The People's Perspective on Medicine

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.
Egg eggs yolk cholesterol lecithin breakfast salmonella raw

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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I eat 2 eggs nearly every day from “happy chickens.” My lipid panel is perfect with chol. at 164. I also avoid sugar, processed and other junk foods so I’m of the mind that it’s not the eggs that are unhealthy. It’s the “bad stuff” that is eaten.

My Mother lived to past 86 years YOUNG and ate an egg (or two) nearly every day She especially was able to have that option when we lived on a farm with MANY chickens, which I always helped her and Dad tend. I believe in moderation in all things, but I still love my eggs! I will also continue to enjoy them for the rest of my life, hopefully at LEAST 20 more years, IF I am lucky like MOM. Dad lived to be 82, but, as a Lab Technician in the late 40’s-70’s, he was around chemicals when there was no proper protective equipment available, and it caused some lung/heart issues by
his late 70’s. Exposure to ANY neurotoxins is DEADLY! Maybe not all at once but over the years you WILL certainly be harmed.

Thank God, he was always working at our farm in the evenings and weekends or he may have succumbed MUCH sooner.

Bullets of information are fired at us all the time. One day they push you in one direction; another day they push you in a different direction. I think moderation is key in cases like this.

We eat eggs two to three times a week, usually for breakfast. However, when I make French toast or dip chicken tenders before breading them, I use egg substitute, which is mostly egg white. The results are very tasty. There are trends in medicine as well as in nutrition. I often think of the poor Dr. Semmelweis long ago in Europe who suggested that doctors wash their hands after working with cadavers before they examine their maternity patients, many of whom were dying. Most of the doctors at the time were too arrogant to accept the idea that they might be killing their own patients.

Dr. Semmelweis died impoverished in an asylum, but his suggestion was eventually accepted.

My granny smoked 2 packs a day and lived to 94.
I’m still not smoking.

Cholesterol, within reasonable amounts is not a problem. What the chicken has been fed, though, is a big problem. Unmetabolizable fats, polyunsaturated fats with trans bonds or any fatty acid with 2 trans bonds, are absorbed whole and accumulate. I have seen these fats on Americans and their pets for decades.

The devil is in the details. I think the results of eating eggs would vary greatly when comparing a person who eats a healthy diet and lives a healthy lifestyle compared to a person who eats the standard American diet and has an unhealthy lifestyle. I’m going to stay with my daily eggs.

I cut back on eggs after I read that consuming an egg a day was associated with increased risk of prostate cancer.

I recall reading about research that linked consumption of 2 or more eggs per week
with a 40% increased risk of prostate cancer. Arachidonic acid, a fatty acid found in
egg yolks, may be responsible for this phenomenon by triggering chronic inflammation.

I think eggs are one of Nature’s “perfect” foods. They are packed with protein, minerals, and healthy fats, and they taste great. Even healthy, free range eggs are relatively inexpensive. A lot of the health risks and benefits of eggs have to do with the source of the egg: How was the chicken raised, what were they fed, etc.?

I believe (from being taught and doing reading) that consuming cholesterol does not cause high cholesterol in our blood–it’s a high carbohydrate diet and sugars that raise our serum cholesterol. Americans eat a lot of meat–but they eat more simple carbs–potatoes, pasta, rice, bread, bakery and candy. My husband lowered his cholesterol from 275 to 178 by dropping all the candy in his diet and eating more butter, eggs and bacon!

My father ate 2 eggs EVERY day of his adult life, and he smoked, too. He never had a stroke or heart attack. He passed from a blood cancer at age 72.

Too many physicians are still stuck in the 1950s mental trap that says human cholesterol comes only from diet. If that were true, beef (from cattle, also mammals) would have zero cholesterol, because cattle eat only grass and hay. There would be no cholesterol in milk, cream, butter, or ice cream.

The fact (still not accepted by these sticks-in-the-mud) is that mammals (humans and cattle) manufacture cholesterol. They have an internal mechanism that manufactures cholesterol to combine with ingested cholesterol to maintain a consistent level. This is analogous to the way non-diabetics manufacture insulin. Those with familial hypercholesterolemia have a genetic variant on chromosome 19 in which the regulating mechanism doesn’t work right.

I wonder how many more decades will pass before “researchers” realize that regulating cholesterol by diet (and diet-absorption medications) is no more scientific than blood-letting.

I forgot to add to the previous comment that I have been on a low retinol diet (hard for me to call it ‘vitamin’ A these days) since February 2019. My hip pain from arthritis that was getting worse over the years is feeling almost 100% and without taking any remedies that I always sought out. My skin is better . A dentist appt. soon may confirm my observation that there is no calculus built up on my front teeth that I usually have. I hope for other improvements but it can be a long process. Retinol isn’t released from storage easily. People report detox symptoms off and on but usually feel better after each detox bout. I’ve given up egg yolks and milk products, big green salads, ‘nutrient dense’ liver meals and cod liver oil. You might want to interview Grant Genereux , an engineer who healed himself from head to toe eczema and chronic kidney disease and many other problems which he had attributed to aging. He wrote 3 free online ebooks. Garrett Smith ND would be a good interview too.

You do a dis-service to your readers when a more complete study released March 15th, 2019 contradicts the findings of this recap…..

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.

The culprit, the researchers wrote, appears to be cholesterol; the study also found that eating 300 mg of cholesterol per day was tied to a 17 percent increase in the risk of developing heart disease and an 18 percent increase in the risk of dying during the study period, compared with consuming no cholesterol.

Old news! Personally I have had a couple of eggs a day, at least, since I was born, and now I am almost 71 and still alive with “normal” (according to US standards) cholesterol. In some other countries there is no concern about cholesterol. In fact it is necessary for a functioning brain. Look where US food pyramid guidance have gotten us, FAT AND UNHEALTHY.

Cholesterol has very little to do with cardiovascular disease. That myth was invented to deflect the true cause of heart problems which is sugar. Since the 1970’s when sugar intake began to increase substantially, heart disease has followed right along. Now we have a whole regiment of statins that do little to help hearth disease but supply a steady and increasing income for doctors and Big Pharma. I will eat 5 eggs a day if I want and not worry a bit. Since the medical community is always flip-flopping on what is good and what is not, it only means that even after numerous studies, they don’t know squat.

There has always seemed to be some food that we should avoid eating, like eggs, only to find out later that the experts were mistaken, as well as foods that were supposed to be good for us that later turned out to be bad, such as margarine.

I now ignore all that nonsense and just eat whole, natural foods and avoid highly processed foods. Seems to be working for me.

I’ve read some studies that address the way the yolk is cooked: exposed to high heat, the cholesterol becomes oxidized and dangerous; exposed to low heat (poaching, soft boiling), the yolk is far safer. Validity there?

We will have to look into that.

Thanks to the flawed hypothesis of Ancel Keys, the myth of cholesterol causing heart disease persists. I’ve done the homework and at 72, still working and on no meds, I will continue to eat eggs galore.

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