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Study Suggests Eggs Do Not Impact Cholesterol Levels

Egg lovers who gave up their favorite food due to cardiovascular disease may have cause to celebrate. A study published in the American Heart Journal found that eggs may not raise cholesterol levels as once believed.

"Our short-term findings, and the overall weight of evidence, argue against excluding eggs from heart-healthy diets, even among those with actual coronary disease," notes Dr. David Katz, the founding director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center. “There may be net harm to overall diet quality and health from excluding eggs from the diet."

Katz and his team conducted clinical trials of egg ingestion – one with healthy adults, and one with adults at risk for coronary disease – which showed that daily egg intake over a span of six weeks had no adverse effects on cardiac risk factors in these adults.

In one randomized, controlled, single-blind, crossover trial, 32 adults (mean age, 67 years; 6 women, 26 men) with cardiovascular disease were assigned breakfast with 2 eggs, breakfast with ½ cup Egg Beaters from ConAgra Foods, or a high-carbohydrate breakfast consisting of bagels, waffles, pancakes, or cereal. The trial continued for six weeks, with a four-week washout period. The primary outcome measure was endothelial function measured as flow-mediated dilatation.

Compared with the high-carb control breakfast, daily consumption of eggs showed no adverse effects on flow-mediated dilatation total cholesterol, blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, or body weight. There were no differences between the subjects eating eggs or Egg Beaters.

"This study highlights an important consideration: when coronary disease patients are advised to avoid or limit a food or food category, what do they eat instead?” says Katz. “While some alternatives to eggs, such as oatmeal, might offer benefits, others are far more suspect. Many popular breakfast choices are starchy and or sugary, and foods high in starch and sugar are potentially associated with increased morbidity and mortality.”

Full disclosure: the studies were conducted with funding from the Egg Nutrition Center. Katz and his team are now conducting a study of egg intake by people with Type 2 diabetes, since diabetes is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and consuming excess high-carbohydrate foods can be particularly harmful for these individuals. .