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Study Finds No Harm with Eggs

Have eggs come back in favor except for those with diabetes?…

Eggs have gone through ups and downs as to their benefits or harm. Following a long period in which eggs were ubiquitous and highly regarded, eggs fell from favor with the rise of concerns over cholesterol. Currently the American Heart Association recommends that people restrict dietary cholesterol to 300 mg per day, which effectively limits people to 1 egg per day at most. However, the relationship of dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol is, at best, tenuous, and a significant number of experts now believe that egg consumption poses no risk to cardiovascular health.

In a new published paper, a group of researchers from China and Boston performed a meta-analysis of 8 studies that included 263 938 participants for coronary heart disease and 210,404 participants for stroke and followed them for 8 to 22 years. The authors found no evidence for an association between egg consumption and either coronary heart disease or stroke:

  • Relative risk of coronary heart disease for adding 1 egg per day: 0.99 (CI 0.85 0 1.15, p=0.88)
  • Relative risk of stroke for adding 1 egg per day: 0.91 (CI 0.81 – 1.02, p=0.10)

However, an increased risk for CHD was observed in the subgroup of patients with diabetes in the group of participants with the highest egg consumption compared with those with the lowest consumption (relative risk 1.54, CI 1.14 to 2.09, p=0.01). No similar increase in the risk of stroke was observed in this group, though a protective effect against hemorrhagic stroke was observed in those with the highest egg consumption (relative risk 0.75, CI 0.57 – 0.99, p=.04). The authors cautioned that the findings in the diabetes subgroup required confirmation in additional studies.

The authors concluded that the findings of their meta-analysis "do not support a positive association between egg consumption and cardiovascular disease outcomes in the general population."

Hopefully the results from the current findings may cause The American Heart Association to revise its recommendations regarding dietary cholesterol and eggs. Even if eggs are ultimately found to be somewhat harmful — though that seems unlikely at this point — they are almost certainly better than the replacement foods — mostly containing starches and sugars — toward which most people are likely to turn. Are eggs really worse than, say, a "low fat" (but high calorie and high sugar) muffin?

BMJ, Jan. 2013