The People's Perspective on Medicine

Will Eggs Increase Your Chance of a Heart Attack?

Is it appropriate to worry that eating eggs will raise TMAO and increase the chance of a heart attack? It depends on the rest of the diet.

When it comes to breakfast, emotions run high. For decades now, people have heard that enjoying eggs at breakfast will increase the chance of a heart attack. This is largely because eggs are the most common dietary source of cholesterol, and the assumption has been made that consuming cholesterol will raise the level of cholesterol in the blood stream. But that assumption was never based on science, and the most recent research shows no connection between egg consumption and the risk of heart attacks (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online Feb. 10, 2016). You can read what we wrote about that study here and here.

But there are other questions about whether eating eggs for breakfast is a risky health habit. Perhaps you have worried about the question troubling this reader.

Enjoying a Low-Carb Breakfast:

Q. I eat a low-carb diet. For me, that means eggs for breakfast nearly every day. Recently I’ve read that egg yolks raise the blood level of TMAO, which can be a marker for a greater chance of a heart attack or stroke.

Dr Oz recommends no more than two yolks per week. Most of your guests say eggs are just fine. Who’s right?

TMAO and the Chance of a Heart Attack:

A. The story on TMAO (trimethylamine N-oxide) is a bit more complicated than “don’t eat eggs.” Although high circulating levels of TMAO have been associated with serious cardiovascular complications, eating fish leads to higher levels of TMAO than eating egg yolks (Nutrition, Nov.-Dec., 2015).  No one would suggest that you should cut back on fish consumption, as diets that substitute fish for meat (as the Mediterranean diet does) are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. (In fact, if you would like some variety in your breakfast menu, fish makes a great low-carb alternative to eggs once in a while.)

It turns out that gut microbes are crucial for producing TMAO, and they change depending upon your diet (Cell, Dec. 17, 2015). Provided that you include plenty of high-fiber plant foods in your low-carb diet, you will be feeding bowel bacteria that are less prone to producing dangerous amounts of TMAO. As far as we can tell, you should not need to worry about eating eggs for breakfast several times a week. Just make sure that you are enjoying plenty of almonds, broccoli, kale, spinach and other low-carb, high-fiber foods.

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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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My husband was diagnosed with coronary artery disease in about 1972 and finally had by-pass
surgery in 1995 – so I had been through all the diets. In 1972 we were advised to give up all eggs, cheese, butter, beef, shell-fish, avocados, pork, ice cream, whole milk. I used only egg whites and the trash got those delicious yolks; I used only margarine, and switched to margarine and safflower oil for all my baking. Skim milk instead of the real stuff.

Things changed so much over the years I finally just threw out all the ‘professional advise’ and I just made sure what we ate was actually real food. I still cook very low fat, but I do eat real butter, eat all the eggs I want, use 2% milk, eat lean beef and pork, shrimp and even whipping cream if I feel like it. Eat lots of vegetables and beans.

I do NOT eat fast food – haven’t been to a fast food restaurant in many years.

There is so much contradictory information re: nutrition vs. disease, that I have decided not to rely on any of it. I simply lean toward the Mediterrean diet theory and load up on the lean protein and veggies with fruits for dessert. Do I sometimes eat a cream horn? Yes but then I know that cannot be a frequent occurence. I am now off all meds for AODM. I also weigh myself daily.

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