Newly published research led by Dr. David Spence of Western University, Canada, shows that eating egg yolks accelerates atherosclerosis in a manner similar to smoking cigarettes. Surveying more than 1200 patients, Dr. Spence found regular consumption of egg yolks is about two-thirds as bad as smoking when it comes to increased build-up of carotid plaque, a risk factor for stroke and heart attack. The research is published online in the journal Atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis, also called coronary artery disease, is a disorder of the arteries where plaques, aggravated by cholesterol, form on the inner arterial wall. Plaque rupture is the usual cause of most heart attacks and many strokes. The study looked at data from 1231 men and women, with a mean age of 61.5, who were patients attending vascular prevention clinics at London Health Sciences Centre’s University Hospital. Ultrasound was used to establish a measurement of total plaque area and questionnaires were filled out regarding their lifestyle and medications including pack-years of smoking (number of packs per day of cigarettes times the number of years), and the number of egg yolks consumed per week times the number of years consumed (egg yolk-years).
The researchers found carotid plaque area increased linearly with age after age 40, but increased exponentially with pack-years of smoking and egg yolk-years. In other words, compared to age, both tobacco smoking and egg yolk consumption accelerate atherosclerosis. The study also found those eating three or more yolks a week had significantly more plaque area than those who ate two or fewer yolks per week.
“The mantra ‘eggs can be part of a healthy diet for healthy people’ has confused the issue. It has been known for a long time that a high cholesterol intake increases the risk of cardiovascular events, and egg yolks have a very high cholesterol content. In diabetics, an egg a day increases coronary risk by two to five-fold,” says Dr. Spence, a Professor of Neurology at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and the Director of its Stroke Prevention and Atherosclerosis Research
Centre (SPARC) at the Robarts Research Institute. “What we have shown is that with aging, plaque builds up gradually in the arteries of Canadians, and egg yolks make it build up faster – about two-thirds as much as smoking. In the long haul, egg yolks are not okay for most Canadians.”
Dr. Spence adds the effect of egg yolk consumption over time on increasing the amount of plaque in the arteries was independent of sex, cholesterol, blood pressure, smoking, body mass index and diabetes. And while he says more research should be done to take in possible confounders such as exercise and waist circumference, he stresses that regular consumption of egg yolk should be avoided by persons at risk of cardiovascular disease.
If he was a bit balder he would look even more like Jason Alexander who plays George Costanza. I’ve been eating a lot of eggs lately, but I’ve also been exercising. This new Canadian research contradicts previous findings, including one with a much larger sample size:
… Dietary cholesterol doesn’t actually raise cholesterol as much as you might think. In fact, only 30 percent of people experience significant increases in cholesterol levels after following a diet high in cholesterol. Researchers from Harvard looked at the dietary habits of more than 100,000 people and concluded that daily egg consumption in healthy individuals didn’t increase risk of coronary heart disease. What’s more, a study from the University of Connecticut found that eating three eggs per day as part of a low carbohydrate regimen improved HDL — the “good” cholesterol — without any negative health effects. …
Fact: Eggs are a good source of nutrients. One egg contains 6 grams of protein and some healthful unsaturated fats. Eggs are also a good source of choline, which has been linked with preserving memory, and lutein and zeaxanthin, which may protect against vision loss.
Fact: Eggs have a lot of cholesterol. The average large egg contains 212 milligrams of cholesterol. As foods go, that’s quite a bit, rivaled only by single servings of liver, shrimp, and duck meat.
Myth: All that cholesterol goes straight to your bloodstream and then into your arteries. Not so. For most people, only a small amount of the cholesterol in food passes into the blood. Saturated and trans fats have much bigger effects on blood cholesterol levels.
Myth: Eating eggs is bad for your heart. The only large study to look at the impact of egg consumption on heart disease—not on cholesterol levels or other intermediaries—found no connection between the two. In people with diabetes, though, egg-a-day eaters were a bit more likely to have developed heart disease than those who rarely ate eggs.
If you like eggs, eating one a day should be okay, especially if you cut back on saturated and trans fats.
Mercola had this to say:
There’s plenty of confusion on the issue of cholesterol. I was also caught up in the nonsense. When I finished med school 25 years ago I was convinced your cholesterol could not be low enough. So with a low-fat diet and plenty of exercise and oat bran (no drugs) I was able to get my cholesterol to a ridiculous level of 75. Yes you read that correctly — my TOTAL cholesterol was a measly and pathetic 75 points. Fortunately, I later realized that it should be nearly three times as high as that to stay healthy, certainly no lower than 150.
However, due to misinformation in the media and drug pushing by multinational corporations, the majority of people worry about their cholesterol being too high and are clueless about the dangers of low cholesterol, especially when done artificially with drugs. What you need to know first and foremost is that cholesterol is good for you. It’s present in every single cell in your body where it helps to produce cell membranes, hormones, vitamin D and bile acids to help you digest fat.
Cholesterol also helps in the formation of your memories and is vital for neurological function, which is why the above finding that low cholesterol is linked to memory loss is not at all surprising. In fact, when your cholesterol levels go too low, a host of negative things happen in your body.
The study that says eggs are bad did not seem to examine if the people eating a lot of eggs are also eating a lot of saturated and trans fats. Once again, the egg may be getting a raw deal here.