The study tracked the diets, health and lifestyle habits of nearly 30,000 adults across the US for 31 years. It concluded that cholesterol in eggs, when consumed in large quantities, is associated with ill health effects, according to Katherine Tucker, a biomedical and nutritional sciences professor in UMass Lowell's Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences.
While the new research did not offer specific recommendations on egg or cholesterol consumption, it found that each additional 300 milligrams of cholesterol consumed beyond a baseline of 300 milligrams per day was associated with a 17% higher risk of cardiovascular disease and an 18% higher risk of death.
Moderation in all things
Eating several eggs a week "is reasonable," said Tucker, who noted they include nutrients beneficial to eye and bone health. "But I recommend people avoid eating three-egg omelettes every day. Nutrition is all about moderation and balance."
Research results also determined that study participants' exercise regimen and overall diet quality, including the amount and type of fat they consumed, did not change the link between cholesterol in one's diet and risk of cardiovascular disease and death.
"This is a strong study because the modelling adjusted for factors such as the quality of the diet," Tucker said. "Even for people on healthy diets, the harmful effect of higher intake of eggs and cholesterol was consistent."
No change to egg advice, says BEIC
The British Egg Industry Council (BEIC), in the response to the study, said egg eaters and producers should not be concerned by the findings.
Despite the publicity for a new American study linking eggs, cholesterol and heart disease, it said its advice to consumers had not changed and there remain no official ‘limits’ on egg consumption for most people in the UK.
All UK health and heart advisory bodies, including the Department of Health and the British Heart Foundation, advise that dietary cholesterol from foods such as eggs does not increase the risk of heart disease for most people, and previous limits on egg consumption were lifted in the UK more than 10 years ago.
The BEIC added that the findings of the new American paper were inconsistent with other recent research on eggs, cholesterol and heart disease.
“Nutrition experts have pointed out a number of limitations with the American study and also highlighted the fact that studies outside the US appear to show more favourable relationships with egg intake and cardiovascular risk, which may reflect the importance of the other foods consumed with eggs as part of the overall diet pattern,” it said. “Research published earlier this year2 has demonstrated the importance of separating eggs from other foods, particularly processed meat, to properly assess impact on health outcomes.”
The study doesn’t prove cause and effect
The British Heart Foundation also highlighted the limitations of the study, stressing that it did not establish a causal relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol in eggs and heart disease risk.
The UK charity, which funds research into heart disease, said: “This study was observational, which means conclusions have been drawn from large quantities of data. It shows there is an association between dietary cholesterol from foods like eggs and disease risk, but doesn’t prove it is cause and effect. What’s more, dietary cholesterol wouldn’t be the only factor increasing people’s risk of heart and circulatory disease. Other factors such as lifestyle or genetics may have also played a part.”
‘Reconsidering the Importance of the Association of Egg Consumption and Dietary Cholesterol With Cardiovascular Disease Risk’
Journal of the American Medical Association