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.
Whether eating eggs or cholesterol, which is also found in products such as red meat, processed meat and high-fat dairy products, is linked to cardiovascular disease and death has always been a subject of debate, the researchers said.
Researchers at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine and elsewhere pooled results from six previous studies, analyzing data on nearly 30,000 USA adults who self-reported daily food intake.
The study can not prove cause and effect and is unlikely to be the last word on the matter, but experts said moderation was probably the safest course, advising no more than three or four eggs a week.
One large egg can contain up to 186 milligrams of dietary cholesterol in the yolk alone.
"The fact that studies outside the US appear to show favorable relationships with egg intake and cardiovascular risk may speak to the importance of what other foods are consumed with eggs as part of the overall diet pattern, as recent research has demonstrated the importance of separating eggs from other foods to understand their independent impact on health outcomes", Rubin said in a statement.
Limiting cholesterol may be particularly important for people already at risk for heart disease.
The researchers calculated that those who ate 300 milligrams of cholesterol daily - about 1 ½ eggs - were 17 percent more likely to develop heart disease than whose who didn't eat eggs. The study focused on eggs because they're among the most commonly eaten cholesterol-rich foods.
Earlier versions of the dietary guidelines have advised Americans to keep their cholesterol under 300 milligrams daily.
"We want to remind people there is cholesterol in eggs, specifically yolks, and this has a harmful effect", said Allen, who mentioned that she still cooks scrambled eggs for her children. Participants were asked about their dietary habits over the last month or year in an extensive questionnaire.
Zhong, however, emphasized that the study was observational and couldn't prove dietary cholesterol or egg intake could cause cardiovascular disease or death.
It's important to note that no one, including the study authors, is saying you need to cut eggs completely out of your diet. Nutrition experts say the new study is unlikely to change that advice.
Newer research questioned that relationship, finding that saturated fats contribute more to unhealthy levels of blood cholesterol that can lead to heart problems.
The latest USA research on eggs won't go over easy for those who can't eat breakfast without them. Eggs, a breakfast staple for many, can be included but other options should also be considered, "like whole grain toast with nut butter, fresh fruits, and yogurt", Hu said.
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