experiment because they contain less saturated fat and more omega-3s, vitamins, and minerals.

The team assessed the participants' HDL (good) and LDL (bad) cholesterol and other biomarkers of cardiovascular disease over the study period.

The study's results, which scientists will present on Saturday, April 6, at the American College of Cardiology's (ACC) Annual Scientific Session, found that participants who consumed fortified eggs each week had a 0.64 mg/dL reduction in HDL cholesterol and a 3.14 mg/dL reduction in LDL cholesterol.

Though the cholesterol reduction wasn't significant, the scientists say it suggests that eating up to 12 fortified eggs per week had no negative impact on blood cholesterol levels.

The team also saw a reduction in total cholesterol and LDL particle number. In addition, biomarkers for cardiovascular disease, including apoB, high-sensitivity troponin, and insulin resistance scores, were lower among those who ate fortified eggs.

What's more, the fortified egg group experienced an increase in vitamin B levels.

Additionally, the scientists found that people 65 years or older and individuals with diabetes who consumed up to 12 fortified eggs per week experienced increases in HDL cholesterol and decreases in LDL cholesterol compared with people in the less than two eggs per week group.

Despite the encouraging results, the participants self-reported their egg consumption and other food items they ate and knew whether they were in the fortified or low egg consumption groups. These factors could limit the findings.

It's also important to note that Eggland's Best funded the research.

In an ACC press release, lead study author Nina Nouhravesh, M.D., a research fellow at the Duke Clinical Research Institute in Durham, North Carolina, said, "This is a small study, but it gives us reassurance that eating fortified eggs is OK with regard to lipid effects over four months, even among a more high-risk population."

More egg evidence to consider

Previous research aligns with the study's findings, which may provide more reassurance that eggs may not be detrimental to heart health as once thought.

For example, a 2020 study published in the BMJ followed over 83,000 people for 32 years and found that eating up to one egg per day is not associated with cardiovascular disease risk and may even lower the risk in the Asian population.

A more recent review of research published last year found that most studies examined showed a reduced risk of heart disease or no links between egg consumption and cardiovascular disease risks.

According to a 2019 study, eggs have an ideal balance and diversity of nutrients, have a high protein concentration, and are rich in B vitamins and vitamins A, D, E, and K. Moreover, eggs contain choline, which plays a role in brain development and bone health.

Still, eggs can contain salmonella, a harmful bacteria that can cause severe illness. So, raw and hard-boiled eggs must be properly stored and handled to reduce the risk of this food-borne illness. People should also thoroughly wash their hands and disinfect surfaces after handling raw eggs.

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