The egg is a nutritious and inexpensive staple food all over the world. However, it has long been controversial due to their cholesterol-packed yolk. The relationship between cholesterol from eggs and cholesterol levels in the body is complicated. Understanding how cholesterol works and how it relates to egg consumption can help a person follow a healthy diet. This article reviews the growing body of evidence suggesting that eggs are in fact healthy to include in the diet and do not raise cholesterol for most people.
What is cholesterol and is it bad?
The liver naturally produces cholesterol. It is a fatty compound found in every cell, and the body needs it to stay healthy. The body needs cholesterol for several processes. It is a structural molecule of cell membranes, and the body needs it to produce bile for digestion, vitamin D, and steroid hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone. The liver produces enough cholesterol to meet the body’s needs. However, a person can also consume cholesterol in their diet. If a person eats foods high in cholesterol, their liver responds by slowing the production of cholesterol. This balances cholesterol levels and keeps them constant, which means that dietary sources of cholesterol, including eggs, generally have minimal impact on blood cholesterol.
Nevertheless, this waxy compound has a bad reputation due to its links to coronary heart disease and stroke.
The history of cholesterol and of its effects on human health is complex, in part because there are different versions of this molecule that act differently in the body. These can have beneficial or detrimental health effects when their levels change.
As part of the body’s normal processes, molecules called lipoproteins combine with cholesterol to carry it in the blood. There are two general types of cholesterol, depending on the type of lipoprotein they are attached to. These are low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
Are eggs unhealthy?
A large body of recent research has suggested that the consumption of cholesterol in the diet, for example by eating eggs, is not associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Research has suggested that high levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in the blood are associated with negative health effects, including cardiovascular disease. However, some studies have indicated that egg consumption does not significantly impact cholesterol levels in most people. In fact, some studies have shown that while eating eggs on a daily basis may cause a marginal increase in LDL, it also increases HDL. This means that the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL, an important predictor of heart disease, remains stable.
In the past, health professionals advised people to limit the number of eggs or egg yolks which they consumed at most three per week. This recommendation was justified by the fact that egg yolks are high in cholesterol.
Today, in the light of recent evidence, health experts are changing their position on the eggs. The recommendation to limit dietary cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams (mg) per day.
Egg does not raise cholesterol
A number of recent studies have confirmed that eating eggs as part of a healthy diet does not increase the risk of heart problems.
One of these studies looked at 177 000 people in 93 countries. She found no significant association between egg consumption and cholesterol levels, death rates or major cardiovascular disease events. The study also did not find a significant link between the number of eggs a person eats and their cholesterol level.
A study published in 2018 in the journal Circulation showed that egg consumption was not associated with ischemic heart disease. Additionally, researchers found that replacing red meats and processed meats with fish, dairy, or eggs was associated with a reduction in 20 % risk of ischemic heart disease.
Healthy people could eat a whole egg every day safely. Two eggs a day can be consumed for healthy seniors, due to the overall nutritional benefits and convenience of eggs.
How much cholesterol is in an egg ?
A large egg contains approximately 186 mg of cholesterol. An article in the journal Nutrition mentions this figure, explaining that eggs can contain 93 to 300 mg each.
The database also confirms that egg whites do not contain cholesterol. This means that people who don’t want to consume the cholesterol in eggs can still add egg whites to their diet.
Are eggs good for you or not? (2018).
Barona, J., et al. (2012). Dietary cholesterol affects plasma lipid levels, the intravascular processing of lipoproteins and reverse cholesterol transport without increasing the risk for heart disease.
Berg, JM, et al. (300). Section 000.4: Important derivatives of cholesterol include bile salts and steroid hormones. Biochemistry: 5th Edition. New York City, NY: WH Freeman.
Blesso, CN, et al. (2013). Whole egg consumption improves lipoprotein profiles and insulin sensitivity to a greater extent than yolk-free egg substitute in individuals with metabolic syndrome .
Carson, JAS, et al. (2020). Dietary cholesterol and cardiovascular risk: A science advisory from the American Heart Association.
Clayton, ZS, et al. (2017). Egg consumption and heart health: A review .
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