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Should You Restrict the Number of Eggs You Eat?

If you have been told to restrict the number of eggs you eat, you may want to check again. It may be safe to consume an egg a day.

For decades, public health authorities have been warning Americans to restrict the number of eggs they eat. Egg yolks are rich in cholesterol, and high cholesterol levels are associated with heart disease. The warning to avoid eggs seemed logical, but when scientists started to study people eating eggs, the risk didn’t hold up. Many people still have questions.

Should You Avoid Egg Yolks?

Q. Is there any reason to eliminate egg yolks? Because I’d heard “eggs are bad for your cholesterol,” I have been eating mostly egg whites or one yolk per three egg whites in my omelet. Am I being overly cautious?

A. Thank you for an important question that remains unresolved after many decades. For years, scientists assumed that eating cholesterol-rich foods like egg yolks would raise blood cholesterol and increase the risk for heart attacks.

Then studies showed the relationship between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol was weaker than anticipated. (Keep reading for details on some of them.) That’s because the body makes its own cholesterol. Usually, the less people eat, the more the body makes to compensate.

A thorough review in the journal Nutrients (May, 2022) concluded:

“A great number of epidemiological studies and meta-analysis indicate that dietary cholesterol is not associated with CVD [cardiovascular disease] risk nor with elevated plasma cholesterol concentrations.”

Another systematic review

“found no association between egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease in three large US cohorts” (BMJ, March 4, 2020).

That said, there are data linking whole egg consumption to a slightly elevated risk of heart disease. A 30-year study of middle-age Finnish men who smoked showed that those who ate at least one egg a day increased their relative risk for CVD by 7 percent (Circulation, May 17, 2022).  The absolute risk increased by 1 percent.

Does It Make Sense to Restrict the Number of Eggs You Eat?

A large study did not show that it is dangerous to eat eggs (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, April 2020). Canadian scientists analyzed data from 177,000 people in 50 countries around the globe.

People who consumed eggs were no more likely to have heart attacks or die from some other cause than those who did not eat eggs. The investigators had five to ten years of followup data on the participants, who reported eating up to an egg a day.

Those who ate more eggs did not have higher cholesterol, but they did have lower blood pressure. Not all studies of egg eaters show lower blood pressure, though. One large study of French women showed that those who consumed more cholesterol (including eggs) actually had higher blood pressure (Nutrients, May 8, 2020).

Consequently, there are still some connections and effects of eggs in the diet that need more study. In addition, a US study of 29,000 people over 17 years did show that frequent egg eaters were slightly more likely to develop cardiovascular disease or die (JAMA, March 19, 2019).

The Benefits of Eggs:

The Canadian researchers point out that eggs are rich in nutrients and not expensive. People in most parts of the world have access to eggs, which provide high-quality protein as well as nutrients such as choline, which is critical for brain development. Consequently, the fact that moderate egg consumption does not raise the risk of heart problems is good news.

It isn’t completely new news, however. A large Finnish study  also suggested that people need not restrict the number of eggs they eat. In the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study, men who ate up to an egg a day had no higher risk of heart attacks than those who avoided eggs. More recently, an analysis of high quality studies concluded that people could do well eating more eggs (Nutrients, June 7, 2023).

The authors wrote:

“In conclusion, the balance of evidence points to eggs being a nutritious food suggesting there are broad health benefits from including eggs in the diet at intakes higher than that currently consumed by European populations.”

A Reader Rejoices:

We suspect that many readers might agree with this person, who responded to these data:

“You have written that eggs don’t raise cholesterol. That was reassuring because I love eggs and eat at least two every day. When I stopped eating eggs in the 1980s at my doctor’s suggestion, my cholesterol actually went up. A few years later I started eating eggs again.

I am 88 years old, play golf and do pool exercises three times a week. I also walk and play bridge. Apparently, the eggs haven’t hurt me a bit!”

Staying active mentally and physically is important for maintaining health and cognitive acuity. Remember to include plenty of high-fiber plant foods in a diet that includes eggs.

Learn More:

For more information on the link between cholesterol and cardiovascular disease, you may want to read our eGuide to Cholesterol Control and Heart Health.

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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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  • Fernandez ML & Murillo AG, "Is there a correlation between dietary and blood cholesterol? Evidence from epidemiological data and clinical interventions." Nutrients, May, 2022. doi: 10.3390/nu14102168
  • Drouin-Chartier J-P et al, "Egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease: three large prospective US cohort studies, systematic review, and updated meta-analysis." BMJ, March 4, 2020. doi: 10.1136/bmj.m513
  • Zhao B et al, "Associations of dietary cholesterol, serum cholesterol, and egg consumption with overall and cause-specific mortality: Systematic review and updated meta-analysis." Circulation, May 17, 2022. DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.121.057642
  • Dehghan M et al, "Association of egg intake with blood lipids, cardiovascular disease, and mortality in 177,000 people in 50 countries." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online Jan. 21, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqz348
  • MacDonald C-J et al, "Cholesterol and egg intakes, and risk of hypertension in a large prospective cohort of French women." Nutrients, May 8, 2020. DOI: 10.3390/nu12051350
  • 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
  • Myers M & Ruxton CHS, "Eggs: Healthy or risky? A review of evidence from high quality studies on hen's eggs." Nutrients, June 7, 2023. DOI: 10.3390/nu15122657
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