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Eggs Do Not Cause Heart Attacks

Eggs have not been shown to increase risk for heart attacks, according to an an extensive review of the world's scientific literature in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine (1). For example, the Physician's Health Study followed doctors for 20 years and showed no association between eating eggs and heart attacks or strokes. However, the doctors who ate lots of eggs did die earlier than those who avoided eggs, possibly because they also ate more bacon, sausage and butter (2).

The concern that eating eggs can cause heart attacks comes from the fact that eggs are one of the most concentrated sources of dietary cholesterol. Indeed, adding one egg per day can raise blood cholesterol levels by one to three percent (3). However, virtually all large population studies show no association between eating eggs and blood cholesterol levels (4). In fact, the Framingham Heart Study (5) and NHANES study (6) found that high-egg eaters had lower cholesterol levels than very-low eggs eaters

Current opinion is that some people have their blood cholesterol levels raised by eating eggs, while others do not (7). Indeed, 70 percent of Americans will not have their cholesterol levels affected by eating eggs (8). Furthermore, those who did have their cholesterol levels raised by eating eggs, had rises in both their good HDL and bad LDL cholesterol levels and also had higher large particle cholesterol that prevents heart attacks. Both rises in the good HDL cholesterol and cholesterol particle size help to prevent heart attacks.

I have started to eat eggs again after avoiding them for more than forty years. I continue to load my plate with lots of vegetables and fruits, and eat reasonable amounts of fish. I avoid all meat from mammals. I avoid all refined carbohydrates except during and immediately after exercise.

1) American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 2009;3(4):2741-278.

2). American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2008;88:1448–1449.

3) Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2000;19:540S-548S.

4) Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2000;19:549–555.

5) American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1997;65:228S-257S.

6) Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2000;19:556–562.

7) Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, 2006;9(1):8–12.

8) Nutrition & Metabolism, 2006;3:6.

My earlier report on eggs (April 1999):

For more than 40 years, doctors have told us that eating eggs causes heart attacks. A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that they don't (1).

Adding three eggs per day to the average Americans' diet does not raise cholesterol levels. Cholesterol in eggs has very little effect on blood cholesterol levels in healthy adults (2, 3). Several studies show no relationship between eating eggs and increased risk for heart disease or stroke (4, 5), and most people can eat one egg a day without increasing heart disease risk (6).

Eggs are high in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol which can raise blood cholesterol levels to increase risk for heart attacks, but heart attacks are not caused by saturated fat or cholesterol unless you take in too much. All meat, chicken, diary products, fish, shell fish and eggs contain both saturated fats and cholesterol. It won't hurt you to eat eggs if you restrict the other sources of cholesterol and saturated fats. Most people should not eat more than eight eggs a week because that exceeds the recommenced limits. You get far more cholesterol and saturated fats from eating a roast beef sandwich than you get from eating an egg.

The Keys and Parlin equation predicts that one egg a day should raise blood cholesterol levels four percent and increase heart attack risk by eight percent (7). The authors did not find this increase, so eggs may have other components that help prevent heart attacks. The Mensink-Katan equation predicts that one egg should raise the good HDL cholesterol by two percent and lower triglycerides by two percent (8) and protect you from the cholesterol in eggs. Eggs contain heart-attack preventing vitamin D, retinol, folic acid, monounsaturated fat, vitamin B12, linoleic acid, calcium, B1 and B2. The average North American takes in so much cholesterol from meat and diary products that the extra cholesterol from one egg is insignificant.

1) JAMA, April 21, 1999 p 1387-1394.

2) N Engl J Med 1997;337:1491-9.

3) Am J Clin Nutr 1997;65:1747-64.

4) JAMA 1999;281:1387-1394.

5) Med Sci Monit 2007;13(1):CR1-8.

6) N Engl J Med 1997;337:1491-9.

7) Am J of Clin Nutr 1966;19:175-181.

8) Arteriosclerosis Thromb Vasc Biol 1992;12:911-919.

Updated 1/12/10

June 1st, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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