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How Risky Is It to Eat an Egg?

Evidence from a Finnish study shows you could probably eat an egg a day without increasing your risk for stroke or heart disease.
How Risky Is It to Eat an Egg?
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How risky is it to eat an egg? For decades, we’ve been warned to avoid eggs, especially yolks. We should stick with egg white omelets if we persist in consuming them at all. The idea is that egg yolks are packed with cholesterol. Each one contains between 175 and 200 mg. People at risk of cardiovascular complications such as stroke or heart attack are admonished to watch their cholesterol.

Could You Eat an Egg Every Day?

Results from the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study indicate, however, that eating up to an egg every day does not increase men’s risk of stroke (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May 16, 2019). One thousand nine hundred fifty healthy middle-aged men began the study in the late 1980s. Two decades later, researchers compared men with the most cholesterol in their diets and those with the least. Perhaps surprisingly, they detected no significant differences in the risk of stroke between them. Even the third of men with the ApoE4 genotype that increases cardiovascular risk did no worse if they ate eggs.

The researchers conclude:

“Neither egg nor cholesterol intakes were associated with stroke risk in this cohort, regardless of apoE phenotype.”

Other Research on Eggs and Cardiovascular Health:

This is not the first time the results from the Kuopio study in eastern Finland have exonerated eggs. A few years ago, investigators reported that these men, including those with high-risk ApoE4 genotype, did not have more heart attacks if they ate a daily egg. Moreover, a meta-analysis found that people who eat an egg a day have a slightly lower risk of stroke. Apparently, egg eaters have neither higher nor lower risk of coronary heart disease (Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Nov-Dec. 2016).

iMedical Consensus Advisory

Many public health experts urge people to limit their consumption of cholesterol to lower heart disease risk. Egg yolks are rich in cholesterol, so they have been on the forbidden list for some time. But the data from studies of people who eat an egg a day or less don't clearly establish that this is a problem.

Not All Studies Agree: 

Scientists are not unanimous on the risks of eggs. Recently, some researchers reported that eating just half an egg a day increases the risk of cardiovascular disease by 6 percent (JAMA, March 19, 2019). On the other hand, the PREDIMED study concluded that low to moderate egg consumption was not linked to heart trouble (Clinical Nutrition, Aug. 2017). With so much uncertainty, though, you might do best to eat an egg a day or fewer. Moderation is a virtue.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Citations
  • Abdollahi AM et al, "Egg consumption, cholesterol intake, and risk of incident stroke in men: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May 16, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqz066
  • Alexander DD et al, "Meta-analysis of egg consumption and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke." Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Nov-Dec. 2016. DOI: 10.1080/07315724.2016.1152928
  • Zhong VW et al, "Associations of dietary cholesterol or egg consumption with incident cardiovascular disease and mortality." JAMA, March 19, 2019. DOI: 10.1001/jama.2019.1572
  • Díez-Espino J et al, " Egg consumption and cardiovascular disease according to diabetic status: The PREDIMED study." Clinical Nutrition, Aug. 2017. DOI: 10.1016/j.clnu.2016.06.009
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