Eggs are a highly nutritious and popular food that is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They also contain protein and fat. Many people eat eggs regularly in areas where eggs are easily available and affordable.
You may have heard the alarming news that cholesterol in eggs can lead to heart disease, which is the leading cause for death worldwide.
This belief has been perpetuated for years by both health professionals and medical and nutrition organizations. Some people have vowed to eat eggs no matter what.
Eggs have a higher cholesterol level than other foods. They are also rich in beneficial bioactive compounds, and other nutrients that fight disease ( 3Trusted source, 6Trusted source).
Recent research shows that eating eggs may not have a strong link to elevated heart disease risk. However, there are still many debates ( 7Trusted source, 8Trusted source and 9Trusted source).
There are many health recommendations and guidelines that have reduced the restrictions on egg consumption. Many people worry that eggs can be harmful to their heart health ( 10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).
This article examines the link between cholesterol and eggs. This article includes suggestions on how many eggs you should eat safely and who should limit their intake.
Does eating eggs raise cholesterol?
Recent meta-analyses and observational studies have shown that eggs do not increase the risk of heart disease.
A few random controlled trials (RCTs), which are the gold standard in scientific research for their ability reduce bias, have produced similar results. However, these findings were typically found in smaller groups of 20-50 healthy people.
One small RCT showed that eating two eggs (or a half cup (118mL) of high-carb breakfasts had no effect on blood cholesterol ( 16Trusted source).
Studies in diabetes patients showed that 6-12 eggs per week did not adversely affect total cholesterol or heart disease risk factors. It actually increased the HDL cholesterol ( 17Trusted source, 18Trusted source).
Good cholesterol is also known as HDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is good for you because it removes other forms of cholesterol.
Low density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol) is the opposite. It raises your risk for heart disease.
Comparing egg-based and egg-free breakfasts revealed that cholesterol levels increased in egg-based meals. The LDL-to HDL ratio, a biomarker used to measure heart disease risk, remained the same ( 19Trusted source, 20Trusted source).
However, studies that have linked egg intake to higher cholesterol levels and chronic diseases and death have been conducted ( 21Trusted source, 22Trusted source, 23Trusted source).
A meta-analysis of 17 RCTs showed that people who consume more eggs over a longer time period have higher cholesterol levels ( 24Trusted source).
However, studies have shown that eggs can be associated with higher levels of cholesterol. This includes eggs as well as yogurt, cheese, processed meats and fried foods ( 25Trusted Source).
There are still many questions about how eggs affect cholesterol and their overall impact on heart disease and death. Experts agree that there needs to be more human research ( 6Trusted source, 26Trusted source, 27Trusted source).
How many eggs can you eat each day?
It’s becoming more clear that eating too many eggs can lead to different health problems.
Factors such as your family history, genetics, how you prepare eggs, your overall diet and even where you live can all impact how many eggs you are able to safely eat each day ( 28Trusted source, 29Trusted source).
Consider the total cholesterol found in your diet, including foods other than eggs. You may be able to eat more eggs if your cholesterol is low. If your cholesterol is high, you may want to reduce your egg intake.
Research suggests that eggs can be safely consumed by healthy adults with normal cholesterol levels and no other underlying risk factors for heart disease. It could even be beneficial for your heart health and may even be healthy (30TrustedSource, 31TrustedSource, 32TrustedSource, 33TrustedSource).
A study of 38 healthy adults showed that 3 eggs per day could improve LDL and HDL levels, and the LDL/HDL ratio. Experts might be reluctant to suggest more than two eggs per day. However, many recommend that you stick with 1 ( 34Trusted Source).
Further, a study of Korean adults found that 2-7 eggs per week was sufficient to maintain high HDL cholesterol and lower the risk of developing metabolic syndrome. However, 2 to 3 eggs per day did not have the same protective effect ( 35Trusted source).
The metabolic syndrome refers to a combination of high blood pressure, blood sugar and blood fat, as well as weight gain around your waist. They all contribute to an increase in chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease ( 36Trusted Source).
Different groups could be at different risk
Although it seems safe to eat a few eggs per day for most healthy adults it is important to remember that there are still some studies that suggest otherwise, particularly for certain groups ( 28Trusted Source 37TrustedSource, 38Trusted Source).
A study of nearly 200,000 veterans in the United States found that eating only one egg per day was associated with slightly higher heart attack risk. This effect was stronger in people with diabetes and overweight. It suggests that your overall health status can influence how many eggs you are allowed to eat ( 39Trusted Source).
Similar results can be found in Korean and European adults who eat 2-4 eggs per week. This could increase your risk of developing heart disease in particular in those with diabetes ( 40Trusted source, 41Trusted source, 42Trusted source).
