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16 March 2019, 07:43 | Silvia Roy
Study shows eating more eggs tied to heart disease
The researchers calculated that those who ate 300 milligrams of cholesterol daily - about 1 ½ eggs - were 17 percent more likely to develop heart disease than those who didn't eat eggs.
The researchers say the culprit is cholesterol, found in egg yolks and other foods, including shellfish, dairy products and red meat. Risks were found with eggs and cholesterol in general; a separate analysis was not done for every cholesterol-rich food.
The study findings mean the current USA dietary guideline recommendations for dietary cholesterol and eggs may need to be re-evaluated, the authors said.
The researchers examined data from six US study groups including more than 29,000 people followed for 17 ½ years on average. The study had up to 31 years of follow up (median: 17.5 years), during which 5,400 cardiovascular events and 6,132 all-cause deaths were diagnosed. Older studies suggesting that link led to nutrition guidelines nearly a decade ago that recommended consuming no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol daily; one egg contains about 186 milligrams. The risk of increased dietary cholesterol consumption causing heart disease was higher if subjects were thin, female, and had higher LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. As Americans have embraced low-carb diets, many have turned to eggs as a reliable protein source.
The large, long-running study - published today (March 15) in the journal JAMA - found that eating three to four eggs per week was linked to a 6 percent increase in a person's risk of developing heart disease and an 8 percent increase in their risk of dying from any cause during the study period, compared with not eating eggs.
Eggs were then looked at specifically because they are one of the richest sources of dietary cholesterol. The findings were published Friday in JAMA.
Cardiologists say they realized that people are confused.
"It's a very large study with a very large number of different types of patients".
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The researchers said their study looked at almost 30,000 racially and ethnically diverse United States adults from six separate studies with as much as 31 years of followup.
"We want to remind people there is cholesterol in eggs, specifically yolks, and this has a harmful effect", said Allen. That's because unlike a randomized controlled trial that tests the safety and efficacy of a drug, it's hard to randomly control what people eat over a long period of time, especially with a large sample size.
The study can not prove cause and effect and is unlikely to be the last word on the matter, but experts said moderation was probably the safest course, advising no more than three or four eggs a week. Each participant was asked a long list of what they'd eaten for the previous year or month.
Based on the findings, researchers advise that people eat fewer eggs, but they do not have to cut them out completely. "These new findings provide one piece of evidence", Allen says. "We've always said you can have egg whites but you should probably limit your amount of egg yolk consumption". Eggs, a breakfast staple for many, can be included but other options should also be considered, "like whole grain toast with nut butter, fresh fruits, and yogurt", Hu said.
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