22 January 2013 I love eggs

I love eggs! They are inexpensive and nutritious. One large cooked egg (50 grams) contains about 80 calories and 6 grams of protein. It is also an excellent source of other nutrients that we need in our diet - vitamin B12, choline, riboflavin and selenium.

In addition to being very nutritious, eggs (or more specifically, egg yolks) are very high in dietary cholesterol. Only liver and giblets beat out egg yolks for cholesterol content. Each yolk contains 186 – 212 mg cholesterol – or, about 62% - 71% of the daily 300 mg limit recommended by the American Heart Association for reducing heart disease risk in healthy people. If you have heart disease or are at high risk for it (e.g. you have diabetes), then the recommendation is to limit cholesterol to 200 mg daily. In that case, one egg yolk provides 93% - 106% of your daily limit.

Although studies show a strong relationship between high intake of saturated and trans fats and increased LDL blood levels (and therefore, increased risk for coronary heart disease), the relationship between dietary cholesterol intake and LDL levels is not so strong. Because eggs are so nutritious and affordable, I am loathe to recommend limiting eggs unless the evidence clearly points to a direct link between egg consumption and higher risk.

"Up to one egg a day" – read the fine print!

Of course, I was delighted to read the meta-analysis study on egg intake and coronary heart disease risk just published online in the British Medical Journal. In their large review of multiple studies, the authors did not find a statistical link between egg consumption and risk. The authors conclude that "consumption of up to one egg per day was not associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease or stroke." This conclusion is consistent with the American Heart Association's recommendation for healthy people to limit their daily intake of cholesterol to 300 mg or less.

Paleo & Low Carb Fans: take note - this study does not support the daily intake of multiple eggs! I know a number of you who consume 3-6 eggs daily with the belief that any amount of egg intake is safe. I would not make that assumption!

Eggs & Diabetes

If you have diabetes, then your risk for coronary heart disease is higher. And apparently, the study found a higher risk of heart disease with the highest egg consumption. But how many eggs per day was this - up to one egg per day or was it more? The authors did mention that the subgroup was small and that more work needs to be done with this population.

For those of you with diabetes or a history of coronary heart disease, use caution and follow the more stringent cholesterol intake guideline of < 200 mg daily. Better yet, ask your doctor for a specific recommendation!

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More Resources:

American Heart Association. The Simple 7 Heart Health Factors.

Dehghan, M et al. Relationship Between Healthy Diet and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease Among Patients on Drug Therapies for Secondary Prevention: A Prospective Cohort Study of 31,546 High-Risk Individuals From 40 Countries. Circulation. 2012;126:2705-2712. Accessed online at: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/126/23/2705.full.pdf.

Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD, CDE
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.


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