The relationship between eggs and cholesterol levels has been a subject of controversy within the last few decades.
Eggs are a great source of several important nutrients, including protein, selenium, riboflavin, and vitamin B12, along with an assortment of many other key micronutrients (1). Eggs have also been linked to a long list of health benefits, including increased antioxidant levels, lower triglycerides, and increased weight loss (2, 3, 4).
So why do eggs get a bad rap when it comes to cholesterol? Let’s take a closer look at the intricate link between egg consumption and heart health.
Health Benefits of Eggs
There’s no doubt that adding eggs to your dit can have a powerful impact on health. Here are a few of the top health benefits of eggs:
- Supports Weight Control: Eggs are loaded with protein, an important nutrient that can help reduce hunger and promote satiety to aid in weight management (5). One study found that swapping out bagels for eggs in the morning was able to increase weight loss and ramp up fat-burning in participants (6).
- High in Nutrients: Eggs boast a pretty impressive nutrient profile. Just one medium egg can knock out 20% of your daily needs for selenium, plus riboflavin, vitamin B12, phosphorus, and pantothenic acid. Each egg also contains only 63 calories, along with 5.5 grams of protein (1).
- Rich in Choline: Eggs are loaded with choline, an essential nutrient that is involved in several aspects of health. Not only is it involved in metabolism and neurotransmitter production, but it’s also thought to impact liver function and heart health as well (7).
- Promotes Eye Health: Eggs are a good source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that can promote eye health and protect against disease (2). In particular, these antioxidants have been linked to a lower risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, a common eye disorder that can lead to vision loss (8).
The Link Between Eggs and Heart Disease
Although eggs are high in several vitamins and minerals, they are also high in dietary cholesterol. In fact, one medium egg contains about 186 milligrams of dietary cholesterol (1).
Up until 2015, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans included a recommendation to limit dietary cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams or less per day. This recommendation was dropped according to the most recent 2015-2020 guidelines, although it is noted that dietary cholesterol is still an important component to consider in the diet. Of note, this may be because foods high in dietary cholesterol—like meat and animal products—are also generally high in saturated fat as well (9).
Most research shows that the dietary cholesterol found in eggs has little to no impact on blood cholesterol levels for about 70% of the population (10). Not only that, but other studies have found that eating eggs can boost levels of good HDL cholesterol and decrease triglycerides, both of which are factors that can help improve heart health (3, 11).
However, other studies have turned up conflicting findings. For example, a recent study released in March sparked national headlines when researchers found that egg consumption could be tied to a higher risk of heart disease and death (12). Another study found a similar association but noted that egg consumption was only linked to a higher risk of heart disease in those with diabetes (13).
Critics have pointed out a number of flaws that could have skewed the results of these studies. For example, both used diet recalls and food frequency questionnaires, which are not always entirely accurate methods for collecting data. Other factors could also play a role, including unhealthy behaviors like smoking and a lack of physical activity. Additionally, there have been numerous studies showing no association between egg consumption and heart disease, including one massive review of 17 studies and nearly 264,000 participants (14).
Are Eggs Bad for Your Heart?
Although several recent studies have called the health benefits of eggs into question, there are many other potential confounding factors that need to be considered as well. In moderation, however, most research seems to suggest that eggs can have several beneficial effects on heart health. Plus, eggs are rich in nutrients and can help support eye health and weight management as well.
Therefore, for most people, there’s no reason to cut eggs out of your diet altogether. When paired with a healthy, active lifestyle, you can still enjoy eggs in moderation to take advantage of the many health benefits that they have to offer. However, be sure to stick to 2-3 eggs per day and pair them with a well-rounded and balanced diet to really get the most bang for your buck.
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