For decades, doctors, vegans and journalists have damned these thin-shelled culinary delights, calling them Trojan horses that plaque arteries and damage the heart. Forget about it. The latest study as published in the US national Library of medicine yesterday suggests eggs aren’t culinary divas set on breaking your heart. Researchers found that not even the carriers of the APOE4 gene that increases sensitivity to dietary cholesterol have anything to fear from an egg a day. The study followed the dietary habits among 1,000 middle-aged Finnish men for 20 years; the subjects had healthy hearts at the outset of the study and approximately 1/3 of them carried the APOE4 gene.
“It is quite well known that dietary cholesterol intake has quite a modest impact on blood cholesterol levels, and cholesterol or egg intakes have not been associated with a higher risk of heart disease in most studies,” said study author Jyrki Virtanen. He is an adjunct professor in nutritional epidemiology with the University of Eastern Finland Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition in Kuopio, Finland.
So head up to the breakfast club and order an egg prepared anyway you like it with a side of bacon and hashbrowns. The study did not find a link between dietary cholesterol and adverse heart health; conversely, findings indicated that dietary cholesterol does not have a significant impact on cardiovascular disease. However, before you start baking and cooking everything with eggs, researchers noted that as with many long-term studies, dietary information was only surveyed at the start of the study so they had no way of determining whether or how participant’s diets varied over the course of time. Still, it is what it is, no evidence that dietary cholesterol plays a significant role in cardiovascular disease.
“…dietary cholesterol intake has a greater impact on blood cholesterol levels among those with [APOE4],” Virtanen added. “So it was assumed that cholesterol intake might have a stronger impact on heart disease risk among those people. However, our study did not find an increased risk even among those carrying [APOE4].”
Participants in the research ranged in age 42 to 60. The average dietary cholesterol consumed was 398 milligrams (mg), the study found. No one reported consuming more than one egg per day, on average. One medium-sized egg has approximately 200 mg of cholesterol, the study authors said.
By the time the 21-year tracking period ended, 230 of the men had experienced a heart attack. However the study’s authors suggested neither egg consumption or overall cholesterol consumption had any significant bearing on heart attack risk or the risk for hardening of the arterial walls. Hopefully you are still reading, because the authors of the study did leave us with one caveat, a sort of disclaimer. The researchers weren’t able to indisputably prove that dietary cholesterol doesn’t have a significant impact on cardiovascular disease. Since the dietary information of participants was only surveyed at the start of the study, there is no additional data on potential deviations from participant’s original eating habits.
Actually there is another caveat: it matters what you are eating with your egg. “[So] an egg a day in the context of a healthy diet pattern does not appear to pose a risk for heart disease or impact dietary cholesterol according to current research,” Virtanen said. “[But] an egg a day on top of buttery biscuits and gravy is not the way to go.”