Eating eggs regularly could be almost as bad for your heart as smoking, according to newly published data from the University of Western Ontario in Canada. Researchers there surveyed more than 1,200 men and women (mean age 61.5) who were attending heart disease prevention clinics.
The investigators used ultrasound to measure the total area of plaque in the arteries of the study participants and asked them to provide information about their lifestyles, medications, pack-years of smoking (a figure that includes the number of packs of cigarettes smoked daily over the number of years of smoking) and the number of egg yolks consumed per week times the number of years of consumption.
They found that plaque in the carotid artery in the neck increased gradually after age 40 in most people, but accumulated more rapidly with pack years of smoking and egg yolk-years, suggesting that both smoking and eating egg yolks may speed the development of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Reporting eating just three egg yolks per week was associated with the rapid increase in plaque seen in the study.
These are interesting findings, but research is needed to explore the danger this study identifies. The Canadian team used a retrospective study design, which relies on memory and self-reporting. These types of investigations can help identify associations, but can’t confirm them, or rule out other contributing factors.
Research published in 2008 showed that men who ate seven or more eggs per week were 23 percent more likely to die of any cause (the risk was even higher among diabetics) than men who ate fewer eggs. However, high egg consumption wasn’t linked to heart attack or stroke, and no health risks at all were seen for men who ate up to six eggs per week. The data comes from the Physicians Health Study I, which has been following 21,300 male doctors for 20 years.
No particular cause of death was correlated with high egg consumption, and no plausible explanation for the correlation suggests itself.
Bottom line: If you enjoy eggs, they should be included in a healthy diet. Stick to those with high omega-3 content from organically raised chickens. And like any food, they should be eaten in moderation.