Eggs & Cholesterol
Eggs are highly nutritious food rich in vitamins, minerals, protein, antioxidants and fat.
At some point, you may have heard that the cholesterol found in eggs leads to heart disease — one of the leading causes of death around the world.
Eggs are undoubtedly much higher in cholesterol than several other foods. Still, they’re also packed with beneficial bioactive compounds and other various disease-fighting nutrients.
Many health guidelines and recommendations have reduced the restrictions they once set about egg consumption.
Do eggs raise cholesterol levels?
Recent observational studies have found that having eggs may not elevate your risk of heart disease or other risk factors, like inflammation, stiffening of the arteries, and increased blood cholesterol levels.
One small randomised control trial found that when compared with an egg-free high carb breakfast, eating 2 eggs or a 1/2 cup of liquid eggs for breakfast had no significant effects on the blood cholesterol levels.
RCTs in people with diabetes have found that eating 6–12 eggs per week didn’t negatively impact total blood cholesterol levels or heart disease risk factors. Rather, it increased HDL cholesterol.
HDL cholesterol is good cholesterol. It eradicates other types of cholesterol from the blood, so higher HDL levels are favourable.
On the contrary, LDL cholesterol is often referred to as the bad kind of cholesterol as it increases your risk of heart disease.
Trials comparing egg-based meals and egg-free meals noted that cholesterol was raised in the egg-breakfast groups. However, the LDL-to-HDL ratio — a biomarker commonly used to assess heart disease risk — was unchanged.
Yet, some studies also say that the negative impact of eating eggs may be more notable if they’re consumed alongside other high cholesterol foods like yoghurt, cheese, processed meats, and fried foods.
How many eggs are safe to eat daily?
As we get to know how eggs interact with cholesterol and chronic diseases, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the risk linked to eating too many eggs differs among every individual.
Certain factors like your genetics, family history, how you make your eggs, your overall diet, and even where you stay may influence how many eggs you can safely eat daily.
If your diet is relatively low in cholesterol, you may consider having more eggs. However, if your diet is higher in cholesterol, it is advised to limit your egg intake.
For a healthy adult with a normal cholesterol range and no significant underlying risk of heart disease, some research suggests that having 1–2 eggs per day can be safe. It may even be healthy and beneficial for your heart health.
Varied risks for different groups
Though it seems that having a couple of eggs daily is safe for most healthy adults, it’s necessary to note that some research still suggests otherwise, particularly for some groups.
One study of around 200,000 U.S. veterans linked eating just 1 egg per day with a slightly increased risk of heart attacks. The impact was strongest in those with diabetes or obesity, suggesting that overall health influences the number of eggs that are safe to eat.
Regardless of egg intake, the risk of heart disease increases as you age due to certain changes like fat buildup and stiffening of the arteries. Therefore, it’s essential to consider your overall health status when deciding about the quantities of eggs that are safe to eat.
If you have high LDL cholesterol levels, are overweight or obese, have a disease like diabetes, or have a family history of heart disease, it might be best to consume only 1 egg a day or 4 to 5 eggs weekly.
It can be hard to evaluate the various different risk factors on your own. Therefore, working directly with a physician, dietitian, or trained healthcare professional may be a better way to decide how many eggs are safe to eat daily or in a week.
Is it better to eat only egg whites?
On average, 1 large egg consists of around 200 mg of cholesterol.
The cholesterol is mainly concentrated in the yolk. Therefore, some people eat only egg whites to lower their cholesterol intake while still intaking a good source of lean protein.
But yolk is also packed with iron, vitamin D, carotenoids, and more.
Till now there isn’t much study to support eating only egg whites in healthy individuals. In fact, by missing the yolk, you might be missing out on many health benefits eggs have to offer.
On the other hand, if you’re at more risk of heart disease or have high cholesterol, prioritizing egg whites and moderating the quantity of egg yolk you eat during the week could help prevent a further rise in your cholesterol.
Eggs, cholesterol, and heart disease
Studies show that too much cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fat from any source can increase blood cholesterol levels — particularly LDL cholesterol, which subsequently elevates your risk of heart disease.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans once recommended consuming no more than 200–300 mg of cholesterol a day depending on your risk of heart disease.
However, that recommendation has since been restated placing no limit on the daily quantity of cholesterol in your diet. Instead, they suggest limiting your intake of cholesterol to keep your levels within normal limits.
Eggs are very high in cholesterol, but they’re not the only food that impacts LDL cholesterol levels. For example, high blood cholesterol levels can also be a result of a certain diet that is:
- High saturated fat like butter, cheese, and processed meats tend to increase LDL cholesterol levels, especially when compared to unsaturated fats.
- High trans fat is usually found in fast foods, baked goods, processed margarine and shortening.
- Low in fibre. Adding high fibre foods like oats, beans, seeds, peas, and fruit to your diet might help lower LDL cholesterol levels and minimise your overall risk of heart disease.
- Too high in calories. For some people, limiting their calorie intake — and particularly calories from fat — can lower LDL cholesterol levels.
Thus, when you want to decide how many eggs are safe to eat every day or in a week, it’s essential to consider your whole diet.
If you don’t consume many other cholesterol-containing foods, it may be fine to have more eggs. However, if you often have eggs with other cholesterol increasing foods like bacon, sausages, or butter, it’s better to limit your egg intake to reduce your risk of certain diseases.
Eggs are a good protein source and an essential food in many people’s diets.
Though they’re high in cholesterol, they also have many health-boosting qualities.
For healthy adults, eating 1–2 eggs can be safe, as long as they’re taken as a part of an overall nutritious balanced diet.
If you’re worried about cholesterol levels or is of heart disease, working with a trained doctor or a dietitian is the best way to know how many eggs are safe for you.