Are eggs good for your heart?

“They’re heart healthy,” says the WebMD slideshow “Health Benefits of Eggs.”

“In a recent Chinese study, people who ate about an egg a day were almost 20% less likely than non-egg eaters to develop heart disease,” added WebMD.

But other studies disagree.

“Combining data from nearly 30,000 people in six U.S. studies, we found a 6 percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease for each half egg eaten per day,” says Linda Van Horn, professor of preventive medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

But those “observational” studies can’t be sure that it isn’t something else about egg eaters that affects their risk.

“More convincing” are feeding studies that serve people diets that are higher or lower in eggs, said a 2020 American Heart Association advisory on high-cholesterol foods like egg yolks. (Van Horn served on the AHA panel that wrote the advisory.)

“Eggs can increase blood cholesterol levels,” says Van Horn. “So it’s best not to assume that you can eat as many as you want.”

The AHA’s advice

  • Healthy people can eat up to one egg a day.
  • Vegetarians can eat more than one egg a day since they’re not getting cholesterol from meat, poultry, or seafood.
  • Older people with normal cholesterol levels can eat up to two eggs a day if they eat a healthy diet overall.
  • People with high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol should “be cautious” about eating eggs, especially if they have diabetes or are at risk for heart failure.

“If you have elevated cholesterol, if you have diabetes, or if you have overweight or obesity, you’re already at higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease,” cautions Van Horn.

And that’s not just a few of us, she notes.

“We have a population that has increasing rates of obesity. And that raises the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, you name it.”

The bottom line

Stick with the AHA’s advice on eating eggs…and its advice to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, with beans, whole grains, seafood, poultry, low-fat or fat-free dairy, nuts, and oils.

The information in this post first appeared in the September 2021 issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter.


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