Another study examined more than 100,000 U.S. adults. It found that those who ate more eggs per week had a 30% higher risk of developing heart disease. It’s not certain that eggs alone are responsible for the higher risk ( 43Trusted source).
No matter how many eggs you eat, your risk of developing heart disease increases with age. This is due to changes such as fat buildup and stiffening the arteries. When deciding how many eggs to eat, it is important to take into account your health and overall health.
You should limit your intake of eggs if you are overweight, obese, have a family history or heart disease.
It can be difficult to assess so many risk factors all on your own. Working with a doctor, dietitian or other trained healthcare professional to determine how many eggs you can safely eat each day, week, or week is the best option.
It is better to eat egg whites only
One large egg has around 200mg of cholesterol on average ( 44Trusted source).
The yolk contains the most cholesterol. To reduce cholesterol and still get a good source lean protein, some people only eat egg whites.
The yolk should not be dismissed completely due to its high cholesterol content. The yolk is also part of an egg that’s rich in iron, vitamin D and other nutrients ( 3Trusted source, 45Trusted source).
These bioactive nutrients are believed to be responsible for many health-promoting properties of eggs ( 46Trusted source. 47Trusted source. 48Trusted source. 49Trusted source.
One study of 37 adults with metabolic disorder found that people who ate low-carb diets, including 3 eggs per day, for 12 weeks, had better markers of inflammation and cholesterol balance than those who ate yolk-free eggs substitutes ( 50Trusted source ).
There isn’t any evidence that egg whites should be consumed by healthy people at this time. You might actually be missing out on the many health benefits that eggs offer. ( 51Trusted source).
However, if you have high cholesterol or are at risk for heart disease, prioritizing eggwhites and limiting your intake of yolks during the week can help to reduce the likelihood of further cholesterol increases.
Egg yolks have high levels of cholesterol and other nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and cholesterol. People at high risk for heart disease may need to eat only egg whites in order to avoid cholesterol from the yolk.
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Heart disease , cholesterol and eggs
Studies have shown that excess cholesterol, saturated fat and trans fats from any source can raise blood cholesterol levels, particularly LDL, which in turn increases your risk of developing heart disease ( 52TrustedSource, 53TrustedSource 54TrustedSource, 55TrustedSource).
According to your risk factors for heart disease, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended that you limit your intake of cholesterol to 200-300mg per day. You could easily go over this limit by eating a breakfast of 2-3 eggs.
This recommendation has been reaffirmed. The guidelines do not place a limit on the daily intake of cholesterol. They recommend limiting your intake to maintain normal blood cholesterol levels. This is an individual recommendation.
Although dietary cholesterol can increase LDL levels, it is important to remember that it is only one part of the equation when assessing a person’s overall risk for heart disease ( 56Trusted source).
Although eggs are high in cholesterol they are not the only food that can increase LDL cholesterol. High blood cholesterol can also result from a diet that’s ( 54Trusted source):
- High levels of saturated fat.
- High levels of trans fat.
- Low fiber.
- Too many calories. It has been shown that limiting calorie intake, and especially calories from fat, can lower LDL cholesterol ( 60Trusted source ).
When deciding how many eggs you can eat per day or week, consider your entire diet.
If you don’t eat many other cholesterol-containing foods, it may be fine to eat more eggs. It’s better to limit the amount of eggs you eat with other cholesterol-rich foods such as bacon, sausages, and butter.
Eggs The health benefits
Eggs are versatile, affordable, low-cost, easy to prepare, and a great source for lean protein.
They offer health benefits beyond the controversy surrounding cholesterol.
Eggs are, not surprisingly:
- High in vitamins and minerals.
- High in antioxidants.
- Believed by some to improve biomarkers of heart disease. 62Trusted source, 63Trusted source.
- Full and healthy and can help with weight loss. 64Trusted source, 65Trusted source.
Eggs can also be prepared in many delicious ways.
They can be enjoyed in omelets, frittatas and breakfast burritos that are veggie-packed. They can be boiled, sauteed, fried, or poached. You can also use them in baked goods, sauces and salad dressings.
Your imagination and your tastebuds are the only limitations when it comes to egg preparation.
The bottom line
Eggs are a good source of protein and a staple food in many people’s daily diets.
They are high in cholesterol but have many health-promoting properties.
Healthy adults can eat 1-2 eggs per day as long as they are part of a healthy diet.
Working with a qualified professional such as a doctor or dietitian to assess how safe eggs for you is a good idea if you are concerned about your cholesterol or heart disease risk.