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A New Study Renews The Debate About Eating Eggs

Whole eggs contain dietary cholesterol, but also protein and other nutrients.
Whole eggs contain dietary cholesterol, but also protein and other nutrients.

A new study says the more eggs you eat — mostly because of the cholesterol inside ­— the more you’re at risk for heart disease and premature death.

Previous research said dietary cholesterol was no longer a major concern. But Dr. Amit Khera, a cardiologist with Parkland Hospital and a professor in the internal medicine department at UT Southwestern Medical Center, believes the data was misinterpreted.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines in 2010 recommended consuming no more than 300 milligrams a day of dietary cholesterol. (The yolk in a single large egg has about 180 milligrams.) The 2015 edition agreed with the Institute of Medicine about consuming as little dietary cholesterol as possible.

“They didn’t say cholesterol was OK. They didn’t say it was a good thing,” Dr. Khera said. “They just said they didn’t have the data to give a number as to how much.”

The new study found people who eat three or four eggs a day — or any equivalent of 300 milligrams of dietary cholesterol — have a higher risk of both heart disease and early death compared with those who eat fewer eggs.

Whole eggs are a good, inexpensive source of protein and other nutrients. The yolks contain dietary cholesterol, but not all cholesterol is bad ( LDL). Some is actually good ( HDL) and useful to your body.

So what does Dr. Khera say to his patients?

  • "For most people who don’t have heart disease or don’t have high cholesterol, eggs in moderation are OK. One a day or less would be fine."
  • "There are other sources of plant protein: There’s beans, there’s soy. In addition, you can take out the yolk and eat the whites for the protein."
  • "In people with heart disease or his cholesterol, try to eat as little or take out the yolk."

Interview Highlights:

Why focus so much on eggs: "Eggs and shellfish are unique in that they have a lot of cholesterol and are low on saturated fat. For example, eggs have close to 200 milligrams of cholesterol, but only two mgs or less of saturated fat. Whereas a burger would have only eight milligrams of saturated fat and maybe 90 or so milligrams of cholesterol."

Study results: "For every half egg you eat, there’s a 6% increase risk in cardiovascular events. Adjust for how much cholesterol you consume in an egg, the risk of the egg went away. So they’re saying the problem is the cholesterol part of the egg that’s in the yolk."

What about red meat and other animal products with cholesterol? "You get some cholesterol, but a lot of saturated fat. More cholesterol and the more saturated fat you eat, the higher the cholesterol goes in your blood."


Eggs And Cholesterol Study

Eggs And Cholesterol Study: Science Daily

Cholesterol Redux: As Eggs Make A Comeback, New Questions About Health Risks

Three Or More Eggs A Week Increase Your Risk Of Heart Disease And Early Death, Study Says

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Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.