New research studies show eggs can have a positive impact on heart health
Three research studies published in recent weeks have helped to further dispel the link between eggs and heart disease risk – and show that eggs may actually have a positive impact on heart health. The studies showed that heart disease risk was associated with consumption of red and processed meat, but not with consumption of eggs, yogurt and cheese; that neither egg nor dietary cholesterol intake was associated with stroke risk; and that frequency and quantity of egg intake did not increase the risk of dyslipidemia (an abnormal amount of lipids such as cholesterol in the blood).
The first study1, published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, showed that heart disease risk was associated with consumption of red and processed meat, but not with consumption of eggs, yogurt and cheese. In this collaborative study, a large group of researchers, including those from Oxford University, analysed data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort of over 400,000 men and women in Europe over an average follow-up of 12 years. The authors reported a small but statistically significant decrease in risk for ischemic heart disease (IHD) with every 20 gram increment of egg intake (about ½ an egg per day) over the first 4 years of the study. The researchers also reported similar favourable results for yogurt and cheese consumption, while consumption of red and processed meats was associated with increased risk for heart disease. In further analyses using modelling techniques, the dietary substitution of 100 kcal from eggs, oily fish, yoghurt, or cheese for 100 kcal from red/processed meat was associated with a decreased risk of IHD.
The second study2 published in the American journal of Clinical Nutrition investigated associations of egg and cholesterol intakes with risk of stroke and with the major stroke risk factor, blood pressure, in just under 2,000 middle-aged and older men from eastern Finland followed up over 21 years as part of the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. It also looked at whether the presence of the apoE gene (which has negative effects on cholesterol metabolism and is present in around one third of Finnish people) could modify these associations. The researchers showed that neither egg nor dietary cholesterol intakes were associated with stroke risk in this cohort, even in men genetically disadvantaged because of carrying of the apoE gene.
In the third study3, published in the journal Nutrients, the association between the quantity and frequency of egg consumption and dyslipidemia (an abnormal amount of lipids such as cholesterol in the blood) was investigated in a cohort of more than 3,500 people in the Hellenic National and Nutrition Health Survey (HNNHS). The likelihood of dyslipidaemia significantly decreased with more frequent egg consumption, compared to no or rare egg consumption. Serum cholesterol and low density lipoprotein cholesterol levels were significantly lower in participants who consumed eggs more frequently and who consumed higher amounts. The authors concluded that eggs did not increase the risk of dyslipidemia in this study, therefore can be consumed as part of a healthy diet, high in fibre and low in saturated fat, with the proviso that energy intake is not excessive, by all individuals.
The British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) has welcomed the latest studies, which it says are in line with previous meta-analyses over several decades concluding that egg consumption does not adversely affect, and may even benefit, cardiovascular health when consumed as part of a healthy diet, low in saturated fat and containing plenty of fibre.
For further information please contact the British Egg Information Service on 020 7052 8899
1 Key, T.J, Appleby, P.N et al. Consumption of Meat, Fish, Dairy Products, Eggs and Risk of Ischemic Heart Disease: A Prospective Study of 7198 Incident Cases Among 409,885 Participants in the Pan-European EPIC Cohort, Circulation, June 18, 2019, Vol 139, Issue 25, https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.118.038813
2 Abdollahi, AM et al. Egg consumption, cholesterol intake, and risk of incident stroke in men: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 16 May 2019, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqz066
3 Magriplis, E et al. Frequency and Quantity of Egg Intake Is Not Associated with Dyslipidemia: The Hellenic National Nutrition and Health Survey (HNNHS), Nutrients 2019, 11, 1105; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6566236/