Despite previous (and old) advice that eggs may be bad for you, increasing your cholesterol, they may actually lower your risk of heart disease.
You may have heard that you should eat only egg whites if you’re worried about your heart.
But a meta-analysis of 23 studies covering more than 1.4 million people concluded that eating more than one egg a day, including the yolk, actually lowers your risk of heart disease.
Wait — aren’t egg yolks supposed to raise your cholesterol levels? The American Heart Association (AHA) once recommended that people eat only three whole eggs a week because eggs are high in cholesterol.
That was back in 1968, when scientists thought that cholesterol in food could promote heart disease. The argument went that eating cholesterol raised LDL (low density lipoprotein), also called “bad cholesterol,” in your blood, which ended up accumulating as plaque on your arteries.
It turns out that things are more complicated, and eggs got a bad rap. In the traditional eggs and bacon or sausage breakfast, the processed meat is the problem, not the eggs.
If you’re worried about type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, that’s a reason to limit but not cut out eggs.
Why you should eat eggs
The AHA now suggests eating one egg (or two egg whites) a day if you like them. There are lots of ways to cook them; if you like fried eggs, choose canola or olive oil. At just 78 calories each, eggs are a great way to get protein. A large egg contains about 6 grams of protein, plus vitamin D, which boosts your bones and immune system, and choline, which is good for your metabolism and liver.
The evidence has been growing for some time that egg yolks also cut heart disease risk. One study tested the effects of eggs on people with metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms that increase your risk of heart disease. In the study, one group ate three whole eggs a day, while another group had a yolk-free substitute. The volunteers who ate eggs ended up having better blood cholesterol numbers.
Why might that be?
In that study, researchers found that eggs raised blood levels of HDL (high density lipoprotein), also called “good cholesterol.” The ratio between HDL and LDL may be important.
In addition, there are different kinds of LDL based on the size of the particles. Eating eggs cut the number of medium-sized particles, which seems to be helpful. In a 2019 study, researchers pinpointed that kind of LDL as most dangerous. By the way, a low total LDL number doesn’t mean you’re safe from a heart attack and can skip exercise and vegetables. In that study, researchers pointed out that most people who have heart attacks don’t have a high total LDL.
Eggs and type 2 diabetes
Evidence suggests that the increasing availability of chicken eggs in China has increased the number of people there with type 2 diabetes.
U.S. doctors have raised concern about eating eggs if you have type 2 diabetes or prediabetes and need to protect your heart. A review of the research in 2017 concluded that in an otherwise heart-healthy diet, you can eat up to 12 eggs a week without advancing type 2 diabetes.
August 05, 2021
Janet O’Dell, RN