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High Cholesterol Eggs May Not Cause Heart Disease After All

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We all know that cholesterol is bad and can cause heart disease, and in recent years eggs have looked like prime culprits on this front, with many of the more health-conscious among us opting to just eat the white and not the yolk, or else removing them from our diets all together. Indeed, in the popular imagination, the image of a greasy fried egg is likely to be associated with other cholesterol-packing, heart-stopping dietary bad-guys, such as burgers and deep-fried snacks. But now it seems that the poor old egg may have gotten a bad rap all along, as findings published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by a team of Finnish researchers appear to suggest that the consumption of eggs may not always lead to heart disease, reports Medical Daily.

While the authors of the study do not deny that cholesterol plays a part in causing heart disease, the key – as is so often the case – would appear to be moderation. Additionally the kind of food providing you with cholesterol can also influence the outcome. Jyrki Viranen, an adjunct professor of epidemiology at the University of Eastern Finland, said that the risk of heart disease does not appear to increase with a moderate consumption of cholesterol:

Moderate intake of cholesterol doesn’t seem to increase the risk of heart disease, even among those people at higher risk.

Supporting the Finnish scientists finding, Dr. Robert Eckel, a program chair and professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, says that he doesn’t even mention eggs when outlining the risk factors for heart disease to his patients, as he is more concerned about getting them into the habit of eating in an overall healthy manner than in concentrating on a few particular dietary details:

Our focus should be on healthy dietary patterns, not specific foods or nutrients.

So while for many people eggs have for some time been crossed off the list of safe foods, it seems there are perhaps other more important issues we should be concerning ourselves with: “I’m a lot more concerned about people eating more fruits and vegetables,” says Eckel in a report by Time. Part of the confusion over eggs seems to lie in the assumption that dietary cholesterol will translate into high blood cholesterol, an assumption that is not supported by the facts according to Dr. Luc Djoussé, an associate professor and heart disease researcher at Harvard Medical School:

Dietary cholesterol does not translate into high levels of blood cholesterol.

Dr Djoussé has researched the connection between heart disease and eggs and says that the current data do not justify worrying over egg consumption. The conclusion seems to be, then, that a moderate intake of foods containing cholesterol is not harmful in itself, however doctors still strongly advise that we eat a Mediterranean diet, high in fish, vegetables, olive oil and nuts.

The general rule, according to Viranen, is that an average of one egg a day is perfectly safe. In practice this means that it’s absolutely fine to eat three eggs for breakfast today as so long as we then opt for, say, fresh fruit and cereal tomorrow – what is important is that, over the week, our intake balances out to one a day.

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